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Ten nights, six games; Tampa Bay Lightning versus Montreal Canadiens preview

The Lightning season will conclude in just over a week now...

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Mike Carlson/Getty Images


Where:
Amalie Arena, Tampa, Florida | When: 7:30 PM EDT
Radio: 970 AM WFLA - Online Stream | Television: Fox Sports Sun | Twitter: Live Stream
Opponent Coverage: Eyes on the PrizeAll Habs

If the Lightning were able to blank the Toronto Maple Leafs on Monday, a bit of revenge for their 4-1 loss in Toronto from a few weeks back, the same type of objective (revenge) should be on the docket for tonight at Amalie Arena. Last time the Bolts and Les Bleu, Blanc, et Rouge crossed paths, it was Tampa Bay getting topped 4-2 at Bell Centre. That was the flip-side of back-to-back games that started with a loss to Ottawa too.

Speaking of which, this last span of games on the Lightning season is at a pretty solid pace. While the Lightning have 10 days left in the season (including today), games will be played every-other-day with the exception of April 4th and 5th and back-to-back games against the New York teams. Having the past two days without play was the last break in action until Sunday, April 10....

The good news is that the brisk pace might bring about some additions to the Lightning roster: This morning featured Ryan Callahan and Nikita Kucherov on ice in regular jerseys. Head coach Jon Cooper listed both players as game-time decisions while Kucherov told the press this morning that he's good-to-go for tonight. We'll see at game time if both players return to the lineup.

For Montreal... eh, I'm still trying to understand the mentality that it's been all goaltending with team failings. If you're a Montreal fan, I do not intend this as an insult as so much a criticism toward GM Marc Bergevin and head coach Michel Therrien. It would seem that the Habs falling out of contention demise has been tied to the loss of goalie Carey Price to injury. The torrid pace of the Habs start to the season was more than just steadiness in the crease. Price played 12 games on the season - t-w-e-l-v-e - posting a 2.06 GAA and a heady .934 save percentage. Price had a fantastic season in 2014-15 too, ultimately winning the Hart Trophy as league MVP and the Vezina award for best goalie among other things. Yet Les Habitants de Montreal was bounced from the playoffs. Heck, it's not like Canadiens fans don't see a flaw in the general system employed by Michel Therrien even during the team's early success of this season. Price, Mike Condon and now Ben Scrivens turn into the last line of defense, and truth-be-told a goalie can't do it all.

It's not like the Habs have no potency offensively. Though the team isn't armed with an over glorified offensive might, four players have 50 points or more (Max Pacioretty, Alex Galchenyuk, defenseman P.K. Subban and Tomas Plekanak are all offensive threats in one rite or another for Montreal. The goal differential for the club compared to its opponents is -19. Going back to what was touched on above, that sort of reflects weakness of the system once again. Yes, you'd like a superior netminder in the crease, but you also have tools that can provide offensively. If the system itself is flawed, there's reason a team falls apart that goes beyond goaltending.

Montreal is capable. If things do change, if a defense-first coach is brought in (let's say our old friend Guy Boucher) and a healthy Carey Price stands at his average numbers through his career... That's going to be a very interesting (and formidable) Habs club to behold next season.

But for the moment, Montreal just wants to get to a point-per-game pace. This is their 78th contest of the season and a victory will propel the club to 78 points on the season. That's a very modest goal for a team that started the season so hot.

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