This has all happened before…
In 1998 the exact same group of teams from the Eastern Conference made it to the Stanley Cup playoffs. The exact same seeds advanced past the first round, 4th, 6th, 7th & 8th with the 4th place team going to the finals and played of all teams, the Detroit Red Wings. In 1998 the Montreal Canadiens eliminated the Pittsburgh Penguins in the first round. The Penguins were a #2 seed the Canadiens a #7 seed. You can look at this two different ways. The Penguins were eliminated by the Canadiens that year or the Penguins are the #4 seed that made it to the Stanley Cup Finals.
We have a saying here at PenguinPoop that “We have more hockey knowledge in our body than you have in your entire pinky“, that just being a little humor and all, the “body” of people writing here at PenguinPoop have probably been to more Penguin games in their lifetime than any other collection of Pittsburgh Penguins’ writers on the internet. With that I give you some of our eight contributors predictions of how round 2 the Pittsburgh Penguins vs Montreal Canadiens playoff series will end up, starting with STH35 who’s been a Penguins season ticket holder for 36 years.
STH35: As the penguins head into the Conference semis, they find themselves as the top remaining seed in the East. This means that they will play the lowest remaining seed with home ice advantage. That lowest seed is the Montreal Canadiens. The Canadiens enter this round on a 3 game winning streak. That streak is about to come to an end. They were able to use Hal Gill to help shut down Ovechkin. Halak was outstanding in goal. They will try to use Gill to shut down Crosby. Even if that works, this is where the Penguins strength down the middle will prevail. The Capitals were not very physical against Montreal. The Pens will be. Especially the forwards. They will hammer away at the Montreal defense at every chance they get. Over the course of the series this will cause some defensive breakdowns and create scoring opportunities for the Pens. Halak will not be able to cover for all of them. The main concern for the Pens in this series will be handling the speed of the Canadien forwards. The Pens defensive corps will be up to the task. When they aren’t, Fleury will be there to stop the puck. If all else fails. The secret weapons have arrived. Malkin’s parents are here. They always manage to bring out his best. The Penguins will not lose at home in this series and will win in 5.
Phil Krundle: First off I’d like to thank Montreal for removing Washington from the playoffs so early. It’s not the the Pens would have had trouble removing them,I’m just happy I don’t have to listen to the idiot pundits talk about how great they are anymore. I watched the last four games and I saw the Capitals players bend over to block shots, but I can’t remember one that actually laid down to block a shot or pass. They just don’t have the heart needed to win. The Canadiens do. That will be the biggest obstical for the Penguins to overcome. The key to the Canadiens offense is their offensive defensemen. Andre Markov and Marc-Andre Bergeron if the Penguins can keep these two off the board the series will be over in no time. The Canadiens just don’t have a great offense. Hal Gill is a great defenseman for defending the straight up no passing Washington Capitals style, we saw it first hand last year. He will be useless against the Penguins. I see many breakaways in the Penguins future, the great Canadien goaltender Halak who had to face many long straight shots will now have to move side to side to make saves and will see much more traffic. The Penguins cycling will do in Gill and Bergeron, who doesn’t see much ice time but may have to because the Pens will wear the Habs out. Look for most of the Penguins scoring to come in the third period. Canadien defenseman Josh Gorges somehow became the most overrated defenseman in the NHL overnight.
The Penguins are going to have an easier time of it with Montreal than they did with the Senators. Because of his size stick handling and passing, Evgeni Malkin will rule the series. Though I was wrong last series because of a 3 overtime game that could have went either way, I’m predicting the Pens in 5 once again. The 1 game that the Pens will lose will either be the first one they play or the first game they have a chance to clinch.
Southside Shultzie: I’m pretty sure you all know how I stand vs teams from Canadia and especially their fans! Their pompous “it’s our game” noses in the air, their booing of our National anthem, their claiming that Canadian bacon is bacon (IT’S HAM!)! I’m also guessing you’ve all read about my last rant about the death of the “Canadian Clown” Don Cherry? Well….. take a deep breath 51st Staters and get ready watch a Royal Canadian Ass Whoopin’ x 2!!! “Oh no he’s not going to call a sweep is he?” says the drunk Habs fan as he drinks his inferior suds! Yes indeed I am! Not only that but I am going to call that BOTH Canadian teams remaining will be swept. The equation is simple, there is ZERO chance the Pens powerplay will go 2 for 32 agaaaaynnst your PK. All we have heard here on the good side of the border was how you were going contain Crosby like you did Slovechkin. To you I say GOOD LUCK! If you shadow Sid, Malkin et al will be scoring on you like you were a drunk prom queen! As for your other “Great White Hope”, I’m calling Can Yucks to be swept as well! So do yourselves a favor and wager heavily on my words! You can thank me by sending some silver polish! We are running out and you won’t be needing the stuff you bought way back in ’93!
CANADIAN BACON IS NOT BACON!
