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Five Keys to the Game: Habs-Lightning #3

by Staff Writer / Montréal Canadiens

LAMP LIGHTING:  After winning their first round series against the Senators with just 12 goals in six games, the Habs have had an even harder time finding the back of the net against Tampa. Averaging just 1.88 goals-per-game in the postseason, the Canadiens are the lowest-scoring team left in the hunt for the Cup this spring after finishing with a G/G average of 3.00 at the same time last year. Of the four teams in the 2014 Conference finals, only the New York Rangers averaged fewer than three goals a night (2.56), and the Los Angeles Kings (3.38) and Chicago Blackhawks (3.05) finished first and third, respectively, in postseason scoring. Michel Therrien has made no secret that the key to success at any time of year is scoring in threes, and the Habs will be looking to hit that magic number on Wednesday for just a third time in the 2015 Playoffs.

QUICK ON THE DRAW: To create offense, you have to have the puck and that begins with a win in the faceoff circle. Quietly dominating his draws since the start of the postseason, Lars Eller has moved his way into third in the NHL with a stellar 61.7% efficiency on his faceoffs, having won 71 of 115 draws in eight games played.  Things get even better for Eller in the circle on the road, having gone 67.7% on faceoffs away from home ice this spring.

DAMAGE CONTROL: The importance of winning Game 3 and denying the Lightning a 3-0 series stranglehold is a no-brainer. But we dug a little deeper and discovered that halting a losing streak at two has been a recipe for success in more ways than one for the Habs this season. The Canadiens dropped two consecutive games five times during the 2014-15 campaign. In the five games that followed those losses, the team lost more than once on just a single occasion, bouncing back to limit the total damage to three or less the other four times – a stat which obviously bodes well for a best-of-seven series.

EXTRA EFFORT: Since ending the regular season as the stingiest back end in the NHL after allowing a league-best 2.24 goals against per game, the Canadiens’ defense has found new ways to continue pitching in this spring. Although that GA/G number currently sits at 2.50 following a six goals-against outing on Sunday, Montreal’s D has otherwise picked up some of the slack this spring by scoring 26% of the team’s total playoff goals so far. Boosting their collective production in that category from 17% during the regular season, every Habs rearguard has already picked up at least one point since the start of the postseason, while P.K. Subban is the team’s leading playoff point-getter for a third straight year.

CHALLENGE ACCEPTED: There’s no doubt that climbing out of an 0-2 hole to return to this year’s Conference final will be tough – but fortunately the Habs can handle tough. Proving no task is impossible, the Canadiens have already come back to win a playoff series five times after falling in Games 1 and 2. Last achieving the feat in 2004 opposite the rival Boston Bruins, the Canadiens boast close to a 20% (19.2%) postseason success rate all-time after dropping the first two games of a series – more than five full percentage points better than the current 13.7% NHL average.


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