By Joce, Senior Writer, All Habs Hockey Magazine

Let’s set the stage. With their win against the Winnipeg Jets, the Montreal Canadiens have secured home ice for the first round of the playoffs. In the meantime, the Toronto Maples Leafs were guarantying themselves a fourth or fifth spot by defeating the Florida Panthers.

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PENTICTON, BC. — The Habs are tied in points with the Boston Bruins, who hold the division lead because they have a game in hand. But in the event both teams have the same number of points at the end of the season, the Habs hold the tie-breaker between the two teams and the Habs would then finish second in the Eastern Conference, therefore facing the seventh-seeded team in the first round of the playoffs. The Bruins will be travelling to Washington on Saturday to face one of the hottest teams in the league, and will finish the season at home against the Ottawa Senators, a team starting to get some players returning from injuries, including Norris Trophy winner Erik Karlsson.

Both the Maple Leafs and the Canadiens have one game remaining, facing each other on Saturday night in Toronto (HNIC and RDS). While the Habs can still hope to win the division, the Leafs sit three points ahead of Ottawa in fourth place in the conference and they have little to lose in their last game… except to send a clear message to the smaller Canadiens.

It is no secret that Habs’ General Manager Marc Bergevin tried to add in some muscle to his team during the season. When the Flyers placed 6-foot-5, 228 pound tough guy Tom Sestito on waivers, the Habs put a claim in but so did the Vancouver Canucks, who got him because they were lower in the standings at that time. At the trade deadline, Bergevin wanted 6-foot-2, 225 pound Ryane Clowe, but he wasn’t willing to overpay and jeopardize the future the way the Rangers did.

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Today, the Canadiens find themselves in a very precarious situation: do they keep their line-up intact and try to win this game at any cost in hope that they win and that Boston loses one of their last two games? Or do they sit the core of their line-up to rest them and protect them against Randy Carlyle and his goons?

Many people, myself included, wonder if the Leafs’ strategy won’t be to go after Brandon Prust, who is already nursing a sore shoulder, to take the toughness out of the Habs’ line-up. Would the Orr, McLaren and Fraser of this world dare go after P.K. Subban, Carey Price or Andrei Markov’s knee? Would Dion Phaneuf do what he’s best at, picking on smaller David Desharnais, Brian Gionta and/or Brendan Gallagher? The concern is that the Leafs will try to not only send a message, but also soften even more a Habs line-up still lacking in size and toughness.

To further add fuel to the possible fire, a quote from Twitter:

This brings back the question: what do the Canadiens do? They only have two choices:

1. They keep their line-up, hope to make the Leafs’ pay for their indiscipline by scoring on the power-play and get the two points in hope that the Bruins drop the ball, hoping to finish second and that the NHL would be smart enough to send experienced referees and to keep a close eye on this game. Seeing how this league is being managed has nothing to reassure Habs’ fans and this comes at a fairly high risk of injuries to key players.

2. Call-up the Black Aces from Hamilton and play them all, while resting the teams’ key players. This includes giving the start to Peter Budaj. This would most likely mean putting a cross on second place and guaranteeing facing the Leafs in the first round of the playoffs, while providing some veterans with perhaps some much needed rest before the gruelling second season.

What would you do?

En français: Pas votre confrontation Habs vs Leafs habituelle

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J.D. is a Senior writer for All Habs as well as Associate-Editor for the French version Le Magazine All Habs, while one of three Administrators of the fan forum Les Fantômes du Forum. He has created the handle Habsterix as a fictional character for the sole purpose of the internet. It is based on the cartoon Asterix of Gaule and his magic potion is his passion for the Montreal Canadiens. How old is he? His close friends will tell you that he’s so old, his back goes out more than he does! He was born when Béliveau lifted the Cup and remembers the days when seeing the Habs winning was not a wish, it was an expectation. For him, writing is a hobby, not a profession. Having moved to beautiful British Columbia in 1992 from his home town of Sherbrooke, Quebec, he started writing mostly in French to keep up his grammar, until non-bilingual BC friends pushed him into starting his own English Blog. His wife will say that he can be stubborn, but she will be the first to recognise that he has great sense of humour. He is always happy to share with you readers his point of views on different topics, and while it is expected that people won’t always agree, respect of opinions and of others is his mission statement.
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J.D. est Rédacteur-Adjoint sur Le Magazine All Habs et il est un Rédacteur Principal sur le site anglophone All Habs, tout en étant un des trois Administrateurs du forum de discussion Les Fantômes du Forum. Il a créé le pseudonyme Habstérix comme caractère fictif pour l’internet. Celui-ci est basé sur Astérix de Gaule et sa potion magique est sa passion pour les Canadiens de Montréal. Lorsqu’il est né, Jean Béliveau soulevait la Coupe Stanley et il se rappelle des jours où gagner n’était pas un espoir, mais une attente. Pour lui, écrire est un passe-temps, pas une profession. Ayant déménagé dans la superbe Colombie-Britannique en 1992 en provenance de sa ville natale de Sherbrooke, Québec, il a commencé à écrire en français pour garder sa grammaire, jusqu’à ce que ses amis anglophones ne réussissent à le convaincre d’avoir son blog en anglais. Son épouse vous dira qu’il est têtu, mais elle sera la première à reconnaître son grand sens de l’humour. Il est toujours fier de partager avec vous, lecteurs et lectrices, ses points de vue sur différents sujets, et quoi que les gens ne s’entendent pas toujours sur ceux-ci, le respect des opinions et des autres est son énoncé de mission.

  • Paul Teixeira

    The Northeast will be OURS…..I’ll be watching in enemy territory….wrap it up boyz.