canadiens tampa II logoI’m not so sure home ice is really that much of a playoff advantage in this day and age, but if the Canadiens and Lightning players think it is, then the race is on. Who gets to start the upcoming first round series at home is the only thing to be decided between the Habs and Bolt with five games left in their schedules.

The Calgary Flames did the Canadiens a large favour by beating the Lightning 4-1 Thursday night in Tampa. Now the Canadiens are even with Tampa in points and games played but in fact they are one point ahead of them because of ROW which is NHL-speak for “regulation and overtime wins”.  ROW is the first level in the tie-breaking process and the Canadiens lead that 37-35.

Chalk players would say the Lightning still have an advantage because their next four games are at home against Dallas, Toronto, Philadelphia and Columbus before they wrap up their season in Washington.

Three of Canadiens remaining five will be played at the Bell Centre. four of them will be played in back-to-back settings; in each case, an away game followed by home. . This weekend is the first of them – Ottawa Friday night followed by a hungry Detroit team on Saturday at the Bell Centre.  Next Wednesday and Thursday it will be on the road in Chicago followed by the Islanders in Montreal.  The Canadiens wrap things up at home against the Rangers and that doesn’t shape up to be a walk in the park either..

budajBUDAJ STARTS IN OTTAWA

Michel Therrien has already announced it will be Peter Budaj in goal in the Ottawa game meaning Carey Price will play aginst the points-hungry Detroit Red Wings Saturday. Logic would indicate Carey Price goes Wednesday in Chicago with Budaj in against the Islanders at home next Thursday.  Douglas Murray will miss three/quarters of those games.  Nathan Beaulieu was recalled for the seventh time this season but don’t expect to see a lot of him as Jarred Tinordi moves back into the lineup to play alongside Mike Weaver.

DIFFERENT DIRECTIONS

Last time the Canadiens saw the Senators was that remarkable three-goals-in the-final 3:22 comeback that led to the Francis Bouillon overtime goal on March 15th. Including that win, the Canadiens have won 8 of 10 games while the Senators have won only four of their last eleven.