Really, Boston did the Canadiens a favor tonight by running them out of their own rink to complete an embarrassingly easy first round sweep with a 4-1 win. Right now Montreal is too busy licking wounds to realize it, but having this disastrous season drag on a little longer would have been as painful as it would have been pointless for an iconic organization that has imploded like never before in its long and illustrious history.
Truth is the sooner the Canadiens can get started plotting the overhaul that is so obviously necessary, the better. Montreal has to decide which of more than a dozen pending free agents it wants back and it needs to settle on a permanent coach, so staving off the inevitable in this series, even for another game, would amount to \little more than an unnecessary delay.
Clearly the Canadiens were grossly overmatched in this series agains their deep and talented long time arch rival. In fact they probably wouldn't have even been here had the two teams they were battling for the final Eastern Conference playoff seed not played like they wanted it less toward the end of the regular season. But Montreal's back door entry was always destined to be only a temporary stay of execution for a team that was done long before the post season matchups were established.
At least now, they don't have to suffer any longer.
The reality is that the Canadiens have been feeling the pain for months. Montreal started apart just before the All Star break it hosted as part of the franchise's 100th anniversary celebrations when rumors about a potential trade for Vincent Lecavalier had half the dressing room walking on egg shells. But ultimately, the team was crushed by the weight of what now seem like ridiculously unrealistic expectations in the NHL's most pressure packed market.
Coming off a surprise first place finish a year ago, Montreal planned, or at least hoped to seriously challenge for a Stanley Cup in its historic season. Instead, the Canadiens were victimized by internal dissension, off ice scandals and enough lackluster performances to result in a desperate last season coaching change. That brought no salvation, and only served to demonstrate that Montreal is a flawed team on many levels.
The deficiencies were brutally exposed in the schooling Boston provided in this series. Through four one sided games, the Bruins best players played the way they were supposed to, while their Montreal counterparts did not. More important, Boston put on a clinic in terms of overall execution and disciplined play that could take them very deep in this post season, but their task was made easier by Montreal proving it was more pretender than contender all along.
Boston was never threatened in this series, and certainly not in the finale despite Montreal jumping in front less than a minute into the game. It was the kind of start that should have given the Canadiens a boost, but instead they fell victim to mental mistakes and physical errors than even a good team would be hard pressed to overcome.
The Canadiens, however, are not a good team. Thanks to the Bruins, they can get started dealing with it.
Meanwhile, the Washington Capitals have to start dealing with the fact they might be eliminated after the first round for the second year in a row. Washington actually hasn't been to the second round since 1998, a span covering four previous playoff appearances, but the Capitals looked like they turned the tide against New York with a dominant Game 3 after losing twice at home.
However the Rangers responded with an impressive effort of their own to regain the momentum and take a 3-1 series lead. Goalie Henrik Lundqvist was the story again with a brilliant 38 save performance, but New York dominated in the faceoff circle for the first time and its league best penalty killing unit shut down Washington's power play on all six tries to help facilitate the win.
The real difference tonight though was a strong start by the Rangers that kept the Caps back on their heels and allowed New York to set the tone.
Calgary got big games from big guns Jarome Iginla and Olli Jokinen, who both scored a pair of goals. But the Flames didn't make life easy on themselves by blowing a three goal lead in the second period before pulling it out in the third to send things back to Chicago with the series tied two games apiece.