Habs Stanley Cup win might not be so far off
Montreal Canadiens goaltender Carey Price makes a save against Ottawa Senators' Sergei Gonchar (not shown) as Senators forward Milan Michalek (9) looks for the rebound during second period of game two first round NHL Stanley Cup playoff hockey action in Montreal, Friday, May 3, 2013. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
Published Saturday, May 4, 2013 2:00PM EDT
Hockey is a sport that relies on one man who you simply cannot succeed with unless he performs: the goalie.
In baseball, without a pitcher who can succeed, there is no chance of victory, as the pitcher touches the ball at the start of every play. It's the same in football with a quarterback. His execution influences the start of every play and he’s often responsible for outcome of that play.
So it is in hockey. It's a simple formula: if the goalie cannot make the save, you can have the greatest talent and dominate a game to the Nth degree, it will not matter, you cannot win.
Case in point was Game One of the series where the Habs outchanced their opponent 30-7 but lost 4-2. There is simply nothing to be done when this happens.
That's why the Michel Therrien comment stating that he didn't want his team to bounce back, but rather to do the same things, was so smart in that moment prior to Game Two.
To order a list of changes for his troops between games would have been damaging to the psychology of the Canadiens. All the Habs needed in Game Two was some saves and Carey Price delivered, while Craig Anderson was worse than his .941 regular-season save percentage.
This was the story of Game One and Game Two and it will be the story in every single game in NHL history. The last line of defence must stand tall or you can be as good as the Habs were in Game One and dominate as clearly as they did and it simply will not matter.
Many frustrated fans took to Twitter after Game One and voiced their displeasure with any number of players but there will always be some who are more involved than others throughout the course of a game.
None of the players who felt the wrath would have been criticized if Price had not let in two soft goals and Anderson had not stolen six sure goals. After a game that should have been a 6-2 Habs victory, there is no reason to mention anything negative.
So keep the focus where it usually belongs and certainly belonged in Game One, because the bottom line and really all the lines have only one point to make: the Habs got outgoalied.
Beyond the goalie battle in Game One, the rest was noise.
The fat bug-eyed walrus
There can be no denying that Brandon Prust's comment was beyond the pale in regular society. To point to someone's appearance is not the height of decorum in a regular world where judgments fall hard on those who make it personal.
In regular society, behaviour like that is completely unacceptable. However, for the Montreal Canadiens to have let that slide without someone coming out to fire a salvo back would have been tantamount to laying down, to not protecting their number 61, whoever he is, but to take it on the chin.
In hockey, the battle must be won psychologically as well as on the ice. What Prust said, had to be said, in hockey terms.
Perhaps it could have been a little more generic but naturally it would not have carried the same weight if it were. One imagines even the Ottawa Senators hockey players asking, “wow, did he really say that?" Prust then backed it up by being in the face of anyone that he could find.
Many would like to argue that this is a skill game and putting the puck in the net is all that matters. I would love to argue. My higher-minded wish is for that to be true but that is not how it works. You have to at least break-even in the psychology of the game.
Look at Ryan White and his exchange at game’s end with Guillaume Latendresse. There was determination - a message sent that the Habs will not be lying down and will not accept a lack of respect for our commitment.
The new Therrien
Michel Therrien is striking all the right chords. His decision to reject Paul MacLean’s flippant suggestion that he doesn't even know the name of number 61 was exactly what the Habs players needed.
Ryan White said this guy, referring to Therrien, is going to war for us and we are going to be right behind him going to war for him. That is vital. This is an all-in exercise for the Canadiens. The organization is united.
Marc Bergevin, as a former player, knows what it means to win cups and it is a team concept from top to bottom: all-in or not in at all. There is only one way that this has ever gotten done and Therrien gets it.
The brightest future
Imagine the greatest moment that you can imagine as a Habs fan. Have you done it? Are you in Row One along the parade route watching Alex Galchenyuk with the Stanley Cup over his head? You can do that, I believe.
The future is so bright for the Montreal Canadiens that it is harder for me to imagine that they won't win the cup within the next five years than to imagine that they will.
The first two games of the series have influenced my thinking even more. Cups are won with seven-year assets growing and being complemented by free agent assets. Seven-year assets are inexpensive as well, which is also vital to the ability to supplement them with free agent talent. A look at the Habs’ talent shows only three assets are declining: Markov, Moen and Gionta.
The rest are moving up in class and talent. The seven-year assets are augmenting in skill leading us to believe that the future is bright. Look at Gallagher, Galchenyuk, Tinordi: all first-year assets here for a very long time.
Subban, Eller, Pacioretty: all still with many years left here. One could go on and on, but you know the roster.
The future is so bright for this team that is already second in the East and dominating the Senators for two games and is getting better and better in time. If not now, then soon.
Look at the long view when this moment is not working out for your Habs. The long view is your dream realized. The assets are here and getting better and other great players are coming too. The parade may seem a long way away but one can see it being built right now.