Habs Preparing For Final Stretch

For the first time this season, Montreal Canadiens coach
Jacques Martin can have a look at the team that will be available to him in the
playoffs.

Michael Cammalleri and Marc-Andre Bergeron returned to the Habs lineup in last night’s loss against the Buffalo Sabres. For the first time these two key
players sit on the same roster as the likes of Dominic Moore, Tom Pyatt and
Benoit Pouliot.

Although the Canadiens will be glad to get their full
complement of players back, their first task is to make sure of a playoff spot. Whether
the Habs make the cut is still in their own hands, but following their defeat
at Buffalo they have now lost three games in a row.

Luckily, the team had previously gone on a six-game unbeaten streak before their slump, but they need to start winning, and quickly. The
three games Montreal has lost have all been against divisional rivals, and two
of these losses have been through a shootout.

The Habs certainly have enough quality to make the
post-season, and many pre-season predictions had the team finish much further down the standings. What they do need in the final stretch of the season is
commitment from the whole roster and a bit of luck.

From last night’s loss against Buffalo, luck maybe hard to
come by in the final stretch for the Habs. Montreal was in control with a comfortable
two-goal lead with three minutes left in regulation before collapsing, and eventually lost in the shootout.

However, commitment is something Martin has to
expect every night from his team. Maxim Lapierre was scratched to make way for
the return of Bergeron and Cammalleri. Lapierre was given the axe instead of Tom
Pyatt, who has given his all since being called up from the Hamilton Bulldogs
of the AHL. 

It is fair to say that a lot of what has gone wrong for the
Habs this season has been down to a lack of passion and commitment. Since Moore and Pouliot have found their feet at the Bell Centre,
their fore-checking has improved dramatically and it has made an impact on the
rest of the Montreal roster.

Montreal’s schedule is fairly kind compared to a lot of
the other teams in the hunt for a playoff spot. But in the final stretch of the season, every game
matters.

To reach the playoffs would be a fantastic acheivement for a team many had written off before the first puck had dropped. However, the Habs can’t afford to come this close only to fall at the last hurdle.

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