Habs Will Prevail, But With Difficulty

By HOWARD BERGER

TORONTO (Apr. 30) — In order to advance beyond the second round of the 2015 Stanley Cup playoffs, the Montreal Canadiens will have to quickly forget the regular season. An Eastern Conference semifinal clash with Tampa Bay (beginning Friday night at the Bell Centre) portents disaster for Montreal after the Lightning swept the season series with five regulation–time wins and outscored the Canadiens, 21–8.

The playoffs, however, are a different animal and Montreal enters Round 2 with five days rest after knocking off pesky Ottawa last Sunday. Do not expect a reprise of last year’s opening–round sweep by the Canadiens, who avoided Vezina Trophy finalist Ben Bishop. The Denver native was injured against Toronto in the final week of the regular season and the Habs made short work of his understudy, Anders Lindback. Bishop is healthy this spring and comes off a 2–0 blanking of Detroit in Game 7 of the Conference quarterfinals. The goaltending match–up with Carey Price could be intriguing but Montreal holds an edge with the National Hockey League’s best performer this season.

15-TBay-Det-1edited-X

DETROIT AND TAMPA BAY PLAYERS SHAKE HANDS AFTER LAST NIGHT’S 2–0 VICTORY BY THE LIGHTNING AT AMALIE ARENA IN GAME 7 OF THE EASTERN CONFERENCE QUARTERFINALS. MIKE CARLSON GETTY IMAGES/NHL.COM

I was an adequate 6–and–2 with my opening–round predictions — missing the Detroit–Tampa Bay and St. Louis–Minnesota series. Courtesy NHL.com, here is the TV schedule for the Conference semifinals:

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EASTERN CONFERENCE SECOND ROUND MATCHUPSSERIES I – A1 vs. A2TIME (ET)   vs.  NETWORKSFriday, May 17 p.m.T-Bay at MontrealCBC, NBCSNSunday, May 36 p.m.T-Bay at MontrealCBC, NBCSNWednesday, May 67 p.m.Montreal at T-BayUSA, CBCThursday, May 77 p.m.Montreal at T-BayNBCSN, CBC*Saturday, May 9TBDT-Bay at MontrealCBC, TVA Sports*Tuesday, May 12TBDMontreal at T-BayCBC, TVA Sports*Thursday, May 14TBDT-Bay at MontrealCBC, TVA Sports    SERIES J – M1 vs. M2TIME (ET)  vs.  NETWORKSThursday, April 307:30 p.m.Washington at NYRNBCSN, CBCSaturday, May 212:30 p.m.Washington at NYRNBC, SportsnetMonday, May 47:30 p.m.NYR at WashingtonNBCSN, CBCWednesday, May 67:30 p.m.NYR at WashingtonNBCSN, Sportsnet*Friday, May 87 p.m.Washington at NYRNBCSN, TVA Sports*Sunday, May 10TBDNYR at WashingtonTVA Sports*Wednesday, May 13TBDWashington at NYRTVA Sports    WESTERN CONFERENCE SECOND ROUND MATCHUPSSERIES E – C3 vs. W1TIME (ET)  vs.  NETWORKSFriday, May 19:30 p.m.Minnesota at ChicagoNBCSN, SportsnetSunday, May 38:30 p.m.Minnesota at ChicagoNBCSN, CBC, SN360Tuesday, May 58 p.m.Chicago at MinnesotaNBCSN, CBCThursday, May 79:30 p.m.Chicago at MinnesotaNBCSN, Sportsnet*Saturday, May 9TBDMinnesota at ChicagoTVA Sports*Monday, May 11TBDChicago at MinnesotaTVA Sports*Wednesday, May 13TBDMinnesota at ChicagoTVA Sports    SERIES G – P1 vs. P3TIME (ET)   vs.  NETWORKSThursday, April 3010 p.m.Calgary at AnaheimNBCSN, SportsnetSunday, May 310 p.m.Calgary at AnaheimCNBC, SportsnetTuesday, May 59:30 p.m.Anaheim at CalgarySportsnet, USAFriday, May 89:30 p.m.Anaheim at CalgarySportsnet, NBCSN*Sunday, May 10TBDCalgary at AnaheimSportsnet, TVA Sports*Tuesday, May 12TBDAnaheim at CalgarySportsnet, TVA Sports*Thursday, May 14TBDCalgary at AnaheimSportsnet, TVA Sports

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And, my second round predictions:

EASTERN CONFERENCE SEMIFINALS

MONTREAL in 6

New York Rangers Logo - Red, White and Blue shield with New York on top and Rangers slanted

NEW YORK RANGERS in 5

WESTERN CONFERENCE SEMIFINALS

File:ChicagoBlackhawksLogo.svgMinnesota Wild Logo - Wild in wheat calligraphics in a red and green circle.  Worn on the shoulder of the Minnesota Wild home and road jerseys, eventually dropped to just the road jersey before being eliminated completely following the 2009-10 season.

MINNESOTA in 6

Calgary Flames Logo - Flaming black C with a white and yellow outline

ANAHEIM in 7

LOGOS COURTESY SPORTSLOGOS.NET

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BABCOCK MUM ON FUTURE

 By Helene St. James, Detroit Free Press — April 29, 2015

(Photo: Kim Klement USA TODAY Sports)

TAMPA — Mike Babcock spent his 52nd birthday coaching the Detroit Red Wings. Whether he’ll still be coaching them for his next birthday will play out over the coming months.

Babcock didn’t want to talk about his future after the 2-0 loss Wednesday at Amalie Arena to the Tampa Bay Lightning, which saw the Wings exit the first round after seven games.

Babcock said he’d “be happy to talk about any of that,” when the Wings clean out their lockers in the next few days.

Babcock is in the last year of his contract, and has spent the past decade with the Wings, coaching them to one Stanley Cup and another Stanley Cup final. He said in September he wasn’t going to sign a new contract before the season. Now that it’s over, he stands to be a highly coveted man.

Many NHL teams have an opening at head coach: Toronto; Philadelphia; San Jose; Buffalo. If Babcock becomes a free agent, other teams — such as Pittsburgh, St. Louis and Boston — may make changes for the sake of wooing Babcock.

“He’s a really good coach,” Jonathan Ericsson said. “I’m sure a lot of teams want him.”

Babcock is looking to become the highest-paid coach in the NHL — by a lot. He’s seeking at least $4 million, if not $5 million. Chicago’s Joel Quenneville currently tops the list at $2.75 million a year. The Wings would like to keep Babcock, but may not want to go much above $3 million. If a deal with Babcock doesn’t work out, the Wings have Jeff Blashill in Grand Rapids, where he has done a tremendous job with the Griffins.

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One comment on “Habs Will Prevail, But With Difficulty

  1. Yeah I thought Habs as well Howie, they don’t look like they have it this year, changing of the guard maybe.

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