About last night …

This is what diminished expectations have come to in the city of 24 Stanley Cups:

An overtime loss to the second-worst team in the league is the occasion for sighs of relief, high-fives and much merriment in the watering holes of Crescent St., the Main and St. Denis.

And why not?

Your Montreal Canadiens are riding their three-game losing streak right into the playoffs.

 

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After throwing my back out doing a celebratory handspring, I’m day-to-day for The Dance, partners for which are still undetermined.

Depending on what happens in Philadelphia, the Canadiens will finish seventh (if the Rangers win) or eighth (if it’s the Flyers).

A seven seeding means either the Devils or Sabres as first-round opponents.

Eighth place is … gulp! … Washington, which will finish with at least a 32-point bulge on the Canadiens, while scoring 98 more goals, with a game to go.

On the other hand, the Canadiens have allowed six fewer goals, with the Caps playing Boston tomorrow.

Possible first series goaltenders: Ryan Miller, Martin Brodeur or – wait for it – José Theodore.

 

And at the other end of the ice, on Wednesday or Thursday night: Jaro Halak.

I guess.

You dance with the girl what brung ya, but Jaro was beaten four times  by the Leafs, did not look great and was a rare no-show in the dressing room.

He was outplayed by Jean-Sébastien Giguère, the latest Québécois goalie to give the Canadiens fits. Giggy made 34 stops and was helped by his goalposts, which the Canadiens managed to ding four times.

Mike Zeissberger, who writes for the Toronto Sun, said the ultimate playoff series would be a Canadiens-Leafs best-of-seven. There’s always something special in the air when the two rivals hook up, and this game was no exception.

Toronto always plays the Canadiens tough.

But let’s be serious: the Leafs suck. And the difficulty with which the Cnaadiens managed to secure the point they needed does not augur well for a deep run in the postseason.

On the other hand (I hate that phrase and I’ve used it twice; what HIO needs is a one-armed hockey blogger), the playoffs are a new season. Everyone starts with a clean slate and the opportunity to redeem himself.

Redemption started early for some Canadiens’ veterans:

• Scott Gomez was spectacular against the Leafs. Four shots on goal while centring the team’s most effective line, 15-11 on faceoffs and a continually dangerous presence in the Leafs’ end. In a must wine (or tie) game, Gomez played like a winner.

• Andrei Markov scored a goal, assisted on two others and was in total mastery for every minute of the 25 he played. This was vintage Markov, maybe the best he’s been since the Olympics.

• Brian Gionta had 10 shots on goal and was in Giguère’s face all night.

• Benoit Pouliot elevated his game to match the do-or-die efforts of his veteran linemates. This was a very positive development, because Benny has been struggling for a while, raising the spectre of his chronic underachievement  in Minnesota.

• Mike Cammalleri played like his hair was on fire. He had six shots on goal and looked very much like the dangerous sniper he was before the knee injury.

• Marc-André Bergeron, who began the season out of hockey, ended it playing 24:22 – second only to Markov. MAB scored the most important goal of the game, giving the Canadiens a 3-2 lead heading into the final 20 minutes, and made several alert plays and crisp first passes on D. 

Enough with the fourth-line nonsense: MAB is a defenceman. And he had to be because Ryan O’Byrne played a grand total of 1:46 – one shift in each period.

Jacques Martin used a short bench all night, mostly rolling three lines. It worked because final score notwithstanding, the Canadiens held a territorial advantage and would have won easily were it not for Giguère … and, it must be said, sub-par Jaro.

To protect the lead in the third period, Martin benched Andrei Kostitsyn and promoted Mathieu Darche to Tomas Plekanec’s line. The move paid off in several nice puck-possession shifts, but the enigmatic AK will be back for the playoffs.

Sergei?

I don’t know. Martin made the odd assertion that a team needs “25 or 26 players” during the postseason. Maybe BGL is coming back.

Can this team make some noise?

Beats me.

I thought they’d lose in regulation to Toronto, setting up a city-wide nervous breakdown on Sunday afternoon.

As it is, we can spend the Lord’s day not giving a rip what happens around the league.

The Canadiens spent a week chasing that bloody elusive point.

They finally got it, and that’s cause for modest celebration.

