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Out of the frying pan…

by Staff Writer / Montréal Canadiens

MONTREAL – Things aren’t about to get any easier for the Habs.

After getting past Alex Ovechkin in the first round, the Canadiens will now face the NHL’s other poster boy, Sidney Crosby, in the second round. What are the Habs odds of slowing Sid the Kid? Maybe try copying and pasting whatever was written about the Canadiens’ chances prior to Round 1.

But seriously, could the Jacques Martin’s crew get it done one more time?

Ok, so the Penguins had their way with the Habs during the regular season, with the Canadiens mustering only a 1-3 mark against the defending Stanley Cup champs. But dig a little deeper and you’ll find that Sidney and friends preyed on the diet or at least caffeine-free version of the Habs.

Clear benefactors of the Canadiens’ injury-riddled season, the Pens faced a Montreal lineup that included All-Star defenseman Andrei Markov only once (Pittsburgh actually lost that night at the Bell Centre). To put the Penguins regular-season mastery of the Habs into perspective, they faced Jay Leach and James Wyman as often as they did Markov.

That’s not to mention Brian Gionta. They faced him as often as they did Ryan White and David Desharnais. Nonetheless, the Penguins did win three of four games, outscoring Montreal by a 16-9 margin.

Perhaps more pertinent to how this series may unfold are both team’s sleeping patterns. While the Habs will arrive in Pittsburgh on Thursday with their equipment still damp from their Game 7 win over the Caps on Wednesday, the Pens have been resting comfortably for five days since eliminating the Senators in six.

Goaltending is always a good place to start when handicapping a playoff series. No word as to whether Jaroslav Halak is being fitting for a special asbestos lined Habs jersey for the second round, but the once-known goalie is now the talk of the blue paint in these playoffs. His counterpart is no slouch in this own right, with Marc-Andre Fleury looked solid against the Sens in Round 1 after having led Pittsburgh to the Cup last spring.

If career trends are more your thing, there are two Habs players who always have Penguins games circled on their calendars. One of those is Markov who has amassed 22 points in 26 games, the other is Scott Gomez who has torched Pittsburgh to the tune of 51 points in 59 games.

This series marks also the first time these teams have met in the playoffs since back in 1998, when the seventh-seeded Habs upset the No. 2 Penguins in six games in the first round in their only other postseason meeting.

Now, drop the puck already.

Manny Almela is a writer for

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