Blog Entry

Habs refuse to lose

Posted on: May 10, 2010 11:41 pm

The Montreal Canadiens won the first NHL game played in what is now known as Mellon Arena when they beat the expansion Pittsburgh Penguins back in 1967.

If the Canadiens upset Pittsburgh in Game 7 on Wednesday, they’ll win the last game ever played in the building too. Maybe that’s what the NHL’s marketing types were thinking about when they came up with the “History will be made” slogan for these playoffs.

Anyway, the league’s most storied franchise set up the possibility for what would be a potential first by forcing another Game 7. Montreal came back to win the opening round after trailing Washington 3-1, and going the distance to win the first two rounds is something the Canadiens have never done.

But the past really wasn’t an issue for a Montreal team that barely snuck into the playoffs. The Canadiens turned in their best effort of the series on both sides of the puck and saw their best players outplay those on Pittsburgh to score a 4-3 win and send the series back to Pittsburgh for the finale.

Mike Cammalleri moved into the playoff scoring lead with two goals for Montreal,   Jaroslav Halak had another great game in net and in one of those “it figures” moments, defenseman Jaroslav Spacek scored a key goal after missing nine games.  Spacek, you should know, wouldn’t have even dressed had Montreal most important defenseman Hal Gill not been injured in Game 5.

Gill’s absence was noticeable early because without his shadow, Sidney Crosby managed to find the space to score his first goal of the series. But the Canadiens patchwork blue line limited him to only two other shots in the game, and just four by Evgeni Malkin in what was another demonstration the kind of defense Montreal has had in these playoffs.

It was the key to their first-round upset of the Washington Capitals and is a big reason they are still here. The Penguins made it easier though in Game 6. They didn’t look particularly sharp or enthused, making sloppy plays and getting stood up in the neutral and at Montreal’s blue line. The Penguins found some good stretches, but never matched the Canadiens intensity and once they let the crowd back in the game, they were done.

That turning point came midway through the second with Pittsburgh leading 2-1. Halak was keeping his team alive – albeit with the help of his goalposts – but Montreal trailed because he failed to squeeze a harmless looking shot by Kris Letang early in the period. It was the weakest goal allowed in the playoffs by the man who is the main reason Montreal has gotten this far, but instead of being deflating, it rallied his teammates in a way that said they weren’t going to let it end that way for him.

Cammalleri found a seam before beating Marc-Andre Fleury to tie it the game and three minutes later Spacek drilled a slapshot home to blow the roof off the Bell Centre.

“Once the fans got into it, it’s a real push for the players,” Montreal coach Jacques Martin said. “It really helps them get into the game.”

And hard for opponents to respond, according to Penguins coach Dan Bylsma.

The Canadiens dominated the faceoff circle all night winning nearly 60 percents of the draws – Tomas Plekanec in particular was nearly flawless on the dot – and despite their patchwork blue line got much stingier in the third period when they made the most of the extra breathing room provided by Maxim Lapierre’s goal midway through. Bill Guerin made it interesting by deflecting Sergei Gonchar shot in the final two minutes to narrow the deficit, but Pittsburgh didn’t have what it takes to close out the Canadiens on this night.

And after watching Montreal’s unlikely march toward history, you have to wonder if they’ll have enough in Game 7.


Category: NHL

Since: Apr 3, 2010
Posted on: May 11, 2010 8:53 pm

Habs refuse to lose

"Must be why the much better the Penguins have been taken to a game 7.  Based on your comment this series should have been over before it started."
Clearly you missed my super ultra maxipad dodecahedron sarcasm about the Penguins superiority.  What I'm saying is the media including the dips*** who wrote this article constantly refer to the Pens as the cat's meow of all time.  I"m saying let's be realistic.   They look great on paper, they have superior talent on paper, they won the series in 4 games on paper.  But in the REAL world they are being revealed as a great team playing a great team (less talent, but very effective system to contain said 'superior' team).

Since: May 13, 2009
Posted on: May 11, 2010 5:33 pm

Habs refuse to lose

if the habs win, i will also cheer for them as i couldn't possibly cheer for philly or boston. GO PENS!

Since: Jan 25, 2010
Posted on: May 11, 2010 3:30 pm

Habs refuse to lose

I am a rabid Caps fan.  Believe it or not I have a smile on my face now and my pride has sure improved.  Following the Caps series I was pretty down.  Caps tried their best and I resented the word 'choke'.  THey were putting 50 shots on goal per game but with no results.  Everyone worked so darn hard.  Gill and Halak just shut them down.

Now comes Pens series.  I actually thought Caps looked much better than Pens vs Habs.  Except for score Caps dominated.  Pens and Habs have played pretty even hockey.  I don't think Pens have been superior in any area.  Habs won without Gill.  Hope he is back for game 7 but I don't know.  Great series.  Habs aren't winning with luck.  They have great strategy and are implementing to perfection.  Cannot believe the number of blocks in 13 games.  Amazing hockey even if they lose game 7.

