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Sunday, April 10, 2011

Leafs Throw in the Towel as Habs Head Towards Beantown Showdown

Well that's the end of the 2010-2011 Montreal Canadiens regular season. It's been fun and some great stories emerged.

April 9, 2011. MLSE handed out these towels upon entering the ACC in Toronto last night. How fitting. (Photo by HabsFanInLeafLand.)

The Habs faced a lot of adversity this year right from the onset:

1) Mike Cammellari suspended at the start of the season after his hack on an Islanders prospect in the preseason;

2) Andrei Markov tearing the same ACL he had repaired against Carolina -- out for the season;

3) Josh Gorges playing on an injured knee which finally gave way -- out for the season; that's 2 top four dmen out for the season;

Coach Jacques Martin heads to the bench for the 3rd period in Toronto last night. Martin won his 600th game as a coach last night. (Photo by HabsFanInLeafLand.)

4) P.K. Subban sitting for five games midseason, before getting the message, hearing it from opposing players across the league, inventing the low-five with Carey Price, taking to heart the advice of mentor Hal Gill then playing Calder-calibre hockey the rest of the way;

5) Carey Price being booed in the preseason because the fans were largely disgruntled by the Halak trade, then telling everyone to "chill out."

Carey Price awaits his teammates for the start of the 3rd period last night in Toronto. He picked up the win to end the season on a high note. Hey everybody, "chill out." (Photo by HabsFanInLeafLand).

He knew what he was talking about.

The Habs coaching staff and management should be highly commended in commandeering this team to a not only a playoff berth, but to 6th place in the Conference after last night's 4-1 win against the Leafs in Toronto. In fact, the Habs were never out of a playoff spot the entire season. James Wisniewski's pickup midseason from the Islanders for essentially squat was key to keeping the engine going and shouldn't be overlooked. Whatever happens in the playoffs, I hope they keep this kid. He's really great on the powerplay and makes strong passes overall breaking out of the defensive zone. And of course, he's got a terrific shot that will match perfectly with Markov.

The win was Jacques Martin's 600th of his career. Say what you will about Mr. Martin, but he's a great coach and he's doing a great job -- at least in my opinion. And those who argue that he can't manage good, raw young talent just has to look at P.K. Subban's evolution this year -- he's really come into his own since January.

Last night's game was an important one if the Habs truly wanted a Boston showdown in the first round of the playoffs. They wanted it, they got it. Btw, Buffalo won last night too. Hoo boy, watchout Philly.

Captain Gio relishing his first goal of the game last night in Toronto. With 2 in the game, he ended the year with 29. Not too shabby given his slow start to the season. (Photo by HabsFanInLeafLand).

So the team came out strong, with tough guy Ryan White scoring from a sharp angle through James Reimer's pads to make it 1-0 before the game was 4 minutes old.

The play was made through some nice work by Lars Eller in the corner, winning a puck battle then passing the puck out to White.

Then the Habs powerplay got into the action -- which is starting to wake up once again. Captain Gionta one-timed a laser past Reimer after some nice work by Darche and Gomez down low. Gionta was left alone in the high slot when Mike Komisarek made a poor decision and skated into the corner while the puck went out into the slot. I really don't miss that. 2-0 Habs.

The Habs' powerplay will be key if they want to beat the Bruins in the opening round. Carey Price let in a bit of a soft one and so the score was 2-1 after one period. The second was largely uneventful, until Gionta scored his 2nd of the game again on the powerplay. Yannick Weber's point shot was saved but the able-bodied Canadiens captain was posted in front and put home the rebound for his 29th of the season. Given his slow start and the team's general lack of production, 29 goals is pretty impressive for Gio.

The third period had some interesting moments. The Leafs thought they cut the lead in half when a puck seemed to squeeze through Price's pads and rolled over the line. However the ref called no goal on the ice, and the replays proved inconclusive.

Conferring with the league office on the play that would have made the game 3-2. The verdict? No goal. (Photo by HabsFanInLeafLand).

Later at home, I watched the play on tv and it's true, it looked like it might have crossed the line, but it really was inconclusive. Price was skill to get his glove over it just in time to wash out any conclusive evidence. Nice one Carey.

Plekanec completed the scoring on a short-handed breakaway late in the 3rd.

Final: 4-1 Habs.

At the end of the 2nd period my buddy and I mosied down to the Habs' locker room and took some shots with the Habs' gloves and in front of the RDS banner where they do their interviews.

HabsFanInLeafLand with his hand on Lars Eller's glove. Hopefully it gives him luck going into the playoffs. But don't blame me if he doesn't play well. (Photo by Shantanu Roy).

Then we watched the Habs emerge to go to the ice for the 3rd and last period of the regular season. Given the Habs lost the first two here in Toronto (one with me in attendance, remember that post?) it was nice to see them get the win. At least I have a winning record with the team, going 2-1 when I was at the game (the other win was in Buffalo).

Now the team can go into the postseason with confidence and now they can prepare to meet the Bruins. This is going to be good.

Obviously, the Habs have some matters to settle with Boston.

Habs' gloves getting the heat treatment. It's surprising how small they really are, especially when compared to the gloves Lafleur or Gretzky used during their careers. (Photo by HabsFanInLeafLand).

More on the matchups in the coming week, but Game 1 of the first round is this Thursday in Boston:

Timmy against Carey.

Chara against the city of Montreal.

Martin against Julien.

HabsFanInLeafLand against Stanley Cup of Chowder.

It's what we wanted. Can't wait!

HabsFanInLeafLand and Shantanu Roy in front of the RDS banner. Nobody asked us for an interview. Maybe next time :)

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