Updated: Aug 15, 2020
By Waldo1947 | Montreal Canadiens Columnist
In my last blog that appeared in sensnationpodcast.com I mused about the possibility of the Habs making a deep run in the playoffs. I titled it Can the #24 Team Win Cup #25? The blog is incredibly negative and I once again called out Bergevin and his brain trust for putting together an embarrassing product for a franchise with a proud (and seemingly ancient) history.
I did, however, offer a bit of hope for these unprecedented playoffs, “... anything is possible, including a deep run by the Habs. If Carey Price gets hot and the young legs take Pittsburgh and others by surprise, there is no reason that the Habs cannot make some noise in these frenetic playoffs.”
It turns out Carey Price is hot and the young legs did take Crosby and Co. by surprise. Claude Julien and his team of coaches deserve a ton of credit for the game plan. Nick Suzuki is playing like a veteran, Kotkaniemi looks like a #3 pick, and Petry is absolutely flying. Perhaps the NHL bubble is what the team needed. The players are away from Montreal and the intrusive physical media, allowing them to concentrate on hockey and ignore the distractions.
It begs the question: Did Montreal win the series or did Pittsburgh lose it? The Habs power play was an even 0.00%. The Penguins have incredible star-power and cannot possibly be tired from the regular season grind as everyone is of equal freshness. This is a Habs team that lost 4 games this season to a historically bad Detroit team. When the Habs were even-strength, however, they did carry the play. Their penalty kill showed some holes, but it was aggressive and well structured. The Habs were the faster team and had many breakaways and odd-man rushes. The Habs defence looked mobile and dangerous offensively. Carey Price did have to keep them alive in many situations, but that is his job. In fact, doesn’t a contending team almost always have superior goaltending?
If the Habs did win the series, (I think they did), are they capable of more (I think they are not)? Being the 12th seed, they will draw Tampa Bay or Philadelphia in the first round. Obviously there is no home-ice advantage and the Habs will have only played 1 more game than either team. The Habs are carrying some momentum and have played 4 intense games that make them playoff-tested. Furthermore, their subdued celebration at the end of Game 4 suggests that the Habs are more confident in themselves than their regular-season numbers suggest. They gave us no reason for optimism when the season came to an end, but since when do the playoffs mirror the regular season? This year, more than any other, the playoffs are the ultimate restart.
I must admit that after Game 1 of the Pittsburgh series, I totally forgot about the Draft Lottery and the 12.5% chance of getting Lafrenière. We all know the Oilers will somehow get the #1 pick again anyways. If the Ottawa Senators have taught us anything, it is that the NHL Draft Lottery is for suckers. The crazy math of the NHL Draft Lottery doesn’t behoove teams to deliberately tank nor should it encourage fans to hope for a losing team.
I remain apprehensive about the limited success shown by the Habs. I hope that Jeff Molson doesn’t overplay his hand and put even more faith in Marc Bergevin. Yes it was an exciting win and the players look fast and confident, but the fact still remains that Montreal came into the playoffs ranked #24. Had it been a normal season, they would have missed the playoffs. The very fact they are in the playoffs is due to a pandemic, not through merit.
Regardless of the next opponent, might I suggest a new power play option? Should a Habs player draw a penalty, any Habs player on the ice must immediately take a minor penalty to ensure an even-strength situation. Sure the PP% will remain 0.00%, but at least we won’t be subjected to having to watch the Habs forget how to play hockey for 2-minute stretches.
What are the chances a team like the Habs can make a run in the playoffs in a year like this? Let’s let Lloyd Christmas answer that!
Go Habs Go!