Late dispiriting bulletin: Scott Gomez goes to the next round.
Et si vous comprenez le français, here’s Ron Fournier’s take on the controversial goal.
At least Canadiens fans will have something to bitch about all summer long.
Actually, a few things:
On the sequence leading to Mika Zibanejad’s goal, why was the faceoff on the wrong side of the ice?
Why did the goal count if replays show Zibanejad’s left skate moving to redirect the puck?
Why weren’t two icings waved off late in the third period?
All leading to the fundamental question: Did the zebras screw the Canadiens out of a win that would have tied this series?
Chris Nilan routinely refers to NHL referees as “donkeys”.
The former Canadiens tough guy enlivens his very good TSN690 talk show by making “hee-haw” sounds any time the discussion turns to officiating.
Hockey probably has the worst officiating of any major sport. From the whistles that are buried deep in referees’ pockets when the playoffs start to the guys whom Don Cherry dismisses as “failed referees” booting players out of the faceoff circle, there are a multitude of questionable calls that leave fans of one team or another feeling aggrieved.
But did officiating cost the Canadiens Game 4 … and probably any realistic hope of winning the series?
It wasn’t the refs who benched Alex Galchenyuk for the final 10 minutes of regulation time – even though the rookie had scored his first goal of the playoffs and led the Canadiens with four shots on goal.
It wasn’t he refs who had Josh Gorges, Raphael Diaz and a severely hurting Brandon Prust on the ice for the final seconds of the game.
I don’t want to second-guess Michel Therrien.
The Canadiens’ coach has done a helluva job this season – up to and including having his team ready to play a great game 3 … for 40 minutes.
In his postgame remarks, Therrien said the Canadiens didn’t retreat into a defensive shell for the third period.
I dunno, it sure looked like vintage Jacques Martin lead-protection. The Canadiens didn’t have a shot on goal until the period was six minutes old and ended up being outshot 13-4.
At that, they held a 2-0 lead until there were only eight minutes left to play. Then the home team – who deserve credit for their refusal to quit – got a break and cranked up their game.
Galchenyuk watched it all from the bench. As did Gabriel Dumont, who had gone 6-0 on faceoffs while Tomas Plekanec was 10-17 and Jeff Halpern 7-11 – 4-12 and 2-7, respectively, in the defensive zone.
Through 80 minutes of third-period hockey in this series, Ottawa has scored nine goals. The Canadiens have ZERO. And this is a team that outscored opponents 50-33 in third periods during the regular season. Playing the up-tempo style that carried them to great success this season, maybe the Canadiens just run out of gas in the latter stages of playoff games.
Plus the team is beat up.
Having avoided serious injuries for most of the season, the Canadiens lost hard-hitting defenceman Alexei Emelin in Game 38. And they’ve been dropping like flies ever since.
Lars Eller, Brian Gionta and Ryan White were unavailable for Game 4. Max Pacioretty looks like he’s nursing something. And we won’t know until Wednesday – if then – whether Carey Price and Brandon Prust will answer the bell for the Thursday night game that may be the season finale at the Bell Centre.
The Senators know they’re dealing with wounded prey. Ottawa had 61 hits in Game 4 – including 10 by Chris Neil.
To their credit, every Canadien skater had at least one hit. But they can’t match Ottawa in terms of physicality.
And it’s frightening to contemplate how this undersized team would fare in a seven-game series against St. Louis, L.A. or Chicago.
The Canadiens’ postseason won’t include any games against the Western Conference – not this year, anyway.
Going forward, general manager Marc Bergevin and his staff – including Rick Dudley and Scott Mellanby, who weren’t shrinking violets during their careers – have to make the Canadiens bigger and tougher.
Look, I love skilled hockey and hate thuggery. But postseason NHL hockey is Game of Thrones on ice, a two-month, ruthlessly Darwinian war of attrition.
Game 4 did not slip away because the Canadiens were outmuscled. But the tying goal was scored with Brandon Prust injured and on his knees while Gorges and Diaz tried to cope with a sea of red sweaters engulfing Price’s crease.
There was a sickening sense of inevitability through the sequence that led to Cory Conacher’s goal. As they did through the final weeks of the season, Canadiens fans were just waiting for the other skate to drop.
And it did, resoundingly … with a thud that will echo until September.