Can the Habs keep going?

Right this second the Montreal Canadiens are everything I love about the Stanley Cup Playoffs. They barely squeaked into 8th place in the Eastern Conference and were 16th in the league. By all rights they shouldn’t have made it past the first round. But they came up from a 3-1 deficit to force a game 7 and beat the Washington Capitals, who were the best team in the league and a viable contender for the Cup. That victory sent a message loud and clear: this is truly anyone’s game and anyone who wants it bad enough is going to advance.

Now here we are again staring down the barrel of a game 7. This time it’s against the reigning Stanley Cup champions, and even if the Habs don’t make it past the semifinals they’ve still made the Pittsburgh Penguins sweat it out to the last possible second. That sure counts for something, right?

I’ll be upfront with you, ladies and gents, I’m not a Montreal or Pittsburgh fan.  My loyalties lie in Atlanta, but Montreal owns a little piece of my heart ever since I cheered with the Canadiens faithful in the Bell a few months ago. It’s no secret I want to see them advance.

Reality is the Habs have gotten to this point by the skin of their teeth. That is to say, it’s been equal parts hard work, luck, and maybe a few miracles (I know those goalposts have saved Halak plenty of times). Last night’s nail biter was no exception. The Penguins matched the Habs nearly goal-for-goal (but just nearly). Golden boy Sidney Crosby finally found the back of the net. For whatever reason up until last night he was scoreless in this series, which I would credit to some good defensive play on Montreal’s part. But overall the Penguins played harder and pushed harder than the Habs, outshooting them 37-25. The game could’ve easily tipped back in Pittsburgh’s at any second after the Habs scraped their way to a lead. So if the Habs are going to pull through in game 7 they need to step it up big time. No more precarious wins.

First order of business: some support for Jaroslav Halak. This goaltender leaves me speechless with his impossibly fast reaction time and cool exterior, but there have been several games where the poor man is not getting enough support from his teammates. Whatever his superb on-ice performance leads you to think, he’s still human and he’s going to get tired. It happened in the quarterfinals against the Capitals, and we saw the Caps take a potentially devestating lead. After a short appearance by Carey Price, Halak came back batteries recharged  and so good some people were wondering if Patrick Roy had returned to Montreal. You know the rest. Halak is most definitely up to the task, but the real question is can the Habs defense step up their already pretty game to alleviate some of the pressure on Baby Roy?

Another potential weakness for the Habs is the absence of defenseman Hal Gill. As of now there’s no word on whether he’ll show for game 7. Currently he’s out with a leg laceration due to an accident involving Pittsburgh’s Chris Kunitz. The 6’7″ defenseman has been a key to the Habs shutting down the Penguins, particularly Sidney Crosby. It’s not too surprising that Crosby was finally able to put one past Halak when Gill wasn’t there.

This isn’t to say I’m all doom and gloom about Wednesday night’s game. The Habs have a lot going against them, but they have a lot going for them. If they want to beat the Penguins they just need to keep on doing what they’re doing and make sure it’s solid. So just for now: Go Habs Go. 🙂

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