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Canadiens are planning to block Penguins

WASHINGTON — Hal Gill blocked so many shots in the first-round series against the Washington Capitals that the Montreal defenseman was asked if he was an emergency backup to goaltender Jaroslav Halak.

"Sometimes, it felt like that," said Gill, who had six of his series-best 31 blocked shots in the 2-1 Game 7 victory Wednesday night. "You try to do whatever you can to get in front of a shot, help him out any way and take the pressure off him. He had a lot of pressure on him."

After stopping the team that led the NHL in both games won and goals scored, the Canadiens next face the pressure of trying to dethrone the defending Stanley Cup champions when they play the Penguins in Game 1 of their Eastern Conference semifinal at 7 p.m. Friday night at Mellon Arena.

"Anytime you're in the playoffs, you want to compete against the best," said Montreal center Dominic Moore, a former Penguin who scored the Game 7 winner against Washington. "They're obviously proven what they are, proven that they're the best. For us, it's a fun challenge."

No one in Montreal knows the Penguins, especially captain Sidney Crosby, as well as Gill. He formed a shutdown defensive pairing with Rob Scuderi for the Cup champions last year and practiced against Crosby on a daily basis before leaving for Montreal through free agency last summer.

"That doesn't mean it's any easier," Gill said. "He's got a lot of tricks up his sleeve."

Montreal has some of its own.

The Canadiens employed a defensive tactic against the Capitals that was similar in strategy to what the Ottawa Senators did to the Penguins in the first round: They protected their goalie by clogging shooting lanes and blocking shots — including 41 in the 2-1 victory in Game 7 — in an effort that caused the league's best power play to go 1-for-33 for the series.

"You need to have that to be successful," Montreal coach Jacques Martin said. "It shows a commitment on the part of the players. They know at this time of the year, you've got to do everything in your power to win games. It means sometimes taking hits to make plays. It means blocking shots. It means to be fully committed."

Gill hinted that playing the Penguins could require a different game plan, considering the presence of playoffs scoring leader Crosby (14 points) and fellow centers Evgeni Malkin and Jordan Staal up the middle.

"They have different personnel," Gill said. "It's going to take a team effort. You've got to shut down Sid. He's been pretty awesome, so that's no easy task. That's going to take five, six guys at once.

"It's going to take everyone."

THE ODDS ARE

The three Eastern Conference division winners are out of the Stanley Cup playoffs, leaving the defending champion Penguins holding home-ice advantage until the Stanley Cup Final. A look at the current postseason odds:

5:2 — ODDS ON PENS TO DEFEND THE CUP (they were 6:1 going into the first round)

5:1 — ODDS OF PENS-WINGS III IN THE FINAL (they were 20:1 going into the first round)

9:4 — ODD THAT ROSSI'S PENS-OVER-HABS IN 5 PICK IS CORRECT

odds to win conn smythe trophy as playoff mvp:

1. Sidney Crosby (PIT) — 11:4

2. Evgeni Malkin (PIT) — 5:1

3. Marc-Andre Fleury (PIT) — 5:1

4. Daniel Sedin (VAN) — 6:1

5. Patrick Kane (CHI) — 6:1

6. Jonathan Toews (CHI) — 6:1

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