So, I said PDTB (pre-demolition of Tampa Bay) I wasn't going to get crazy about this year's playoffs. I wasn't going to drag out the superstitions or chew my nails to the quick. I refused to work any further on an ulcer 30 post-seasons in the making. I vowed to enjoy the moments, and I have to say, it's working. Of course, it was probably helped by the unusually low number of heart-attack-inducing minutes involved in a four-game sweep, but, nevertheless, it's working.
I think the best thing about the complete satisfaction involved in the Habs first-round win was the fact that every single Canadiens player had a moment worthy of enjoying and remembering. A week later (and what a long week it's been!), I can still picture Tomas Plekanec, lifting Steven Stamkos' stick from behind, clearing the puck away on a potentially dangerous 2-on-1. I see him smiling as a Tampa fan flips him off on the other side of the glass. And I see him taking the team in hand after the Lightning grabbed the momentum with the series' first goal, faking a rookie D out of his shorts and roofing one to bring the Habs back into it, emphatically.
Then there's Rene Bourque. I've written about his resurgence during this post season, and maybe he'll keep it up. Or maybe he won't. Either way, we could certainly savour the sight of him driving the net like a true-blue power forward on every shift. That was so much fun! And Lars Eller, right there with him, feet constantly in motion, relentless on the puck, rewarded by five points in four games, including that laser we'll remember from Game Four.
I enjoyed P.K.Subban taking his own game back in the second match, yelling at J.J.Daigneault behind the bench, then going out there and dominating in a way reminiscent of last year's Norris-calibre style. That was so gratifying, as I've wanted to yell at Daigneault all year. Then, Subban's absolute control on Brendan Gallagher's Game Three goal was a beautiful thing to see. And Andre Markov. Even if Markov didn't (unbelievably) have a point in that series, he was a rock on defence. His clever breakout passes and great positional play gave Alexei Emelin time and space to lay the body, which meant he was able to play his best game. Even Mike Weaver and Francis Bouillon kept their gaffes to a minimum, and I'll remember Weaver's nice clear that led to Brian Gionta's shorty in Game One.
Oh, and Dale Weise and the fourth line were outstanding. Weise turned out to be a speed-demon revelation. Michaël Bournival complemented that speed with his own wheels and a bulldog-like ability to pin the puck in the opposing end, and Daniel Briere proved the mythical "Playoff Briere" actually does exist. It was like discovering the Tooth Fairy riding on Bigfoot's back, distributing leprechaun gold. Briere did all the work on Weise's big game winner in Game One OT, and he scored the all-important opener in Game Four: the one everyone says is the toughest game to win.
Gallagher on Plekanec's wing was a force of nature, as was Gionta in his new home on the third line, with his bold, aggressive penalty killing and opportunistic speed. So many other little moments: Carey Price clearing the puck out on the PK by himself, then robbing Stamkos and Purcell in tight. Briere shaking hands with Ginette Reno after the anthems. Thomas Vanek potting his first playoff goal for Montreal and looking exhilarated about it. David Desharnais breaking the PP slump with the vital opening goal in Game Two. Brandon Prust playing hurt, but busting his butt on the PK anyway. Max Pacioretty, who hit more posts than a carpenter through the series, scoring his very first playoff goal at the best possible moment to win Game Four and send Tampa home. The crowd, roaring. The team, paying tribute at centre ice. Marc Bergevin dancing. The handshakes, with the goodwill hockey players generally show, even in defeat. Jon Cooper telling the media, "This is not the team we saw in the regular season."
No, thank goodness, the team we saw win its opening series was a better, tighter, more exciting team than the one we watched all year. Of course there are questions now about how well the Habs will stand up against a bruising team like Boston, which plays to hurt. Whatever happens, I'll remind myself to soak up all the enjoyment of the moments and remember them, whatever the outcome.
Now, bring on the Bruins!