Pens - Habs Game 7: The Biggest Game Since 1993
Join us LIVE tonight for yet another game 7 LIVE BLOG! Steven Hindle, Kamal Panesar, and a bunch of panelists! Just open this thread back up at 6:30PM EST for all the pre-game coverage!
Not too long ago, the Montreal Canadiens were standing in the very position they find themselves heading into tonight's game.
Game 7 in Washington, after a long, hard fought, come from behind series to tie things up. While many Habs fans were optimistic, the expectations were low. The Canadiens had proved that they CAN beat the best teams, that the CAN take teams like the Capitals to the edge of elimination and that they CAN compete.
Win or lose, the Canadiens' post-season campaign would have been a success.
Well, low and behold, the Canadiens won, and bought themselves a ticket to Pittsburgh where they would face the Pittsburgh Penguins in a series that would be no easier than their quarter-final match up. The Penguins certainly proved that right off the bat, defeating the Canadiens 6-3 and making everyone, from the forwards, to the defensemen and even Jaroslav Halak look like they didn't belong in the same league with the defending Stanley Cup Champions.
Thankfully, the Canadiens responded with an earned 3-1 victory at the Igloo two days later, splitting the opening to games of the series and making it a best of 5 series heading into home-ice advantage in Montreal, just like they did with the Capitals.
The next two games proved nothing more than the fact that this series was indeed a war of attrition. The Penguins took game 3, and once again made the Canadiens look bad by shutting them out 2-0. Of course, the Canadiens would respond with a 3-2 victory two night later, hanging on for dear life to take the victory.
We had ourselves a best of three series, with the Penguins reclaiming home-ice advantage with another split. As trends continued, the Penguins would take game 5 in Pittsburgh by a score of 2-1, putting the Canadiens on the brink of elimination and making for a very nerve-wracking experience heading back to the Bell Centre, for the game that was contested two nights ago at the Bell Centre.
The Canadiens did it! With a final score of 4-3, and nearly everyone stepping up, the Canadiens were able to play one of their best games of the seasons and defeat the Pittsburgh Penguins at home, tying the series for a remarkable third time in the series.
The three stars as chosen by the shadowy figures in the press box at the Bell Centre, were (#3) Jaroslav Halak, (#2) Jaroslav Spacek and (#1) Mike Cammalleri.
Honestly, you can't argue with any of those choices. Jaroslav Halak made 34 saves for his team and gave the Habs a chance to win as the game was winding down. Jaroslav Spacek had one of his best games as a Montreal Canadien, scoring his first goal in 51 games. He did it coming off a bad inner ear infection, one which gave him vertigo (!) and kept him on the sidelines for nearly two weeks. Finally, Mike Cammalleri scored two beautiful goals, including a second period game tying goal which brought fourth a 3 minute ovation from the crowd that cannot be properly described in words.
All three were major contributors to arguably the biggest victory for the Montreal Canadiens in years. But on this night, there were many more stars for the Canadiens:
- Andrei Kostitysn finally woke up and played the best game of his season, putting up 2 assists on Cammalleri's goals, and really making his presence felt physically, as he should.
- Maxim Lapierre scored a beautiful goal which would end up being the game winner, and while he was on the ice for two Penguins goal, Lapierre really found a way to channel his energy into something positive in this game.
- Scott Gomez did what he does best: Control the play on the ice while he has the puck. While he shot 5 times, he could have spent a little more time passing, which he's much better at doing, but Gomez was just as much a factor offensively as anyone else, despite not putting up any points in 22 minutes of ice time.
- Tomas Plakanec hadn't put any points on the board since game 2, but tonight, he not only assist on Mike Cammalleri's first goal but he went 76% in the faceoff circle.
- Josh Gorges and PK Subban led this team on the blueline. Gorges played 26 minutes and blocking 6 shots. PK Subban played a whopping 29 minutes, and while Sidney Crosby finally broke out and scored his first goal of the series on this night, Subban did his job in containing the superstar as best he could.
Tonight's effort was a team effort, and it showed. Everyone mentioned above, and frankly, nearly everyone else on the roster deserves equal amount of credit for an incredible victory.
Can they harness what the crowd at the Bell Centre allowed them to do on Monday night, and bring that into tonight's game 7 in Pittsburgh?
On October 11th, 1967, the Mellon Arena opened its doors to the NHL. The Penguins, then a brand new expansion franchise, took the ice to play the Montreal Canadiens in their first ever National Hockey league game. The Penguins lost the game by a score of 2-1. Jean Beliveau scored his 400th career goal, and the Canadiens handed the Penguins their very first lost at Mellon.
Tonight, the Canadiens can make history yet again. If the Penguins lose tonight, it will be the final game at Mellon Arena. It's only fair that the team to close the doors on the Igloo be the Canadiens, right?
While so-called experts and pundits will still give the Penguins, defending Stanley Cup champs and the most experienced playoff team in the league, the benefit of the doubt, the Canadiens clearly have an x-factor that have allowed them to come this far.
Was it all for a 2-round, 7 game performance? Or is there more left in the tank for the Canadiens? Were they meant to go further, and continue to skew the number of heart attacks suffered in the city of Montreal, or is this it?
As we learned last round against the Capitals, game 7s are completely different monster. Unpredictable, rare, and emotional. There are no strategies that we can parlay, no keys to success. We can only hope that the Canadiens will put forth the 60-minute effort that has become cliché.
No one, myself included, gave the Canadiens a chance in this series or the last, for that matter. Tonight, they can grab that chance by the horns and prove everyone wrong, yet again.
Simply put, tonight is the biggest game the Montreal Canadiens have played since 1993.
Enjoy it, if you can, and join us for the collective heart attack that will be our Live Blig,