I’m writing this in the train, after I finally had some time to calm down and think a little bit. Take a seat, it’s going to be a long read.
As a fan, this 7 game stretch is probably the most inspiring habs performance I’ve ever seen.
I really started following the habs 6 years ago.
- I was there in 2004 when Montreal overcame a 3-1 deficit against the n°2 seed Bruins, but this was my first year as a habs fan, and I didn’t realize how big of an upset that was. I also didn’t realize the significance of beating the Bruins in the playoffs.
- I was there in 2006 when the habs took a great 2-0 lead against the n°1 seed Hurricanes, but it didn’t end well after Koivu got hurt in game 3.
- I was there for the whole 2007-08 campaign too. The 6-5 miracle win against the Rangers was fantastic but it was “just” a regular season game. And of course, although it was great to finally watch the habs do so well in the regular season, the first round was much more difficult that it should have been, and the second round remains one of the biggest disappointments of my young fan life.
So yeah, this is pretty big.
(by the way, I just realized the habs are 3-0 in Games 7 since I’m a fan. They’ve also successfully come back from two 3-1 deficits against superior opponents. I feel pretty lucky.)
It’s funny that this was achieved by the version of the habs I’ve had the most trouble falling in love with. After all the disappointments of last season, and after all the changes of last summer, (and then the departure of Gainey), it took me really long to get used to this team and to feel attached to it. The thing I first liked about the 2009-10 habs is that they had seemingly more heart and a better attitude then the previous teams. It’s only fitting that those precise traits are what allowed them to overcome the Capitals.
I love the fact that the newcomers Gill, Gio, Cammie, Pyatt, Moore and Moen all had a very important role in changing the attitude of this team. (And Spacek and Mara, although hurt or sick right now, can’t be forgotten either.) It’s tough to know exactly who brings what in terms of attitude and heart behind the closed doors of the dressing room, but by all accounts guys like Metropolit, Halak and Pleks are also crucial components of this new attitude.
7 games, no matter how good they were, should of course not be enough to forget everything about the 82 previous ones. The habs are not an elite team. But they’re a valiant team, and one that’s particularly dangerous in the playoffs: good goaltending, heart, willingness to pay the price, hard work and composure are key there.
I’m not forgetting everything about the regular season struggles and frustrations. But this series finally made me fully fall in love with this team.
Here are the things I liked the most in this series:
- Of course, Halak, but everything has already been said about him.
- The defensive play, notably on the PK. The performance of Gill, Gorges and the whole D in this series has been incredible. Seriously, I don’t think I’ve ever seen the habs play this good defensively over the last 6 seasons.
- The checking lines: the lines changed a little over the 7 games, but Moen, Pyatt, Moore, Lapierre (in spite of his stupid dives) all did a great job. They really helped relieve the pressure on the D on several occasions.
- Cammie, Gio, Pleks and Gomer really took the most of their opportunities on offense. The fact that they opened the score 6 times out of 7 is incredible and probably one of the most important things in this series.
- Jacques Martin. I know he took a lot of heat this year, and that was deserved on a lot of occasions. But I think he seriously outcoached Boudreau in those games, and he deserves lots of credit for preparing the perfect gameplan to upset the Caps. Also, if he’s to be blamed when his guys don’t show up or look unprepared, he should also get credit when the habs play with lots of intensity and start every game with hunger.
Now to be fair, I’m a little scared of the next round. The Penguins are definitely a better playoff team than the Caps. They have far more experience, and they’ve proven on numerous occasions over the last few seasons that they have tons of leadership. This is not the kind of team that’s likely to panic or get frustrated easily. The way they won game 6 in Ottawa in spite of being down by two goals on the road is a prime example of that.
I’m also a little worried the habs will be exhausted, physically and mentally by what they’ve just accomplished. I hope they’re still hungry, because that’s gonna be the key here. I remember the way the Habs behaved after beating Boston in an emotional Game 7 in 2004. In the next round, they were easily swept by Tampa. It felt like the Game 7 in Boston was their Stanley Cup, and they had nothing left in the tank to face another mountain. Right now, I just hope we won’t see something like that.
But round two only starts tomorrow. Right now, I think it’s good to just enjoy this glorious day before another battle starts and we get all stressed out/hopeful/depressed/euphoric/upset/excited again.
Beautiful days like today don’t come very often. \o/