The Montreal Canadiens needed a win on Saturday to give themselves a chance for home-ice advantage in their upcoming first-round series against the Tampa Bay Lightning. They got that win thanks to a dramatic tally that demands a lengthy explanation: Brian Gionta’s shutout-spoiling, overtime game-winning penalty-shot goal:
With that, Montreal has a one-point standings lead over Tampa Bay. That makes the situation simple:
If the Lightning win against the Washington Capitals on Sunday, they get home-ice advantage (and the second spot in the Atlantic).
If Tampa Bay loses to the Caps, those designations go to Montreal.
To add a little context to home-ice advantage, consider a few factors:
Tampa Bay beat the Habs in Montreal (2-1 SO) on Nov. 12; lost to Montreal in Tampa Bay (2-1 SO) on Dec. 28; beat Habs at Montreal 2-1 in OT on Feb. 1; beat Montreal at home 3-1 on April 1. Long story short, the Lightning won the season series, but all but one of those games went beyond regulation and two went to shootouts.
As of this writing, Montreal is 23-13-5 at home and 23-15-3 on the road.
Meanwhile, the Lightning are 25-10-6 at home and 20-17-3 away.
Everything about these numbers screams “impending close series” but that remains to be seen. We also get a little drama on the last day of the season (Sunday), which is nice since all three of the East’s other series are determined (including seeding).
The 33-year-old forward that has become known primarily for his controversial hits has once again put himself in the sights of the NHL’s Department of Players Safety. They confirmed that he was offered an in-person hearing following his hit on Jakub Silfverberg Saturday night. He declined the opportunity to meet with them face-to-face, but the offer itself is an important detail because it gives the league the option to suspend him for more than five games.
It certainly seems like the stage is set for a lengthy suspension. For one thing, Torres is a repeat offender who once was banned from 25 games for his hit on Marian Hossa in 2012, although it was later reduced to 21 contests after an appeal. The NHL found that Torres was guilty of breaking three rules for that hit; namely interference, charging, and illegally hitting the head. The NHL is reviewing Torres’ latest incident for the same three violations.
Freddie, who is the older of the two at 23, is a center that excelled offensively in the OHL and has chipped in at the AHL level. However, he has just one point in 29 contests with Colorado and the San Jose Sharks.
This is obviously not a big trade, but perhaps Freddie will eventually become a solid member of the Flames’ supporting cast. If nothing else, it didn’t cost Calgary much to reunite the brothers. The duo previously played together with the Niagara IceDogs.
"I’m looking forward to being in the same organization as my brother now and seeing what happens." – Dougie Hamilton on the trade