There was a new face on the ice today as Alexander Romanov had finally finished his quarantine and he was therefore allowed to join his new teammates. As I've previously said, he won't be allowed to play in the qualifying round but his presence with the team will still burn one year of his entry level contract. What's the point you say? Well, the Habs are keen on being able to pay Romanov a bigger salary to prevent any temptation to return to the KHL and for that, the ELC has got to be over. The kid may not be the second coming of Markov but his arrival is sure to shore up our ailing blue line.
Today at practice, these were the lines and pairings used by Claude Julien:
Tatar - Danault - Gallagher
Drouin - Suzuki - Armia
Byron - Kotkaniemi - Lehkonen
Weise - Domi - Weal
Hudon - Evans - Poehling
Chiarot - Weber
Kulak - Petry
Ouellet - Mete
Fleury - Juulsen
Olofsson - Folin
You didn't like the lines on Tuesday? Tough, they are staying.... Apparently. I would have liked to see Jake Evans in the line-up over Dale Weise but looks like Julien wants to keep the gritty vet. Who knows, he might know something we don't know... Tomas Plekanec in an interview with the Athletic, mentioned Weise as a player who elevates his game come playoff time. Considering the level of said game in the last few years, he's got plenty of room to elevate it.
As for the pairings, I wasn't blown away by the third pairing, but it looks like they did enough for Claude Julien to keep them in. Personally, I would have like to see Noah Juulsen over Xavier Ouellet as he's part of the future but that will have to wait… I guess.
Interesting tidbit, Romanov wore number 27 at practice today. He was wearing 26 in Russia, but since Jeff Petry has got that one, it wasn't going to happen. Guess this is yet another message that Karl Alzner is no longer par of the organization's plans...if we needed another one. Alzner initially wore 22 with the Habs but reclaimed his 27 when Alexander Galchenyuk was sent packing.
Since the qualifying round starts tomorrow, I thought I'd share my predictions with you for all the round robin and the playoffs. They are not based on anything scientific but rather on my gut feeling and the hours I've spent watching hockey....
1. Boston (Although if Marchand is really injured that could make matters hard for Boston)
2. Tampa Bay (With or without Stamkos, the Lightning is a force to be reckoned with)
3. Washington (Hoping Kovalchuk has a good chance at the Cup this year)
4. Philadelphia (They found their goalie but he's young and he's not got any NHL playoffs experience)
Pens in 4: Carey Price can't score and those who can will be busy preventing Crosby and Malkin from doing so...
NY Rangers in 5: That will be a close one but I see the Rags pulling the upset here
NY Islanders in 5: I like Barkov, Huberdeau and co. but the fact is Sergei Bobrovsky has been struggling this year and I don't see that getting any better.
Toronto in 5: Columbus is a hard working team but let's face it, the talent is in Toronto. It will take 5 games because of the Leafs' questionnable defensive play at times, but they will prevail.
1. Colorado (The Avs are healthy and MacKinnon will have all the support he needs)
2. St-Louis (The defending champs are still a massive threat)
3. Dallas (Their attack can be impressive at times but they do have to juggle with their lines at time)
4. Vegas (Pacioretty's absence might hurt them a bit... don't say he doesn't do much in the playoffs, he had 11 points in 7 games with Vegas at the Spring dance last year. He does not miss Montreal's Spotlight)
Oilers in 4: Move over Chicago, time for the dynamic duo of MacDavid and Draisatl to steal the show on the greatest stage of them all
Winnipeg in 5: This should be an epic battle. Gaudreau hasn't showed he can be a factor in the postseason yet and Hellebucyk can steal this.
Nashville in 3: Yes, I'm going with a sweep. Arizona just doesn't do it for me and Hall isn't the kind of guy that can take too much on himself.
Minnesota in 5: Really wasn't sure on this one but I think if Dubnyk is top shape, he will be the difference maker.
So, don't just dismiss my picks, let's hear yours and your reasoning, that's part of the playoffs fun!