Sunday, May 4, 2008

The dream is over.

The Montreal Canadiens were the so-called miracle team of the season. Few believed that they would even make the playoffs, let alone finish first in the conference. The possibilities excited Habs fans and led them to dream of La Coupe.

Looks like it wasn’t meant to be.

The Philadelphia Flyers lost the first game of the series, but came back to win the next four and vault themselves into the Eastern Conference Finals. Not bad for an organization that blew up its team after finishing dead last in the NHL last year.

There is much focus on what went wrong with the Habs. Gosh darn it, they were supposed to end the Cup drought in Canada this year. They were so good in the regular season, but average at best in the post season.

Everyone is talking about the young Carey Price. It’s pretty obvious that he let in some soft goals but he is so far ahead of the learning curve as it is that no Habs fan should be worried. He has shown us time and time again throughout the regular season that he plays a sound game. He is almost always in position and gives up few rebounds. I just think that the pressure of playing playoff hockey in Montreal got to him this past month and he was mentally tired from playing so much hockey in the last 18 months. He will learn from this experience and be that much tougher to play against next season. Who knows, maybe ‘the plan’ of winning number 25 next year – the Habs’ 100th anniversary - will work.

Something that people are not talking much about is how well the Flyers played (I can’t believe I just wrote that). They played a hard-hitting game, yet weren’t overly dirty. They got traffic in front of Price and scored and scored again. Briere was great and Biron came up with the big saves, but Umberger was the Johan Franzen of the East, scoring 8 goals against Montreal.

The Habs, on the other hand, allowed Biron to see just about every shot coming at him – it’s hard to score when the goalie sees you coming from a mile away. The Flyers also got into the heads of the Canadiens. I swear it was as though the Habs were scared of the Flyers. You’re not going to win many battles when you shy away from the opponent.

All in all, the Flyers deserved to win that series.

But thumbs up to the Montreal crowd for showing their support for their goalie even when the game was out of reach. Very classy.

[Go Pens]


DaBich said...

I was extremely disappointed when the Habs lost. Now we get Philly, UGH!
Starts Friday, I'll be watching.

Stoosh said...

@ Ash -

I've always had a great deal of respect for the Habs that is quickly sending them up the list of my favorite teams (the Kostitsyn kids are among my favorite players). I think better days are coming for the Habs, and that's saying something given what they've done this year.

Your comments were spot-on. I think going forward, they need to:

1. stick with Carey Price. He probably learned some harsh lessons this postseason - namely, he can't get by doing the same things that allowed him to get by in juniors and in Hamilton. He's gonna be a great one, but he needs to work a little harder. Fleury was in the same boat in 2003-04.

2. get a bit bigger and more physical. Let Ryder go and use that money to sign someone who can bring a little more edge to the top lines (just not Ryan Malone). They got pushed around quite a bit in this series and played too much of a perimeter game.

3. Get a little bigger on the backend. Doesn't have to be a flashy move - look at what the Hal Gill deal did for Pittsburgh. They can't leave it all up to Komisarek.

DaBich said...

stoosh, from what you've said, seems the Habs are what the Pens were last year. If that is so, look out! They will be something in the next year or two, provided management gives them the tools.

Ashley said...

hey guys, i'm back...

I agree that Gainey needs to do tweaking with the team. He said earlier in the week that they got good experience and that things will be better next year and so on, and I think that's the truth (although a lot of Habs fans didn't like him saying that).

Here's what I look at: Nobody expected them to make the playoffs, and they won the conference. There's a LOT of upside with that club, even though Alex Kovalev is apparently a slow skater (according to the Russians, anyway). They'll be tough to beat next year.