Tonight’s Game 3 match-ups in Montreal and St. Paul are vital ones for the host teams.
The Montreal Canadiens are trying to shake off the disappointment of their Game 2 loss in which they blew a 3-1 third period and gave up four unanswered goals on the way to a 5-3 loss to the Boston Bruins. Home ice advantage could come in handy for the Habs as the crowd at Bell Centre will surely be at fever pitch.
The Minnesota Wild are in a bit more of a predicament down 2-0 in the series to the Chicago Blackhawks. In spite of the losses, they feel like they’re right there with the defending champs. That may have been the case in Game 1, but Game 2 saw Chicago dominate.
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Game 3: Montreal Canadiens vs. Boston Bruins [Series tied 1-1] (7:00 p.m. ET — NBCSN)
The Canadiens are hoping home ice can help them gain an advantage on the Bruins and after Bruins coach Claude Julien’s complaints about the lack of calls in Game 2 going his team’s way, looking for the officials to bend things more their way in Montreal is an interesting tactic.
Michel Therrien recognized what Julien was doing, however, and this is where home ice comes into play as Bell Centre can be one of the most intimidating places for players and officials alike to play in.
For the Habs, Thomas Vanek got things going with a pair of power play goals in Game 2, but the area they have to get better is 5-on-5. Four of the seven goals they’ve scored in the series have come on the power play whereas all eight of the Bruins’ goals have come at even strength.
Reilly Smith has been big in the first two games with two goals. Boston’s defensemen have been equally strong with Dougie Hamilton having two goals and Torey Krug and Johnny Boychuk with one each.
Game 3: Minnesota Wild vs. Chicago Blackhawks [Chicago leads series 2-0] (9:00 p.m. ET — CNBC)
The mission for the Wild seems simple. After getting run over by Patrick Kane in Game 1, they kept him quiet in Game 2… Only to see Marian Hossa have a big night setting teammates up with three assists. The guy who’s been killing them in both games is last season’s playoff stud in Bryan Bickell.
In two games, Bickell has three goals and two assists. After a regular season in which he had 15 points, having five in two games sounds like a major problem for Minnesota.
Another serious issues for the Wild comes from their star players being shut down. Zach Parise, Jason Pominville, and Mikko Koivu are struggling badly as the three have combined for two assists, both coming on Clayton Stoner’s goal in Game 1. With the series shifting to home ice for Minnesota, those players have to find ways to get free to create and generate opportunities.
People can talk about Ilya Bryzgalov’s goaltending issues all they want, but unless the offense helps out, the Wild are in trouble.