The Montreal Canadiens have lost four of their last five playoff games, including back-to-back games to the Tampa Bay Lightning. The Canadiens dropped Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semifinals in double overtime, 2-1, before getting blown out, 6-2, in Game 2.
Even worse? The series now shifts to Tampa Bay for Game 3.
How can the Canadiens recover from this?
“I think it’s going to be very difficult,” The Gazette hockey writer and columnist Pat Hickey said on CBS Sports Radio’s Ferrall on the Bench. “The Canadiens are putting up a brave front. They’re talking about how Tampa Bay hasn’t gotten into its head, but they’ve lost seven in a row now to Tampa this year. They got swept 5-0 in the regular season (and were) outscored (21-8). They just haven’t played well against this team. When Ben Bishop has been playing for Tampa, he’s 10-1-0 against the Canadiens. He’s only lost one game in two years.
“As I say, the Canadiens are putting up a brave front,” Hickey continued. “They say they’re not afraid to play this team, but I think they were hoping that Detroit was going to beat Tampa in the first round. Detroit had a couple of opportunities to win that series, but instead the Canadiens have to play Tampa and this is not a team they match up well against.”
Playing to double overtime in Game 1 was not a moral victory, either.
“You have to remember that Montreal had a couple days rest,” Hickey said. “Tampa was coming off a Game 7 and they traveled the day after they beat Detroit. They probably had the same sort of emotional letdown that Montreal had last year after they beat Boston and then lost to the Rangers in the first game. But they managed to find a way to win and the Canadiens are in that position right now where they have to win tomorrow night.”
Game 3 is Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. ET.
Montreal is known for having the best – and perhaps the toughest – media in all of hockey. Hickey said the media were “very rough” on the Canadiens after they lost by four goals in Game 2. Montreal has been outscored 14-6 in its last five games, this after winning its first three playoff games against Ottawa – all by one goal.
At this point, few in Montreal are giving the Canadiens much of a chance against Tampa.
“I think most people have figured that this series probably is not going back to Montreal,” Hickey said. “I don’t think there’s anybody outside of the Canadiens’ dressing room that is very optimistic about the Canadiens’ chances of coming back in this series. They talked about how they did come back a little bit against the Rangers last year after losing the first two games at home, but I think this is an entirely different situation. This is a team that, as I say, they just haven’t been able to beat at all during the regular season. They’ve only got one win in two years. They did sweep Tampa Bay last year in the first round of the playoffs, but Tampa Bay didn’t have Ben Bishop. He was injured. Plus, there were a lot of guys on Tampa Bay who were playing their first playoffs ever, and all those guys – guys like (Alex) Killorn and Tyler Johnson – they’ve got a little bit of experience now. And the coach, Jon Cooper, has some experience. That’s showing in this series.”