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07 April 2007

Islanders' Matinee Can Impact Big Game

Tonight’s monumental game against the Toronto Maple Leafs could be worth all the marbles should the New York Islanders fail to pick up the two points they would need to help themselves into the playoffs.

The great thing about the Islanders’ game today is that it’s at 1pm. Thus, both the Leafs and Habs will know exactly what’s on the line tonight when they square off for the first puck drop.

Should the Isles drop their match to the Philadelphia Flyers tonight (or even lose in overtime or shootout), the winner between Montreal and Toronto will make a post-season dance with the Buffalo Sabres.

For the Leafs, however, a win in regulation would be required because an OT or SO win would bring them into a tie with the Canadiens who would remain ahead thanks to more wins. Also, should the Islanders lose or pick up only a point tonight, Montreal would need only a single point to clinch their playoff spot.

It wasn’t until this morning that I actually felt the full excitement of tonight’s match. Honestly, it’s all that I can think about, and probably all I’ll think about until the middle of next week. I even dreamt of hockey last night, though, I cannot recall the outcome of the dream.

In my opinion, this is Toronto’s game to lose, if only because they hold home-ice advantage. It will be vital for the Canadiens to score early in the game to take the Leafs’ fans out of the game a bit. Thing is, scoring first isn’t one of Montreal’s strong points. I can’t remember a whole lot of games this season where Montreal took the first lead and held it.

Another key to the game tonight is goaltending. You have to like the Habs’ chances with either of Jaroslav Halak or Cristobal Huet. The logical choice would be Huet, even if he is a bit rusty having missed the last 20+ games with a hamstring injury, because of experience. The Maple Leafs have Andrew Rayrcoft, a goaltender Montreal has proven they can beat both in Boston and Toronto.

Either way you slice it, the degree of importance regarding tonight’s game will be heavily decided by the outcome of the Islanders/Flyers match this afternoon.

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