Game 6 between the Montreal Canadiens and the Tampa Bay Lightning is being billed as a Game 7 by both Clubs
The NHL playoffs is speeding its way toward ultimately crowning the 2014-15 Stanley Cup Champion. One thing that we know for certain is that we will have a new champion this year (The reigning champion Los Angeles Kings failed to make the spring dance).
Another fact etched in stone is that the Western Conference will be represented by one of the Anaheim Ducks, 51- 24-7 109 points – 1st in the western conference and 3rd in the NHL, or the Chicago Blackhawks, 48-28-6 102 points – 4th in the western conference and 7th in the NHL.
The Eastern Conference final participants have yet to be decided as the New York Rangers forced a game 7 against the Washington Capitals with a 4-3 victory on Sunday May 10th. While the other two teams vying for a spot in the eastern conference final are the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Montreal Canadiens, who are attempting to further write themselves into the storied (105 year) history of what is arguably the greatest National Hockey League franchise ever.
TB began the 2014-2015 season on a mission and with a chip on their shoulders as a result of Montreal’s 4 game sweep during last season’s playoff. During the gruelling 82 game regular season campaign the Lightning seemed to have exorcised their demons; besting the Montreal Canadians is all 5 of their meetings.
The Bolts then continued their remarkable 2014-15 campaign by defeating the Detroit Red Wings in a hotly disputed 7 game series setting up an opportunity at redemption against the Montreal Canadiens.
3 games into their 2nd round playoff series it appeared as though the Lightning were well on their way to avenging their 2013-14 playoff sweep at the hands of the Montreal Canadiens, jumping out to a 3-0 best of seven series lead.
178 times a National Hockey League team has jumped out to a 3-0 series lead, of those 178 times, the team that took a 3-0 stranglehold on the series won the series 174 times. The 4 teams who accomplished the daunting feat are the; 1942 Toronto Maple Leafs against the Detroit Red Wings, the 1975 New York Islanders against the Pittsburgh Penguins, the 2010 Philadelphia Flyers against the Boston Bruins and finally, the 2014 Los Angeles Kings against the San Jose Sharks.
No one was giving the Montreal Canadiens a chance to come back from and 0-3 series deficit against the Tampa Bay Lightning. In fact, in Montreal’s 105 year hockey club history, the fabled “Glorieux” (as they are oft times referred to, meaning “The Glorious Ones” in Montreal’s native French language) had never forced a game 6 in any series in which they had dropped the first 3 games.
However, as a clear slap in the face of all statisticians and advanced statisticians, proving once more what all coaches in all sports trot out as a rebuttal to stat totting journalists “the game is played on the ice (or field)”, the Montreal Canadiens refused to go quietly. All the stats in the world can not ensure a win or a loss, all games are hotly contested and all games in all sports are dictated solely by the skill, effort and determination of those professional athletes involved in the contest.
Montreal won game 4 of the best of seven series against Tampa Bay and through a gritty and determined performance did what no collection of Montreal Canadiens hockey players had done in the previous 105 years… they won a game 5 after being down in a series 0-3, subsequently forcing scheduling of a game 6.
On Tuesday May 12th, the 2015 Montreal Canadiens will try to prolong their Stanley Cup aspirations and in doing so, continue to rewrite a 105 year hockey club‘s record book.
Games like this are a fantasy cash draft general manager’s worst nightmare; partly because they are so incredibly unpredictable and partly because there is always a player or a group of players that look like “can’t miss” picks. Of course seeing as though I am writing for a fantasy one day cash draft website, I will of course give you my picks for the much ballyhooed upcoming game 6 Stanley Cup playoff series between the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Montreal Canadiens.
Centers – Edge Tampa Bay: Montreal’s center ice position has been an issue of contention all season long and has been thus for numerous season. The biggest gripe against the center ice spot for the Canadiens is that their #1 center, David Desharnais, is diminutive is stature and come the grueling NHL spring dance, bigger is often better. However Desharnais’ playmaking vision is second to none and his chemistry with Montreal leading scorer and perennial goal scoring threat, Max Pacioretty, cannot be denied. For this reason I have to say that Desharnais is a good center value pick in a pinch. However the truth remains that down the middle, TB has Montreal thoroughly dominated with the likes of Steven Stamkos and Tyler Johnson. Johnson leads both clubs in playoff scoring thus far and while Stamkos has been quiet by his standards (rumors indicate that he is nursing an injury), still the Macedonian assassin cannot be discounted. Stamkos is the preeminent scorer of this series and can turn it on at any time.
Right Wings – Edge Tampa Bay: On the right side Montreal really only has one bonafide consistent threat and while he, like Desharnais, is diminutive in stature, he certainly does not play that way. Bredan Gallagher is a consummate pest, a clutch scorer and the type of player who leaves it all on the ice. Gallagher is not a player that the opposition can ignore, even for a moment. However faster Gallagher the Candiens RW is relatively bare whereas the Lightning can boast the likes of skilled youngster Nikita Kucherov, gritty defensive specialist Ryan Callahan (who is out of game 6 due to an emergency appendectomy) and J.T Brown. Even with Callahan out, I have to give the nod to Tampa on the right side.
Left Wings – Edge Montreal: Max Pacioretty has knocked on the 40 goal door in consecutive seasons and has led the Montreal Canadiens in scoring. While his playoff output has been slow coming in these 2014-15 playoffs, he has been heating up at just the right time. While the Canadiens draft Alex Galchenyuk as their future 1st line center man, he has been asked to play LW and has done so admirable for a 21 year old, although his meager playoff output this season (0G-4A) has raised some worries. Tampa Bay simply can not rival with Montreal on the left side. Ondrej Palat is performing admirably, but after him TB’s LW drops substantially. Veteran Brendan Morrow and youngster Jonathan Drouin have both been in and out of the lineup and have yet to establish themselves.
Defensemen – Edge Montreal: On the blue line, each club can boast a young premiere Dman; Norris trophy winner (and this year’s nominee) P.K. Subban for the Montreal Canadiens and former 2nd overall pick Victor Hedman of the Tampa Bay Lightning. That is where the similarities end. Montreal’s blue line is a perfect mix of youth and veteran leadership. Markov, Beaulieu, Petry, Gilbert, and Emelin join Subban to form a very underrated D-corps. On the opposite side Hedman anchors a 6 man D-corps that hosts the likes of Garrison, Stralman, Coburn, Carle and Sustr. Hands down this one goes to Montreal.
Goalies – Edge Montreal: While all the other positions may well be up for grabs, in front of the pipes, one simply cannot deny the resume, pedigree and determination of Carey Price. While I would be remiss to discount Ben Bishop’s remarkable play, I simply can’t go against the Vezina, Hart and Lester B. Pearson/Ted Lindsay trophy nominee for 2015.
Tampa Bay: 2