Since: Jan 19, 2010
Posted on: May 11, 2010 2:00 pm

Will Pens get Halak'd?!

Can you imagine putting the last game in your ol' barn and your season and defending the Cup based on whether you can score on a still hot Halak?  Loosen the grips boys... its Game 7!!!  Can't wait!

Since: Aug 29, 2006
Posted on: May 11, 2010 1:39 pm

Habs refuse to lose

As someone said earlier, I think it's about time we recognized the Habs for what they are: a pretty darned good team.  Up until this past week, I thought they were winning mostly on emotion, but I think it's safe to say, after winning 7 of 13 games against a couple of the best teams in the NHL, that the Canadiens are better than anyone realized a month ago.

They have made a believer out of me.  And, should they win in Pittsburgh tomorrow night (AND I SURE HOPE THEY DON'T!), I will root for them the rest of the way.  They have got lots of heart to go along with, I think, pretty considerable talent.

Go Pens!  I finally have time to watch all the games now!!!  Don't leave me high and dry!

Since: May 3, 2010
Posted on: May 11, 2010 12:52 pm

Habs refuse to lose

It's curious how if the Penguins win a one-goal game, it's a work of genius, of dominance, of the best players stepping up. And when Montreal wins a one-goal game, they just edged out the Penguins with some lucky goal post bounces. I'm thrilled to watch this underdog team play so well against such much-vaunted opponents, and proving all the Versus "experts" wrong. Yes, Keith Jones, you were soooo wrong. Eating crow is not tasty but quite nutritious...

Since: Dec 21, 2009
Posted on: May 11, 2010 12:35 pm

Habs refuse to lose

doczie: "Super-talented mega-dominant all-powerful maxi-ultra Penguins."  Must be why the much better the Penguins have been taken to a game 7.  Based on your comment this series should have been over before it started.

Since: Jul 6, 2009
Posted on: May 11, 2010 12:21 pm

Habs refuse to lose

montreal is a GOOD team, the penguins are a GREAT team and with the talent level this series should be over already, however the penguins have let it go to 7 and it will not fare well for them.

Since: Sep 25, 2008
Posted on: May 11, 2010 11:16 am

Habs refuse to lose

While I would agree that Montreal played their most complete game of this series in Game 6, I still found the overall flow of the game to be decidedly in favor of the Penguins.  The comment that Montreal's best players outplayed Pittsburgh's best players is a tad misleading because it was still apparent that the overall play of Malkin, Crosby, Gonchar, etc. was still a notch better than Cammallerri and company as it has been this entire series, although Game 6 was not as big of a gap than in past games.  The only problem is Cammallerri is putting pucks in the net and Crosby and Malkin have been contained quite well by Halak and the defensive scheme.  When 65% (conservative estimate) of the action involved the Penguins in the offensive zone, I think it is quite obvious who is getting the better part of the action.  I give the Habs credit, they are playing very well defensively, getting clutch net minding from Halak and capitalizing on mistakes by the Penguins leading to scoring chances and goals.  Last night we saw two instances of mistakes leading to huge goals.  First, Letang wipes out and turns the puck over at the blue line leading to a Cammallerri goal.  Second, Gologoski falls asleep in the neutral zone and then is caught out of position enabling Lapierre to get to the net and put it past Fleury.  On the flip side, the Penguins have been getting much more chances and are getting stoned by Halak.  People think Halak is just riding this wave of unbelievable play and that it is in someway fluky.  I disagree.  This guy is playing awesome and I do not see any flukiness in his play; he looks like the real-deal.  If he was in net for the Pens, this series would have been a 4-0 sweep in favor of Pittsburgh.  It looks like Montreal has finally found their guy and this team will only become more dangerous as they make some moves in the off-season.  Game 7 should be another war that can go either way; I look for the Pens to find that extra gear that I have come to expect in the past several years.  That gear may not be good enough to beat Halak though so I guess we wil have to wait until tomorrow night for the answer.

Since: Aug 14, 2007
Posted on: May 11, 2010 11:14 am

Habs refuse to lose

 I couldn't agree more! The Canadiens were supposed to miss the playoffs with a battered, injured, fresh team. Without chemistry, without having a full roster the entire year, the Habs were able to limp into the playoffs and finally come together as a team. This is the team Bob Gainey put together a year ago. The Canadiens were supposed to be golfing weeks ago, so if we win game 7, it would be a huge feat. I have my hopes set high and believe we can beat anyone! Hopefully we have some of out D set straight come gametime tomorrow!

Go Habs Go!

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or