MONTREAL -- After 27 grueling weeks of hockey, it all comes down to three final games – and they might just be the biggest of the year for the Canadiens. While the Habs are facing a trio of teams already out of playoff contention, they’ll have to keep the pedal to the metal to make sure the Islanders, Hurricanes and Leafs don’t get to play spoiler in the final stretch.
Canadiens @ Islanders – Tuesday, April 6 @ 7:00 p.m.
With the hot, sunny weather beaming down on Montreal this past weekend, it’s hard to blame the Habs for getting into the playoff mindset a little earlier than usual. Pumped to clinch a spot in the springtime dance, the Canadiens will have a chance to add another two points to the cause with a season series sweep on Long Island on Tuesday. Offense should be the name of the game as Jacques Martin’s squad has enjoyed an 11-3 advantage in goals against the Isles in the first three outings.
The last meeting between the two teams marked the triumphant return of Andrei Markov
to the lineup, who scored two goals in New York after missing two months with a severed a tendon in his foot. While Markov showed off his All-Star form, it was Jaroslav Halak who stole the show for the Habs with a 40-save performance to register his first of five shutouts on the campaign. Canadiens @ Hurricanes – Thursday, April 8 @ 7:00 p.m.
Just over a week after their last meeting, the Habs storm into Hurricane Country to avenge the most recent loss at the hands of Cam Ward, who stymied 34 of 35 shots thrown his way in the outing. Carey Price
put on a clinic at the other end of the ice, coming up just short by stopping 25 of the 27 shots fired at him by the ‘Canes.
The Canadiens’ blue-liners will have to pay extra special attention to Carolina’s newly-minted captain, Eric Staal, who has chipped in 28 points in 30 games since seeing the “C” stitched to his jersey in January. Canadiens vs. Maple Leafs – Saturday, April 10 @ 7:00 p.m.
Saturday marks the Canadiens’ last game of the year, which means the annual tradition of the Leafs getting the chance to rain on the Habs’ playoff parade. In 2006-07, the two bitter rivals hit the ice for an epic battle that saw the Canadiens erase a 5-3 deficit to win 6-5 and clinch a coveted berth in the postseason.
Just to add to the drama, four of the five games between the Habs and Leafs this year have needed overtime or a shootout to decide a winner. In the five game season series, the Canadiens hold the edge with a 3-2 record, looking to make it 4-2 on Saturday night. Vincent Cauchy is a writer for canadiens.com. Translated by Shauna Denis.See alsoScheduleStandings