I love the Montreal Canadiens. I always have, and always will. That's why it hurts so much to see them collapse year after year...either barely making the playoffs and then becoming easy prey in the early rounds, or not making the post season at all.
I thought this year would be different. I thought the team had such a great season, with everything coming together, that it would carry over into the playoffs. Not so. The old line goes that the playoffs are a whole new season. That was never more true than it's been for this first round between Montreal and Boston. Everything the Canadiens did to Boston in the regular season has been forgotten by all but the Bruins, who are now taking their revenge by doing it straight back to the Habs.
It burns like bitter bile to see the Bruins cycle effortlessly in the Montreal end, winning every single battle on the boards and getting to every loose puck first. Their passes are accurate, and they're rushing in waves at Carey Price while the Canadiens' defence collapses and does more to screen the goalie than clear bodies away from him. Watching Alex Kovalev and Andrei Kostitsyn disappear in the biggest games of the year, even as an injured Saku Koivu plays his heart out and shows without doubt who's really the leader of this team.
Tonight, my head says the Canadiens are going to lose the series...well, to be accurate, they're going to blow the series. All the momentum is in favour of the Bruins. Claude Julien has managed to have his team shut down the Canadiens' offence and frustrate them into making mistakes. Now his team has destroyed the Habs' confidence to the point that they're using the Canadiens' own weapons against them.
I don't blame Price tonight. He was left alone so many times and bailed them out, he can be forgiven for not being superhuman on a couple that he did allow. Yet, despite everything, even though the Habs have been horrible and the Bruins deserve to win the series, I can't stop hoping. As long as the series is still alive, this little flicker of hope that somehow, in some way, Carbonneau and his outcoached staff will find an answer still sparks. There's some chance the team will come out heroically and prove they want this more than the Bruins do. Excuses are over, and just as the regular season means nothing, the previous six games of this series mean nothing either.
My head says the Bruins should take this on Monday and move on to be immediately annihilated by the Penguins. But my heart says the Canadiens can still redeem this wonderful season by finding some way to win the last game. Until the last whistle, I'll hope.