Rabid Habs

The Forum: The First Round Match Up

Red Wings

The Habs have clinched a playoff spot, now all that’s left is to find out who they are going to meet in the first round. So we ask the panel, which team would you most like to see Montreal meet in the first round?

John (@) – The Montreal Canadiens currently hold down the East’s first overall position, however, objects in the rear view mirror are closer than they appear. As a result, any potential playoff matchup will continue to be in flux and unlikely decided before the final weekend of the regular season. In terms of probability, the Habs are most likely to face one of Ottawa, Boston, Washington or Detroit. Although there is no such thing as an easy matchup in the playoffs, the Habs are a combined 5-0 vs the Capitals and Red Wings, while they struggled with a 1-3 record vs Ottawa. When you include regular season games versus the Bruins, the Habs are a perfect 9-0 vs potential playoff opponents outside of the nation’s capital.

Regrettably, you can not pick your opponent. Further, even if you could, those regular season results will ultimately have no bearing on the outcome. Prognostication is never easy, but if pressed, I’d say that the most likely opponent, should also offer the best matchup – Detroit. Original Six teams; hockey town vs the Mecca of hockey. Skill vs skill. Red Wings vs Canadiens, I like the sound of that!

Kyle (@kyleroussel) – The first round is always fraught with peril for the so-called “top contenders”, isn’t it? We all know how the Habs, in the role of underdog over the years have toppled top seeds time and again. This year the script is reversed, and indeed there is no easy matchup. I want no part of Ottawa, for they not only have the Habs number, they also seem to have the world’s largest horseshoe. The Caps could be a team to up-end the Habs since they can score, and Montreal simply cannot. Detroit-Montreal would be compelling, fun playoff hockey. But again, not easy by any stretch, despite regular season success. In fact, if Price slips from Demi-God status to simply superhuman, the Habs go from slight favorite to underdog, despite conference seeding. The lack of scoring and the reliance on Price to be absurdly good is a tough recipe to count on for playoff success. So I’m rooting for the Habs to meet the Wings. The physicality would be minimal, the Wings strike me as the team least inclined to run Price, and the skill vs skill match up could be one for the ages. They’ve been my “backup” team since Yzerman’s early days so should the Habs bow out in round one, it wouldn’t be as mortifying to me as would another loss to the putrid Senaturds.

Sean (@TheONeillFactor) -The hockey fan in me roots for the most compelling match-ups but the Habs fan in me roots for the easiest path to the Final (even if there is something to be said for being battle-tested). I know Montreal’s record versus the Sens isn’t stellar this season (and memories of the playoff disaster from two seasons ago still linger in my brain) but I don’t think there is any way the Sens upset the Habs in round one. I would be extraordinarily confident in that scenario. Washington doesn’t terrify me although I do have a sneaking suspicion that this could be the year Ovie finally makes a run. The two most worrisome scenarios, by far, are Detroit and Boston. The Red Wings to me are a team with a clear ceiling (there just isn’t enough talent there to make them top-end contenders, even in a wide-open East) but they are smart and well coached and their underlying possession numbers are strong. Boston is no longer BOSTON but after years of the Habs knocking of the Bruins as a 7 or 8 seed, wouldn’t it be fitting if they returned the favour this year?

Steph (@stephdarwish) -First round match-ups always make me nervous when the Habs are the “favourite”…

In order from MOST scary to LEAST scary:

1- Ottawa: I don’t like it one bit. Anderson would likely start a couple games. If he flounders, then that Hamburger guy comes in and becomes that guy.
2- Washington: I don’t know.. Just like Sean said, at one time, Ovechkin and friends are going to have to do something in the playoffs, and wouldn’t it be sweet justice for him to upset the Habs in the first round.
3- Detroit – I have no reason, they just don’t scare me
4- Boston – We just always beat them (well.. except when they go on to win a Stanley Cup).