Monday, April 19, 2004

They Hab it all!

The comeback is complete, with the Bruins vanquished; Montreal will continue to play on in April. Battling back from a 3-1 deficit and finally able to solve Andrew Raycroft, the Montreal Canadiens led by Richard Zednik, took a 4 games to 3 series victory at the suddenly very quiet Fleet Centre in Boston Monday night.

A rivalry that goes back to the original six has given hockey fans many great nights of hockey over the years, many exciting series and these last seven games were no exception. Goaltending was the key to the seven games, Games 1, 2 and 4 belonged to Andrew Raycroft, numbers 3, 5, 6 and 7 to Jose Theodore, as both kept their teams alive at key times throughout the seven games. Even in defeat Monday night, Raycroft held the line the only goal scored on him was beyond his scope, a neat little pass from Alexei Kovalev over to Zednik from behind the net, before he knew it the puck was in the net, the series on the verge of going to the Habs.

Boston battled back but couldn’t find the combination to score an equalizer on Montreal, injured captain Joe Thornton gave it his best shot, but was largely ineffective in the final game, held off the score sheet and unable to hit with the ferocity he’s known for. The Bruins had their chances taking 32 shots at Jose Theodore, but he was on his game and like two years ago, shut the Bruins down and took Montreal on to the next round.

An empty net goal by Zednik assisted again by Kovalev and Saku Koivu brought the game to its conclusion. Kovalev had a strong game with basically the use of just one hand, as he set up the two goals, made some timely back checks and stayed with the flow of the game for the entire three periods.

For Boston the disappointment must be unfathomable, a promising season, high octane offence and the goaltending story that was Raycroft all for naught, as Montreal managed to control the flow of the last three games, full value for their historical comeback. The Habs were 0 and 12 in those series that they trailed by 3-1, The Bruins 17-0 on the ones they led by that margin. Statistically speaking this should have been the Bruins game to take, and a series to win. But then, statistics are for those that have the time to read them.

The Bruins can hit the books; The Habs will be content with hitting the Lightning.
Game one is Friday night in Tampa, one of the oldest franchises against one of the newest. One steeped in tradition, the other trying to find its way to starting one. If ever the Lightning wanted to attract some interest, the time has come. They could be the only first place team to be considered an underdog going into a second round series. Such is the scope of the Montreal tradition. The first test is Friday; the exam comes anytime between games four or seven.

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