Disco Stu: As we enter the second round of this year’s Stanley Cup playoffs, who would have thought that the Penguins would be the highest remaining seed in the East with assured home ice advantage all the way through the Conference Finals assuming they win their match up with Montreal. Well, I’m here to tell you that they will be moving on to the next round. The Penguins won the season series against Montreal this year 3 – 1 although Montreal did win the final meeting of the season back in February by a score of 5 – 3. Offensively, Montreal can’t match up with the Penguins’ firepower as they scored 40 fewer goals this season. Montreal only had eight double digit goal scorers to the Penguins 11, and they only had one player, Tomas Plekanec, score over 60 points. Where Montreal is dangerous is their team speed. They’re top line of Brian Gionta, Michael Cammalleri and Scott Gomez skated circles around Washington’s defense in the opening round. The Penguins defense has to make sure they are never caught flat footed and that they position themselves correctly to beat in coming Canadian forwards to loose pucks in the corners on dump ins. Defensively, Montreal will employ the shut down pair of former Penguin, Hal Gill and Josh Georges to try and shut down the Sidney Crosby line, and if you don’t think they’re up to the task, just look at the job they did against Ovechkin’s line in Round 1. Unfortunately, in goal right now there is no comparison. No one is playing better in the entire league than Jaroslav Halak. He held Washington to three goals on 134 shots in the final three games making some spectacular saves along the way. If Fleury was playing the way Halak is now, the Penguins would have swept Ottawa in four.
Where I see this series being won or lost for the Penguins will be on the Power Play and the Penalty kill. In Round 1, Montreal scored on 6 of 30 Power Plays for a 20% conversion rate while allowing Washington’s top rated Power Play until to score only one goal the entire series. The fact that Montreal scored on 20% of their chances comes as no surprise as Washington had one of the worst PK’s in the league, but the Penguins will have to make sure they can get pucks in when they have the man advantage. The man the Penguins will have to watch out for when short handed is Marc Andre Bergeron. He is a Power Play specialist with a lethal shot.
In every series, there is always one or two players from the other team that get under the fans’ skin, think Dan Carcillo from Philly last year or Chris Neill this year. Your two prime candidates for players you will love to hate in the Montreal series will be Ryan O’Byrne and Max Lapierre.
The first thing the Penguins need to do, and I’m sure Coach Bylsma has been doing this non stop since the minute they realized they would be playing Montreal in the next round is to go back and study the tapes of Games 2 – 4 of the Washington series to see what Washington was doing then to put up an average of almost six goals per game against Montreal and what Montreal did in the way of changes to correct that.
In the end, I believe, the superior depth of the Penguins along with the rest they have gotten over the last week will allow the Penguins to prevail. Halak has faced a lot of shots over the past few games, and I just don’t see any way that he can continue to stop them at the rate that he did against Washington. Montreal will most likely be emotionally drained after having to play thee consecutive possible elimination games and then not even get to go back hone in between series. I’m calling for The Penguins in 6 (We just don’t clinch series at home – In fact 7 of the 8 first round series were clinched by a team playing on the road)
Art Vandelay: Penguins in five! That’s right you heard it here. Here are my reasons the mighty Guins’s offense will be too much for the decrepitude defense of Montreal. For the most part Montreal’s defense is over 30 and if you take the slow moving Hal Gill, and “the has been” Paul Mara off the roster, then the rest of their defense is right around 6’0. The Penguins know how to play in the playoffs unlike the Capitals and will get the job done. I’m predicting Sid to have 15 points this round. Growing up, Montreal was one of his favorite teams, and I’m sure he will be chomping at the bit.
My real concern this series is for the Canadian fans. Will they boo for their native son who won them a gold medal, or will they come to realize that is the only thing they will have to cheer about once this series is over. After this series is over Montreal fans will realize this. What Sid gives he takes away.
Reg Dunlop: First of all, congratulations to the Montreal Canadiens. They weathered a heavy storm to beat the high-powered Capitals. Having watched a couple of the Wash. vs. Mont. games, I would say it is clear what the biggest variable will be for the Pittsburgh series against Montreal. Can Jaraslav Halak keep up the phenomenal play he has displayed thus far? Make no mistake, he was the biggest reason the Canadiens upset the Washington Capitals. His play was amazing, particularly in the last two games. The Capitals averaged 41 shots on goal through the course of the series.
Coaching is an area that can be very important as well. I think that Bruce Boudreau was out-coached. This was part of the reason the Canadiens were able to win. Can Disco Dan dig deep and create the right kind of game plan to counteract whatever Jaques Martin brings. Getting the right match-ups will be a big part of the game as well. I am sure that Martin will want to get Gill and Georges on the ice against Crosby’s line as much as possible.
Once again, this opens the door for Malkin and his linemates to make a difference in this series. Taking all things into consideration, I think the Pens will be able to break Jalak. I just don’t think that the Canadiens can keep up the level they have achieved over the course of two series. I like the Penguins in 5.
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