Sunday, April 24, 2011
11:29 AM Kamal Panesar No comments
That's how most Habs' fans are describing the Canadiens' Game 5, 2-1 double-overtime loss to the Boston Bruins last night.
When Nathan Horton potted an Andrew Ference rebound at 9:03 of the second overtime at the TD Garden, the hearts of Habs-nation were cleaved in two. But fret not Habs addicts, this one isn’t over yet.
Final score: Bruins 2 - Habs 1 (2OT)
Habs scorers: Jeff Halpern (1)
Bruins scorers: Brad Marchand (1), Nathan Horton (2)
Three stars: 1. Nathan Horton, 2. Tim Thomas, 3. Brad Marchand
Evenly matched competition
Before this first round series started, mos thought the Boston Bruins would run the table on Montreal, despite the Habs holding a 4-2-0 season-series edge.
The Bruins were supposed to physically dominate Montreal and their more extensive roster depth was supposed to drop the Habs in four straight.
Well, so far, that has not materialized.
Not only have the Habs not been run out of the rink, but they are showing that they're actually very well matched against Boston.
The makeup of the two teams' personnel is decidedly different, but with two world class goaltenders—Carey Price for Montreal and Tim Thomas for Boston—a defense-first mentality and opportunistic scoring, these teams are not all that different.
Neither team has completely dominated any one game, nor looked out-matched by their opponent. Looking at the scores, no victory has been by more than two goals; the last two games have been decided by one, both in overtime.
So with such a tight race, victory is often being decided by a razor thin margin; a missed assignment, a bad line change, a weak pass or some other mistake that gives the other team the opportunity to grab the win.
Luck is a factor
If you ask any pro athlete, they'll tell you that you have to be good to be lucky and lucky to be good. Well, last night, luck was on the Bruins' side on a number of occasions.
It all started early in the first period with Michael Cammalleri—once again the Habs' best forward on the night—making a pass out front to an open Tomas Plekanec. Cammalleri swooped behind the net, drawing Thomas with him and leaving Plekanec all alone with a wide open net.
However Michael Ryder, who is experiencing a serious revival, played the role of goaltender by whipping his right hand up and knocking the Plekanec shot over the net. It was a certain goal for Montreal and an incredible turn of fortune for the Bs.
In addition, as the game progressed, Mathieu Darche, Tomas Plekanec and Andrei Kostitsyn all beat Thomas with shots, but rung the puck off the cross-bar or post.
Finally, moments before the Bruins overtime winning goal, it was Cammalleri's turn to have a shot at an open net. With Thomas on the ground and out of position, Cammalleri's shot first hit Patrice Bergeron then Zdeno Chara, staying out of the net and again snuffing out a sure-goal.
When you see things like that happening all night, you realize that it just wasn't meant to be for Montreal.
An epic goaltending battle
Both Price and Thomas have had their ups and downs in this series.
While they've had their moments of spectacular plays, they have both also let in some questionable goals. Last night, however, they both put in All-Star performances, making save after miraculous save to keep their respective teams in it.
I guess that was eventually to be expected from two of the top goaltenders in the league. It's just that, until last night, it hasn't yet happened in this series.
The biggest save of the night, however, goes to Tim Thomas who made a heart-stopping right to left save on Brian Gionta in overtime. It was a two-on-one with Travis Moen making the perfect pass and Gionta wiring a one-timer at the net.
Thomas got his left pad on the puck in a brilliant sliding save with none more surprised than Gionta.
Talk about a key save at a key time!
While that was a game-saving stop, Gionta's got to get that puck up on the play. His shot, while hard, was only about six inches off the ice. If Gio had been able to put it a foot or two off the ice that would have been the game.
What's with all the turnovers?
If there's one major change in the Canadiens' play over the last three games, it's the number of turnovers and unforced errors they're making.
If we look at the Habs' giveaways over the first two games of the series, they only had six—one in Game 1 and five in Game 2. However, over the last three games Montreal has turned the puck over 7, 15 and 14 times for a grand total of 36.
Boston, like Montreal, uses their opponents' mistakes to create scoring chances. As such, it's no real surprise the Habs have lost three in a row.
A perfect example of the type of unforced errors that are hurting the Canadiens, was by Roman Hamrlik with about two minutes to play in the first. The teams were playing 4-on-4 and, with no pressure on him and the Habs breaking out of their own zone, Hamrlik fired a pass two feet behind Andrei Kostitsyn's back skate.
The Bruins' forechecker jumped on the errant pass, allowing the Bs to setup in the Habs zone for a good minute or so. Boston had two quality scoring chances on the play.
This has been the problem far too often for Montreal in this series and throughout the year. But people tend to gloss over these unforced errors because Carey Price is usually there to bail his team out.
Last night, Price was in top form and bailed out Hamrlik on the play and the Canadiens for most of the night. But the Habs have got to get these terrible turnovers under control. This is the playoffs and you can't expect to advance while making foolish decisions and giveaways.
Last night further illustrated why Montreal wouldn't even be a playoff team without Price.
Don't lose hope
I originally picked the Bruins to win this series in six, but I thought that would happen with the teams splitting wins in Boston and Montreal. After watching these teams go at it over five games, I now see this series going seven.
As I said above, these teams are incredibly evenly matched through five games, and I don't see that changing much over the final two. While anything can happen in Game 6, I don't see the Canadiens laying down for the Bruins.
I also don't see Boston winning four straight against Montreal and I don't see the Habs' veteran core taking Game 6 lightly. Montreal will not lose what is potentially their "final" game of the season at home on Tuesday night.
So, with another bizarre two-day break in play, this team will file and forget last night and come out looking for blood on Tuesday.
Boston will surely not take the Habs lightly for Game 6, but they had better be ready for a battle. I fully expect the best game of the season from Montreal come Tuesday, and for the series to be decided the following night in Boston.
With Games 6 and 7 going back to back—why, oh why Gary Bettman?—if this series goes back to Boston it's anyone's game. But the pressure will be squarely on the Bruins' shoulders.
Either way, I'm calling Montreal to take it in front of the Beantown crowd Wednesday evening.
Kamal is a freelance Habs writer, Senior Writer/Editor-in-Chief of HabsAddict.com, Montreal Canadiens Blogger on Hockeybuzz.com and Habs writer on TheFranchise.ca. Kamal is also a weekly contributor to the Sunday Shinny on The Team 990 (AM 990) every Sunday from 8 - 9 AM. Listen live at http://www.team990.com/
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