•  •  •

Classy:

The Canadiens lined up to shake Dan Marouelli’s hand after the game.

Scott Gomez hugged him.

They won’t be doing that for Chris Lee.

•  •  •

Fight of the Night: Evander Kane makes Marc Savard and many others happy by demolishing Matt Cooke.

155 Comments

  1. Beaco says:

    This is the best “Halaka” vs Price argument starter EVER! Wildly insane! I love it and I say this as a Price fan…lol too much!

  2. Chris says:

    Excellent point. Completely forgot about him, which is amazingly stupid on my part.

    Kovalchuk would be, by a country mile, the best player in the series. He has fit in reasonably well with New Jersey (10 G, 25 points and +8 in 26 games with the Devils) although he’s probably still not even close to his peak production due to the Devils’ style of play.

  3. bigbighabsfan says:

    If this losing streak didn’t expose the Habs as a pretender then the Caps sure will.  They will annihilate Montreal. They have scored nearly 50 more goals than the next team, 100 more than Montreal. They are big. On that alone Montreal is no match. I wouldn’t mind that being illustrated in no uncertain terms, like say to the tune of losing by 5 goals each night, in case Gauthier shares Gainey’s fetish for tiny hockey players. They are on a roll right now too. The goaltending is suspect but so is the Habs. The games wont be close enough for that to be a factor.

    I hate saying things “will” happen. Habs played them well so obviously it isn’t impossible. But that looks to me like the biggest mismatch. I’d be amazed to see them win one game against the Caps. I agree there are zero expectations though. They have certainly earned that level of respect lately.

  4. Caper says:

    It could be ugly. I’ll take anyone but the Caps.

  5. Instant Karma says:

    The habs have noone to blame but themselves if SK walks to the khl next year.

  6. Instant Karma says:

    that would mean JM using players correctly and in the right roles… highly unlikely

  7. smiler2729 says:

    I want the Caps too.

    For lots of reasons, the first being, the Habs can skate with these guys and they have the worst defence of the lot (BUF, NJ, WSH).

    The second is it will be entertaining hockey even if they lose, better than a snoozefest vs. NJ.

    And third, I can’t stand the egomaniac that is Al Ovenchicken, I’d love to see him lose and Crosby one-upping him again. I seriously like the Habs’ chances of an upset here.

    I ain’t crazy… just hungover.

  8. Nick_Habs1 says:

    You can thank Jaro for losing ONE point. He stunk.

  9. VJ says:

    I was thinking the same thing. Clearly the underdog if we face them, but keep in mind we do have a record of 2-1-1 against the Caps in regular season, so we can definately skate with them. As long as we get solid goaltending and don’t try to go goal for goal against the Red machine, we definately have a chance to upset them. I’d much rather play the Caps then Buffalo or New Jersey with Ryan F Miller and Martin F staring us down.

  10. Mike Boone says:

    You’re crazy.

  11. filincal says:

    do we see Price in game 2, if Jaro has a stinker (god forbid) in game 1?

     

     

    I BLEED BLEU BLANC ET ROUGE!!!

  12. light_n_tasty says:

    We have already established, multiple times, that it was with both his ex-wife and his daughter at the same time.

  13. light_n_tasty says:

    Well, I wouldn’t say he was the “biggest reason” we lost the last three games…but he definitely was the biggest reason we lost this game.  Everything else I agree with.  I do think Price will see time in the playoffs.

  14. Clay4bc says:

    Ummm…no it doesn’t.

    If he would have said “belie”, then yes.

    _________________

    Don’t argue with an idiot; people watching may not be able to tell the difference.

  15. temekuhabs says:

    so, we managed to survive and just hang on to “earn” a point to the 29th place team in the League. does anyone really think we will play anymore than 4 more games??? I like to think more along the lines of the glass half-full than empty..

  16. temekuhabs says:

    Fight of the Night: Evander Kane makes Marc Savard and many others happy by demolishing Matt Cooke.


    im glad that Cooke got what the hockey gods decreed is his just reward.. Marc Savard et al are smiling no doubt

  17. jimhasbeen says:

    umm andrei is our biggest forward

  18. light_n_tasty says:

    I hope Marc Savard gives Kane a friendly phone call after that one.


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