Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Aftermath: Heroes and Hope

There wasn't a man in a Montreal Canadiens uniform last night who didn't try his damnedest to drive this series against the Bruins to seven games. When Scott Gomez is blocking shots and Lars Eller is returning to the game with a heavily bandaged shoulder, you know guys are going the extra mile.

When the game began with a disallowed goal that should clearly have been good, the Canadiens could have wilted. They could have sighed and said it was just another example of how they haven't had a break all series. They could have stopped skating, let up and gave the Bruins the advantage. Instead, they shook it off and buckled down to work.

Bruins fans and other assorted Habs haters will say the reffing was biased in favour of the Habs, which accounted for the two five-on-three PPs awarded to the Canadiens. When you look at it, though, there wasn't a whole lot the refs could do. Slashing a stick so it breaks on the faceoff, shooting a puck over the glass and playing a puck when there are six skaters on the ice are all pretty clearly defined penalties. It may have been the Bruins bad luck, or their own rash indiscipline, but those calls were pretty much no-brainers.

As was the five-minute major on Lucic. The Bruins-based outcry today is based on the fact that Mike Richards got only a minor penalty for a much worse hit. The problem with that reasoning is assuming the refs who called the Richards hit were right. In fact, they were wrong, and Richards should have been given a much more severe penalty. Chris Lee (shock of shocks) had the call on Lucic right. He deliberately ran at Jaro Spacek and drove him head-first into the glass, hard enough that Spacek had to be taken to the quiet room for concussion assessment. It was a good call, and the Bruins paid the price.

That's what the Habs were able to do last night. Despite missing David Desharnais and James Wisniewski (on top of all the other injuries they've sustained this year), they were opportunistic and made the most of their PP chances. In a series so evenly matched, the special teams are the one advantage either side can claim. The big difference in last night's game was that the Canadiens ran with that advantage, while the Bruins PP stalled.

It also helped that Carey Price and P.K.Subban played up to their star potential. Price got lucky a couple of times and the goal he allowed was kind of iffy, but he stood tall when it really counted. So did Subban, who played nearly 30 minutes again. He may have been passed over for a Calder nomination, but it's impossible to imagine where the Canadiens would be this year, or this playoff, without him. If these two guys are the core of the Habs future, the future's looking bright.

In the end, the old adage that your best players have to be your best players came true for the Habs. The most aggressive forwards on the team were Brian Gionta, Mike Cammalleri, Scott Gomez and Tomas Plekanec. They had the best chances and scored both goals, and they skated their butts off all night. If a battered, depleted team needed an example to follow, those guys provided it.

Winning again tonight will be a tall order for this team. At one point last night, RDS showed a shot of wounded Habs in the press box. Gorges, Pacioretty, Markov and the scratched Benoit Pouliot sat side-by-side, watching the action somewhat anxiously. The shot made you think about what this series would be like with those guys healthy and/or playing up to their ability. Not to mention if Desharnais and Wisniewski were in the lineup, and if Eller and Spacek weren't playing hurt. Unfortunately, all of those "what ifs" won't be answered tonight. Instead, the Canadiens will face Game Seven with a serious lack of depth and a tired team that busted its collective last nut just to make it to tonight. We can hope they can mount yet another heroic performance and somehow pull it off, but, on paper, we can't expect it.

I'm going to hope there are heroes in white tonight. After all, even if they're almost totally out of gas, it's better to go down to the Caps than the Bruins. And it's better to make it to the second round than not. Either way, the Habs have nothing to be ashamed of, and everything of which to be proud.


DanielleJam said...

Yup, VERY proud.

Anonymous said...

It's 50-50 tonight. Anything goes.