Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Montreal sends Capitals into Habernation

The most unlikely of outcomes played itself out on Wednesday evening as the Montreal Canadiens, eighth seed in the Eastern conference and barely into the playoffs by the slimmest of margins overcame the powerhouse Washington Capitals to win their opening round series 4 games to three. The first number eight seed to come back from a 3-1 deficit against a number one and take a series.

Another stellar performance from Jaroslav Halak propelled the Canadiens onto their next date with destiny, as the Montreal goaltender faced 41 shots, allowing only one (that counted) behind him to secure the win. Over the last three games Halak has faced over 134 shots and remarkably turned aside all but three. A legendary bit of goaltending for a franchise that has more than a few legends between the pipes over the years.

Yet Wednesday night's victory wasn't all Halak, Candiens dropped to block shots, took and made hits and most of all frustrated the one of the most potent offensive units that the NHL has, only to have Washington's top guns return to their bench shift after shift shaking their heads in wonderment as to what they needed to do to extinguish the Habs hopes.

They will have an entire off season to wonder now, Montreal never seemed to buckle, they were overwhelmed at times, and on more than one occasion it seemed as though destiny was finally going to lift the Capitals onto the next round, yet again and again there was Halak, or anyone else for that matter ready to lay waste to those plans.

For Washington, it was a case of no finish! No finish around the net when the scoring chances arrived and no finish to a season that many suggested was theirs for the taking. It's the latest setback for one of the NHL's marquee franchises and one suspects that Gary Bettman and the upper brass in New York weren't particularly happy with the way that the Capitals seemed to extinguish once again.

Again, as in years past there will be many questions raised about the Capitals and their inability to grasp the greatness that many say is theirs for the taking, when faced with a strong defensive team and a remarkable performance in the nets, they couldn't make their own breaks, the chances missed over the four games lost will come back to haunt over the summer, though one suspects that some changes will also be on the way before training camp in the fall.

For the NHL there will be no magical showdown of Crosby and Ovechkin this year in the East, instead the Pens having just battled through a surprisingly resilient Ottawa Senators will have to steel themselves for yet another team  that clearly isn't ready to be road kill on the way to the Cup. Montreal has little time to enjoy their thrilling victories of the last week, work begins anew on Friday when the offensively dominant Penguins will see first hand what the Caps just lived through.

In a post season with more than a few surprises, the NHL may want to keep the ladder handy, just in case they have to change the marquee...  

Montreal Gazette-- Habs oust Caps, meet Penguins next
Montreal Gazette-- Only one statistic matters: Habs win four to clinch series
Montreal Gazette-- 'That's playoff hockey,' Martin says
Montreal Gazette-- Huge crowd descends on downtown
Globe and Mail-- Where hockey is religion, delirious Habs disciples celebrate
Toronto Star-- Habs make history by storming back to upset Caps
CBC Sports-- Canadiens upset Capitals in Game 7 stunner
Washington Post-- Caps complete historic collapse
Washington Post-- Top-seeded Washington Capitals knocked out of Stanley Cup playoffs by eighth-seeded Montreal Canadiens
Washington Post-- Mike Wise on the Washington Capitals' stunning loss to the Montreal Canadiens
Washington Post-- Alex Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals come up short Too much Halak and a power-play outage sent the Capitals packing

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