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Five Keys to the Game: Habs-Pens #1

by Staff Writer / Montréal Canadiens
Dethroning the champs : Since the end of the Original Six era, the Habs have only faced off against the defending Stanley Cup champions in the playoffs on two occasions. In 1976, the Habs put an end to the Broad Street Bullies’ reign of terror, sweeping the back-to-back champs in the Finals that spring. In 1984, they met up with the four-peat Islanders in the conference finals, whose stranglehold on the Cup was eventually snapped by Wayne Gretzky and the Edmonton Oilers in the Finals.

Out of the gate: Winning the first game of a series is usually a pretty good way to set the tone for what’s to come. But the 2010 playoffs continue to defy logic, as only the Canucks, Flyers and Habs won Game 1 in the first round and still lived to see Round 2. Montreal holds a 68-40 record in opening games, while Pittsburgh is 19-23 in that category. 

Come out swinging: First periods may have been the Habs’ kryptonite throughout the regular season, but they’ve been Montreal’s bread and butter through seven playoff games so far. After scoring only 59 first period goals and allowed 73 against in the regular season in the opening frame, the Canadiens have exploded for nine first period markers while conceding just three against.

Building blocks: If the Habs need a visual reminder of their first round ousting of the league's top team, one look at Hal Gill or Josh Gorges’ bruises should do the trick. With 31 and 20 blocked shots respectively, Gill and Gorges helped the Habs repel a league-high 181 shots in the first round and a staggering 41 shots in Game 7 alone. Just to put that into perspective, the Devils blocked 56 total shots in five games against the Flyers.

Tough love: A devoted Habs fans growing up, Sidney Crosby has a funny way of showing it whenever he faces his beloved Canadiens. In 18 career games against Montreal, Crosby has racked up 11 goals and 14 assists and the Habs have only managed to keep him off the scoresheet three times.

See also:
Playoff Central
Game preview #1: Canadiens-Penguins
Shock therapy 
Out of the frying pan…  
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