CWHL Playoff Preview: Les Canadiennes (1) vs. Furies (4)

Les Canadiennes de Montreal come into the playoffs as the No. 1 seed with a 21-3-0 record. The Toronto Furies scraped into the playoffs in the final spot at 6-16-2.

Schedule (best-of-three):

Game #1: Friday, February 26 at 6:45pm ET at Etienne Desmarteau Arena. (Stream: CWHLLive.com**)

Game #2: Saturday, February 27 at 5:00pm ET at Complex Sportif Bell, Brossard (TV: Sportsnet 360 – Canada only; Stream: CWHLLive.com** – outside Canada)

Game #3 (if needed): Sunday, February 28 at 3:30pm ET at Etienne Desmarteau Arena. (Stream: CWHLLive.com**)

**Buy a Playoff Pass for CWHL Live for a mere $10 CDN

Season Series: Les Canadiennes with the 6-0-0 sweep. 

Date Away     Home  
Oct. 31 Les Canadiennes 5   Toronto Furies 1
Nov. 1 Les Canadiennes 5   Toronto Furies 2
Nov. 28 Toronto Furies 1   Les Canadiennes 3
Nov. 29 Toronto Furies 3   Les Canadiennes 6
Jan. 9 Les Canadiennes 5   Toronto Furies 1
Jan. 10 Les Canadiennes 3   Toronto Furies 1

The top five scoring forwards in the CWHL are featured in this series; however, four of those five are on Les Canadiennes roster: Marie-Philip Poulin (46 pts), Ann-Sophie Bettez (44 pts), Kim Deschenes (33 pts), and Caroline Ouellette (32 pts).

FORWARDS

Much of Toronto’s scoring is done by Natalie Spooner who is fifth in the league with 30 points. She is a freight train on the ice and good luck getting in her way if she can build up speed. Far behind her at 18 points each are Kori Cheverie and Alyssa Baldin.

ADVANTAGE: Montreal

DEFENSE

Sophomore Lauriane Rougeau leads all defensemen in the league at plus-24 and is the top scoring defenseman in the league with 19 points. Cathy Chartrand isn’t far behind her at plus-23 and 15 points. The team is deep at defense and all players are a plus-6 or better. Julie Chu has played in only 15 games this season because she’s a coach at Concordia University and she usually misses one game a weekend to go be with her team. The university has games on Saturday and Sunday. It’ll be interesting to see if she decided to stay with Les Canadiennes or go coach.

The Furies are balanced by three rookies and three veteran defensemen. Sena Suzuki, Katie Gaskin, and Michelle Saunders will head into their first Clarkson Cup tournament this year. The other three defensemen, Michelle Bonello, Shannon Moulson, and Tara French combine for 16 years of CWHL experience. The three vets combined for 18 points, all assists, and 88 penalty minutes.

ADVANTAGE: Montreal.

GOALTENDING

Charline Labonte is far and away the best goaltender in the CWHL. She leads the league in almost every goaltending category: 17 wins, 5 shut-outs, 1.52 GAA, and 0.925 SV%. The most goals the Les Canadiennes have allowed all season is five and Labonte sees on average around 20 shots a game.

Christina Kessler comes in to the playoffs with a 4-12-2 record. She faced nearly twice as many shots against in the regular season, averaging around 32 per game.

ADVANTAGE: Montreal

SPECIAL TEAMS

Montreal leads the league in both power play (22.7%) and a nearly perfect penalty kill (96.3%). Poulin and Bettez lead the team with 12 power play points each; followed by defensemen Julie Chu and Lauriane Rougeau with 8 points each. Shorthanded, the three headed monster of Ouellette, Pouline and Bettez have combined for four goals. Conversely, the team is second in the CWHL with 4 short-handed goals against.

Toronto is second to last on the power play in the league at 13.5%, despite having the second most opportunities with the extra skater. They’re also the second most penalized team in the league and are a fourth place 78.7% on the penalty kill. Spooner leads the team with 10 power play points and 2 short handed goals.

ADVANTAGE: Montreal.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Montreal: Katia Clement-Heydra. Nominated this week for Rookie of the Year, Clement-Heydra is the fifth highest scorer among the stacked Montreal forwards. She started her season slow with 4 points in 10 games. The calendar flipped in 2016 and she went for 15 points in 14 games. For all you Marvel nerds, her teammates like to tease her by yelling, “HAIL HEYDRA!”

Toronto: Natalie Spooner. Yeah, she’s the favorite and the big star on her team; however, if she wants to win this series, she’s more likely than not going to have to carry this team. She had a six point game (5G, 1A) against a really good Calgary team earlier in the year. It’s going to take that kind of effort to beat back Montreal.

PREDICTION: MONTREAL IN 2 GAMES. If you want to peg a juggernaut in the playoffs, look no further than the best hockey team in Montreal right now. From top to bottom, they are stacked. A healthy Charline Labonte will carry them far. Even if they have to go with a the back up, the offense is so potent and the defense can shut down Spooner as they had in games past, they’re good.

Additional reading: 

MORE FROM YAHOO HOCKEY: