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The Habs this week - April 6, 2009

by Staff Writer / Montréal Canadiens
MONTREAL – The final week of the regular season has arrived but with four games in six nights, including three against playoff opponents, there’s no stopping now.

Canadiens vs. Senators – Monday, April 6 @ 7:30 PM

When the playoffs begin next week, there will be some new television viewers. For the first time since 1995-96, the postseason won’t include the Ottawa Senators.  Despite their exclusion from the NHL’s spring dance, are looking to close out a rough year on a positive note.

While the club has, for the most part, flourished under interim bench boss Cory Clouston, lately their road woes have led to more losses than wins.  The Senators went 2-4-0 during a six-game road trip that wrapped up on Thursday and has won just three of their last 10 away from Scotiabank Place.  In the past, visits to Montreal were a fine tonic for Ottawa but that hasn’t been the case in their last four Bell Centre visits; the Canadiens have taken three straight as the hosts, outscoring their division rival 16-8 in those contests.

Canadiens @ Rangers – Tuesday, April 7 @ 7 PM

Though they’re all big games for the Habs this week, it’s no secret that Tuesday’s tilt holds high importance for both teams.  Heading into the week, the Canadiens own a three-point advantage over the Rangers, who went to bed Sunday night with the Florida Panthers beside them in eighth place.  Despite dropping their last two outings, however, New York enjoyed a successful month of March at Madison Square Garden, going 5-1-0.

The playoff implications of the contest alone make it one to circle on the NHL schedule but there’ll be more to watch than just the end result.  The Canadiens’ power play has enjoyed a revival over the last few weeks, converting on 13 of its 35 opportunities for a success rate of 37.1%. The unit has lit the lamp at least once over the last six games, propelling them to 15th in the league, a test for the Rangers’ league-leading penalty kill.

Goaltender Henrik Lundqvist may have earned Vezina nominations in each of his three seasons in the league but the Habs have found ways to get the puck behind him.  Over the last two years, the Canadiens have scored at least three goals in six of their seven meetings, including 15 in the three so far this year.

Canadiens @ Bruins – Thursday, April 9 @ 7 PM

It’s been two months since the Canadiens and Bruins last squared off and nearly three since they’ve met in Beantown.  After owning their longtime bitter rivals in 2007-08, the Habs have seen the tables turned this year, dropping four straight following a home-opening win back on Oct. 15. 

Claude Julien’s crew struggled for a stretch from late February to mid-March but appears to have regained their form, winners of six straight as of Monday.

While the idea of the Bruins cheering for the Canadiens in any form might have one feel as though they’re in “bizarro world,” it’s possible they will be doing just that.  The Habs currently sit in seventh place and if the season ended on Monday, would face the Capitals, which likely would please the Eastern Conference leaders. Over the years, Boston and Montreal have met 31 times in the postseason and 24 of those series have gone in favor of the bleu, blanc, rouge. Two of their last three playoff meetings have seen the Habs ranked as the lower seed, yet gone on to knock off the Bruins.

Canadiens vs. Penguins – Saturday, April 11 @ 7 PM

Sometimes, the last game of the season can be just that – a game.  And while Canadiens-Penguins tilts are enjoyable even with little at stake, this weekend is sure to be that much more fun to watch.  With Montreal a point back of sixth-seed Pittsburgh heading into the week, and just three points separating fourth from seventh, the battle for playoff positioning is on to close out the regular season.

The Penguins had a chance to create a three-way logjam for fourth in the East over the weekend but picked up just one point in an overtime loss on Saturday.  It marked the first time since March 14 that Sidney Crosby and Co. had fallen in consecutive games and the first time since February 16 that they’d failed to pick up at least two points.

Close contests have been the name of the game in the three meetings thus far; two of three have been decided by one goal while the other was a two-goal margin.  The Canadiens own a pair of victories against the Penguins this season and have held the club to just two goals in those outings.

Heather Engel is a writer for

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