Daily Hab-it: Starting from scratch
Montreal Canadiens goalie Carey Price (31) leaves the ice after losing 5-4 to the Boston Bruins in the first overtime period of game four NHL Stanley Cup playoff hockey action Thursday, April 21, 2011 in Montreal.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
By Arpon Basu
Published Friday, April 22, 2011 1:42AM EDT
Last Updated Saturday, May 19, 2012 3:10AM EDT
Just about anyone who was asked to analyze the implications of Thursday night's Game 4 between the Canadiens and Bruins provided a very similar refrain, that the winner of the game would also go on to win the series.
After the Canadiens blew a 3-1 lead and took their foot off the gas in a game they were dominating to the tune of a 29-12 edge in shots on goal, it will be that much easier for the people who made that analysis to stick with it.
How, after blowing a 2-0 series lead coming back home and wasting a great first half of Game 4 can the Canadiens recover from this 5-4 loss in overtime?
Well, I'm here to tell you that it is about as possible as it was for the Canadiens to win the first two games of the series in Boston, which is to say extremely unlikely where we sit right now, but falling squarely within the realm of possibility simply because this team thrives on doubt.
Everyone and their cousin thought this Canadiens team didn't stand a chance of winning a seven-game series against the Bruins even though they had thoroughly dominated the bulk of the meetings between the two clubs for two seasons.
So the Canadiens proved them wrong by winning two straight in Boston.
Then everyone thought the series was in the bag because the Canadiens are so strong at home, and the team responded by playing as though they thought the exact same thing.
So now they find themselves back at Square One – looking at a best-of-three where the Bruins have home ice advantage in a series where the home team hasn't won a single game and where, once again, no one feels they have a chance in hell of winning.
Sorry, but I don't buy it.
Not to harp on the events of a year ago, but a Canadiens team that largely resembles this one won five straight games where they faced elimination last season, which shows an acute ability to have a short memory.
Whether this version of the team can channel that forward to the current situation remains to be seen, but I feel that history at the very least means they deserve to be given some degree of benefit of the doubt.
"This season we've always been able to come back after bad games," Tomas Plekanec said. "It's not like we had a bad game tonight, but we lost and any time you lose you want to come back strong. I know this group is capable of doing it and I'm sure we'll do it in Boston."
Still, that's not to say there aren't reasons for concern, and the loss in Game 4 most definitely stings far worse than the one in Game 3.
Monday night's game was easy to blame on a lack of focus, on the team being too loose, on "horsing around" at the morning skate because this group had never found themselves in the position of overwhelming favourites before. A one-game adjustment to that mental state was not only understandable, but even predictable.
In Game 4 that lesson was supposed to be learned, and in large part it was because the Canadiens stormed out of the gates to that 3-1 lead and 29-12 shot advantage, not exactly the type of thing we are accustomed to seeing from this group.
This was a situation where the Canadiens have excelled, protecting a lead and insulating Carey Price by playing virtually mistake-free hockey.
Except that's not what happened.
"I don't think it was a matter of sitting back, we didn't sit back," Jacques Martin said. "It's more the opposite. We made a couple of plays that weren't very smart and gave them some momentum."
The only common element of the final four Bruins goals on the night was that Scott Gomez and Brian Gionta were on the ice for all of them.
Patrice Bergeron's goal that tied the game 3-3 just before the end of the second period can be pinned on Gomez in my eyes. There was a loose puck near the end boards at one point in that shift and Gomez was by far the closest to the puck. Except he got beat to it by Bergeron, maintaining the Bruins pressure.
I turned to my press box neighbour Mike Boone at that point and said if the Bruins score, it would be on Gomez for failing to reach that puck first. Except I was wrong, because Gomez actually went one better and left Bergeron alone in front to score the goal.
Martin noted on the overtime goal that there was a failure to get the puck deep and the Canadiens were caught with the defencemen changing, with P.K. Subban heading to the bench. That failure to get it deep was on Travis Moen, except he was trying to fish a bouncing puck out of his skates because of an awkward pass by Gionta.
The result was a 3-on-1 the other way, in overtime, in the playoffs. Unheard of.
And the Bruins missed the net on their initial shot attempt, which should mean the 3-on-1 is over. But it wasn't.
Gomez and Gionta are supposed to be at their best at this time of year, the ones who grew up in the winning atmosphere of New Jersey, the ones who should be reliable enough to avoid brain cramps like these in such crucial situations.
They didn't deliver.
But that doesn't mean they won't, or that they're unable to, the same way the demoralizing loss doesn't mean the Canadiens are cooked in the series.
It might serve as the ultimate wake up call, or it might have absolutely no bearing on what happens whatsoever.
After the game, I asked Hal Gill one of the more brutal questions I've ever asked a player. I said the game was being "widely billed" as one that would ultimately determine the winner of the series, and how he would respond to that.
He smiled at me, but not in a good way, and simply said, "Do I have to answer that? It's widely billed? I don't know what you're talking about, to be honest with you."
Funnily enough, that answer said a lot.
The more members of the Canadiens that have no idea of what people are talking about, the better off they will be.