On the surface there are some remarkable similarities between the Canadian entries in this years Stanley Cup playoffs. Both teams are in the midst of two game losing streaks, have let their opponents back into the series, coming off home losses, skating into a headwind of momentum and are on the road for the crucial next game. While on the surface there are some consistent trends, the manner in which teams are playing couldn't be more different.
Montreal could have easily pulled out a victory in either of the two losses if not for the exceptional play of goaltender, Tim Thomas and a momentum changing, rolling puck slap shot goal by Andrew 'One Finger Salute' Ferrence. (By the way his explanation for throwing the Habs fans the bird was outstanding just for its sheer ridiculousness). It is an entirely different story on the West Coast. Vancouver has been thoroughly dominated losing games 4 and 5 by a combined score of 12 - 2. The good news for Vancouver is they couldn't possible play any worse and still have two more opportunities to end the series. The Bad? They have let the defending champs back into things, Chicago is getting balance scoring from all of their top players and they are heading to what will be a loud and energized Madhouse Arena. Let's take a deeper look into each series to help with your Star Selector picks but for this preview I am going to use the R S T L N & E Wheel of Fortune approach by highlighting some key players outside of the obvious stars for each team. This is not to suggest to leave star players like Duncan Keith, Jonathan Toews, Tim Thomas or Carey Price off your starting roster but rather a look at some lower profile guys that have or will make a crucial contribution.
Montreal vs Boston
I love Montreal forward Travis Moen as a sleeper pick for tonights critical game 5 contest. Why? In order for Montreal to win tonight they will have to find some secondary scoring and grind out a couple of goals. Moen is the prototypical grinder who has made a living going to the dirty areas of the ice. If this becomes a low scoring affair a grinder will be the difference maker and Moen is my guy. For Boston, my gut tells me that Mark Recchi is going to have a big night. Recchi has been fairly quiet through the first half of the series but historically the potential Hall of Famer has come through with at least one big effort in each playoff round and my money is on him doing that this evening.
Vancouver vs Chicago
Let me start this by writing that I still think Vancouver is going to win this series despite what has happened over the last two games. The Canucks have had some time to regroup, settle down and re-focus on what originally staked them to a 3-0 series. There is no doubt that Chicago is riding high and will be extremely tough to beat, that said a game 6 win in Chicago might just be the character building victory that propels this team to their first ever Stanley Cup victory. I like Bryan Bickell to continue producing secondary scoring for Chicago while Alexander Edler will play a pivotal role in what Vancouver Canucks fans hope will be the series winning game.