Good, Bad and Ugly - Habs season actually ended Sunday
By Mitch Melnick
TSN 690 and MitchMelnick.com
As we were saying, the series actually ended Sunday night in Ottawa. The only questions that remained were would the Canadiens be able to make a game of it; would Peter Budaj be able to keep them in it; or just how bad will it be? Considering the heightened emotional state of the series since the opener, it was probably best to end in a one sided manner with nary a whimper from anybody.
Montreal - May 10, 2013 - As we were saying, the series actually ended Sunday night in Ottawa. The only questions that remained were would the Canadiens be able to make a game of it; would Peter Budaj be able to keep them in it; or just how bad will it be? Considering the heightened emotional state of the series since the opener, it was probably best to end in a one sided manner with nary a whimper from anybody.
The Canadiens, in the words of Michel Therrien, were a courageous lot. Not just because several players played and tried to play through serious injuries but just knowing how much physical abuse was coming their way. A less worthy opponent than Montreal would have thrown a white towel at the Ottawa bench. Instead, Therrien did his best to verbally do what his players simply could not do physically - engage in a fisticuff of words. But just like his small, courageous team, the coach could only do so much.
The Ottawa Senators had the edge in goaltending, defense, offense and special teams. Yet there are some Montreal watchers who will argue that the better team actually lost. Frankly, it's a wonder they won a game at all.
•The respect (early buzzword) shown by Paul Maclean to Michel Therrien. After a Daniel Alfredsson power play goal made it 4-1 early in the third period, MacLean made sure his 3rd & 4th lines received the remaining power play time. And they still managed to score another two goals. MacLean was also very complimentary to Therrien in his classy and entertaining post game remarks.
•Bell Centre fans who remained (not many) in their seats saluting their team by chanting "Go Habs Go! and singing "Ole Ole" during the final minute or so of the game.
•Peter Budaj. Worst case scenario for the back up goaltender who appeared shakier than a jar of salt at a poutine and tequila party.
•Jarred Tinordi. Very rough night. Got caught flat footed on Ottawa's second goal when he couldn't decide to pinch at the Senators blue line or move back. Rookie mistake. Was on the ice for 4 of Ottawa's goals. Not the kind of birthday gift he had planned for father Mark who turned 47.
•Tomas Plekanec. Also on the ice for 4 of Ottawa's goals. Trailing 2-1 midway through the second period and on a power play, Plekanec had the puck deep in the Ottawa zone. He made a cross ice pass to a wide open Brendan Gallagher. The pass was in Gallagher's skates. As Ottawa transitioned Plekanec skated back hard. Too hard. He pushed Kyle Turris into Budaj and watched as the puck bounced off Turris for a 3-1 Ottawa lead. Kind of summed up the series for Plekanec. He was badly outplayed by Turris who ended up scoring three goals and five points in the series while Plekanec was scoreless and -5. In 52 career playoff games Plekanec has scored just 10 goals. He wasn't alone in his lack of production. Canadiens' centermen did not score a single goal in the series. Still want to argue that they were the better team?
•Michael Ryder. So long, for a second time. I'm not suggesting it was a bad trade but the Erik Cole who finished the season in Dallas was miles ahead of the Ryder we saw in this series.
•The PK unit. Allowed three more goals to finish the series at a ghastly 76% rate. And P.K. Subban can't get on it? Michel Therrien has got to get over this blind spot. It borders on insanity.
•Lasting images of Lars Eller lying face down in a pool of blood, followed two games later by Ottawa beating the crap out of the Canadiens with their sticks and fists. History lesson: Back in 1973-74 season as the Philadelphia Flyers were rough housing their way through the NHL and eventually back to back Stanley Cups, the Habs paid a late season Sunday night visit to the Spectrum. They were terrorized. Their proud, little captain Henri Richard was mugged all night. Montreal skaters threw up more snow to avoid physical contact than you'd see from a Buffalo snow blower after a blizzard. GM Sam Pollock vowed it would never happen again. That summer, holding a record five first round picks, Pollock began to reshape the Canadiens. He drafted 6'2" rightwinger Cam Connor (Connor signed with Phoenix of the WHA where he established himself as one of the most feared forwards in the league. He finally made it to Montreal in 1979 as a role player best remembered for scoring a double overtime goal in Toronto); spark plug centerman Doug Risebrough; 6'2" defenseman Rick Chartraw; 6' rightwinger Mario Tremblay and 6'4" forward Gord McTavish. And with one of his two second round picks, Pollock took 6'6" defenseman Gilles Lupien. All but McTavish made it to Montreal and contributed to the Habs four straight Stanley Cup wins 1975-76 to 1978-79. I don't know what Marc Bergevin is going to say when he meets the media for the annual post-mortem session. But a good place to start would be, "That'll never happen again".
Mitch Melnick is the host of Melnick in the Afternoon on TSN 690 - Montreal's Sports Authority. Mitch also has his own website at MitchMelnick.com where you can find his blog, music links, upcoming events, neat photos and more. Listen Live to Melnick - weekdays from 3:00 - 7:00 pm. If you have questions or wish to contact Mitch, you can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org
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