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Thursday, April 28, 2011

OT Habs' Achilles Heel

And so my friends the last siren has sounded on the Montreal Canadiens' 2010-2011 season, falling 4-3 in OT last night to lose their opening round series against the Bruins 4-3.

David Krejci celebrates as he reacts to the puck hitting the twine in Game 7 last night in Boston. Price had no chance on the deflection off of Jeff Halpern's skate. Some unlucky bounces and the lack of 5-on-5 scoring did the Habs in.

Disappointment reigns large, but this Habs team has nothing to be ashamed about. They fought hard, showed a lot of courage and determination last night and in the series as a whole, and if not for a few unlucky bounces (and maybe a high stick call in the 3rd) things might have been very different.

That's how close this series was.

Boston had the magic touch in Overtime and as any veteran NHL fan/viewer knows, that's big when it comes to advancing in the playoffs. Where would the 1993 Habs have been without all of those OT wins that eventually lead to the team's last Stanley Cup!?

Teams get on a run and either find the magic or get stymied in Overtime. Back in 1986 when the Habs went to OT in Game 7 against the Hartford Whalers, my brothers didn't want to watch. Why? Because the team had been hopeless in OT the last few years in the regular season and the playoffs, and the team itself wasn't confident going to the extra frame. Thankfully Claude Lemieux broke that jinx to start a fresh, new run of OT success that eventually lead to more OT wins and a Stanley Cup that year.

For Bruins fans, they can only hope the good OT vibe continues. Now they can get excited about facing the Philadelphia Flyers to try to get payback for their epic collapse last year.

My brother mentioned after the Canadiens lost game 4 in OT that it was a bad omen. He as well as I know all too well how OT success in the playoffs makes ALL the difference. And unfortunately, the Habs lost 3 out of 4 games in OT.

That's how close this series was.

And last night's game was a good representation of this.

The Habs did a lot of good things this year and in the playoffs. But for the 2nd season in a row, the team could not ice their true team. With 2 top four dmen out in Markov and Gorges as well as their up-and-coming power-forward out in Max Pacioretty, the Habs were running on fumes so to speak.

GM Gauthier did an admirable job filling in some holes by acquiring Wisniewski and Sopel. Now he will roll up his sleeves as he has some major decisions to make moving forward, especially on the blue line. Jacques Martin did a great job getting the most from his squad. More on these items in the coming weeks.

But for now, the Habs missed a chance to renew their playoff rivalry with the Washington Capitals, who instead now draw the surprising Tampa Bay Lightning, atteam that pulled off what the Habs couldn't -- come back from a 3-2 series deficit and win Game 7 on the road. Way to go head coach Guy Boucher!!!

If you break down last night's game, it's quite clear what the difference was for the Canadiens: they dominated the special teams (killed every penalty, scored a short-handed goal, scored on the powerplay), their goalie made some huge stops, but their inability to score 5-on-5 was their downfall.

The Canadiens become a better 5-on-5 team next season and they will be better off for it. They also were whooped in the playoff circle and they need to get better in that aspect of the game. It really comes under the scope in the playoffs and a lost faceoff resulted in the series-winning goal by Horton.

C'est la vie. Thanks Montreal Canadiens for an excellent and entertaining season of hockey. I'm sorry it's over, but already can't wait until next year!!! Habs Fan in LeafLand is with you 100%!!!

3-5 -- not that good. Mind you, I made some ballsy predictions, taking the Hawks and the Coyotes to win their respective series. But don't worry, I didn't lose any money over it ;)

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