Friday, April 22, 2011

Aftermath: Even

And so, the first four games in the playoffs now mean nothing. They're starting from scratch, and it's not going to be easy at all. The thing is, the Canadiens played the best they could last night.

Sure, people will pick them apart today. Why couldn't they keep up the intensity when they were up 3-1? Why did Price let in at least two soft goals, after being so solid all season? Why did the defence give up that fateful odd-man rush in OT? The answer to all of those questions is because they're human.

No team can keep up 60 minutes of intensity at the level the Canadiens showed in the first period. They get tired, the adrenaline doesn't pump at the same level and they slack off a little bit. Price was so great for most of the year, we forget nobody can be perfect all the time. The defence is old, slow and ham-handed and relying on a 21-year-old rookie to carry the bulk of the hard minutes. Mistakes will happen. In the end, the Canadiens played the best game they could, when you consider their human frailties. With their weak D and the number of forwards they carry who just can't score, they're not as deep as the Bruins. They're better when they play at the very limit of their abilities, but when they slack off, as is inevitable, the Bruins come back at them with their deeper, bigger, more opportunistic lineup.

I thought if the Canadiens lost Game Four, it would be the end of the series for them. It may still be, but we know this team has depths of character and grit that can help them punch above their weight. Watching David Desharnais take on Chara and Brian Gionta buzzing like a wasp's nest all night was inspiring, and so we can't count this team out. Andrei Kostitsyn is using his size and shot as he rarely did in the regular season, and Tomas Plekanec is doing a fabulous job containing the Krejci line. There's still hope. It's not the end of the world if they do lose, though.

We knew going into this that the Habs have a hard time scoring and their D isn't very good. (Watching Duncan Keith dominate for Chicago last night was enough to make you cry.) Those facts are now coming into play in the series, and it shouldn't be surprising. The two-game lead to start the series was great, but the Bruins weren't going to die easily. If we look at the positives, we know this can be a very good team with a couple of adjustments to the supporting cast, a healthy Pacioretty powering to the net to pump in big goals and Markov and Gorges back on D. In the meantime, they're doing the best they can with the players they have. It's not like they're not trying hard. They are. Mistakes will happen and there's nothing we fans can do about it except hope for fewer of them next time.

Honestly, I'm not expecting the Canadiens to win the series. I'm also not expecting them to lose it. We're down to a best-of-three and if there's one thing this team is good at, it's the unexpected.


Anonymous said...

I am expecting them to lose this series now unfortunately. Please apologize my lack of faith.

Anvilcloud said...

The Habs seldom if ever succeed when they come out gunning like they did. They can't score enough goals doing that to be successful with that formula. They need to pay attention to defence first and maintain a high but sustainable pace. It must be sustainable thru 60 or nearly so.

Unknown said...

Well said, as always, Leigh Anne!

Through four game these two have shown that the margin between winning a losing is razor thin. As such, I don't expect much will change and that, as a result, this thing will go seven.

Montreal has shown tremendous resilience this season and I see no reason for them to suddenly fall apart.

Should be a great race to the finish!

Anonymous said...

I thought that DD and Eller were great in the first half. The penalty to Eller was marginal and then he kind of disappeared from sight. That was a mistake and something that would never happen to Gomez. If the faceoff circle is a concern (for Eller),then put him on a line with Halpern.

Going into Boston, Martin is going to have to be a bit more open minded when it comes to utilizing his entire line-up. It's prety well a certainty that we will have to finish the series with back-to-back games, so shortening the bench will not be an option. Everyone is going to have to play during all sorts of situations, regardless of age and experience. We might also have to rotate Weber or Mara into the D for a game so that the four older guys get realistic ice time during these last three games.

24 Cups

Larry said...

This series is eerily similar to 2006. We won two in Carolina against a favourite, came home and played well enough but lost both. The key fourth game we were up 3-1 then lost in OT after the brutal missed Koivu call and the phantom cut lip giving them a four minute powerplay to tie. We then just imploded and lost in six. I fear a similar result is pending.

DanielleJam said...

There is no reason for us to loose. We have as good of a chance as Boston, if not better.

Go Habs Go!

dusty said...

Win or lose, the Habs aren't going to win the Cup so, other than seeing the Bruins lose, there is little satisfaction for fans at stake here. Maybe Ference's finger will inspire the team to win at least one home game before golfing.

I too watched the Hawks last night and Keith was terrific all the more so considering his buddy Seabrook isn't playing. But look at that team. Toews, Kane, Sharp and Hossa are better than any forward the Canadiens (and the Bruins for that matter) have. Bolland, the grit and energy guy, can score and their lineup is full of young strong skaters with size. They are without a doubt the most fun team to watch and I hope they can advance because they make viewing hockey really fun. And Pat Foley has the best hockey voice since Danny Gallivan.

Win or lose I fear the Habs will stand pat using the rationale that, with the return of injured players next season, the team will be just fine and will be a strong contender in the next year or two. Of course any fan with two eyes knows that is a load of crap. Watching Gomez, Gionta and Cammalleri for the next four years is a truly depressing thought.

If the Habs lose to the Bruins and the Hawks don't get by Vancouver I'll be golfing early this year myself.

JF said...

Nice philosophical overview, J.T. I feel pretty much the same way. They did the best they could. But I don't count them out yet. Last year, when they were down 3-1 to the Capitals after playing quite a good Game 4 but with some costly mistakes, I concluded sadly that they just weren't quite good enough. But they made some adjustments, eliminated the mistakes, and played tight defensive hockey the rest of the way. It's not impossible they'll do the same thing again. But Price will need to be better. He was careless on Monday and ordinary last night. If he can get back in the zone he was in the first two games, the Habs could still do it. Might as well hope while we still can.

MC said...

Wow JT, I thought you would be standing on a ledge somewhere, not writing a thoughtful piece. ;-)

I agree with your sentiment that they are human and mistakes happen, like the bad change in overtime after failing to get it deep, but I am not buying the thought that the Habs are not good enough. They dominated the Bruins for two periods, firing 30 shots at Thomas. The Habs D may be weaker without Gorges and Markov, but they have been WAY better than the Bruins D, who can't make a pass if their life depended on it. The Bruins were very, very lucky to tie the game. They did not make nice plays, they were plays of desperation, just dumping the puck in front and hoping for the best. The Ference goal could just have easily gone ten feet high the way it was rolling. The Bruins were lucky, but that's why they play a 7-game playoff format so that luck can even out. As long as the Habs don't let this loss get to them, it is still their series to win because they have been the better team for most of the series. And now they will be desperate also. GO Habs!!

DT said...

Thanks, JT, for putting this into perspective.
I couldn't watch after the B's made it 3-2... I can't help thinking we're one power forward, one Max-Pac short of having enough depth to handle the bruins and laugh our way to the next round. Thanks Chara.

punkster said...

No problem. They're going to be fine.

Anonymous said...

Not so sure this team can be a very good team . They still lack depth on line 3 and 4 and if you stack the top 6 against most teams objectively you would be hard pressed to pick most Habs over othere teams big 6.

But there are some nice players that would be superb compliments on other teams.

A lot of these guys get love because of the crest. But do you really think AK deserves a contract? Max P looks like he can be molded into a solid winger there but his body of work is too thin which is too bad because he is really missed.

dusty said...

JT, where are you? Only one game left. Don't quit on us now.