Habs v. Leafs Game 7: NHL playoff hockey just took an epic turn worthy of Tolkien
MONTREAL -- "I wish none of this had happened," said Frodo to Gandalf in the "Lord of the Rings," when looking at the task in front of him as the weight of the ring pulled down on his neck. He had realized where he came from... and where he was in a dark cave.
One can imagine a Leafs fan, player or staff is muttering the exact same thing as they wait for Monday night's win-or-go-home, do-or-die, finish-the-game, survive-and-advance Game 7 pitting Toronto against the Montreal Canadiens.
This is exactly where the Leafs did not want to be coming up against the Habs in round one and yet, here we are.
HOPPED UP WITH NOTHING TO LOSE... WELL NOT NOTHING
"There was never much hope... Just a fool's hope," said Gandalf to Pippen when looking out from the white city of Minas Tirith as the orc army approached.
Fans with "fool's hope" picked the underdog Habs to win this series.
Toronto has more talent, more depth, more speed and more consistent scorers than the Habs. They beat Montreal seven-out-of-10 times in the regular season and three times in a row in the series.
The Habs had nothing to lose in games five and six, but they do now and no one in this city should be pulling out the, "well, at least we got this far" line.
One game, one shot, one win.
With a locked-in Carey Price, there is always hope... even if it's a fool's hope.
"You shall not pass!"
There are no underdogs in game seven.
Minas Tirith still stood tall at the end of the book.
SHUTTING DOWN AND DEFENDING THE ADVANCE
"Where is the horse and rider?" King Theoden asked before the battle of Helm's Deep.
If Toronto hopes to avoid its streak of blowing both tires, running out of gas and watching the engine catch on fire before trying to switch lanes, the Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner duo will need to figure out how to get past Jake Evans, Phil Danault and Brendan Gallagher.
The tricolore trio has been the underrated difference as they hassle the M&M to keep them from scoring for the past two games.
Follow those three "to whatever end" and Habs fans can stay confident.
NO CHANGES? EVEN ON DEFENCE?
"I can't carry it for you, but I can carry you," said Samwise to his friend Frodo.
Interim head coach Dominque Ducharme insisted he was confident going with the same lineup Monday night as he did last Saturday.
"For right now, there are always little question marks, but we're confident we'll go with the same lineup," he said.
OK? With both Erik Gustafsson and Brett Kulak playing just over half-a-dozen minutes apiece, it feels like it could be time to see what 21-year-old Alexander Romanov can do in the postseason.
That would mean four defencemen with a lot of miles on them won't have to on the ice longer than the run time of the entire Lord of the Rings extended edition series.
I guess Price, Shea Weber, Jeff Petry, Joel Edmundson and Ben Chiarot would be wise to take a nap this afternoon because if game six was any indication, it's going to be a late night.
Toronto Maple Leafs' Zach Hyman (11) is sandwiched between Montreal Canadiens' Shea Weber (6) and Canadiens goaltender Carey Price (31) during first period NHL playoff hockey action Saturday, May 29, 2021 in Montreal. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
SPEAKING OF KIDS
"I am no man," yelled Eowyn before stabbing the King Wraith in the face.
If the Canadiens pull off this come-from-behind series win, it will be on the Gen Z Habs -- Nick Suzuki, Jesperi Kotkaniemi and Bilbo himself: Cole Caufield -- to lead.
When you're that young, you never think anyone's better than you because there is no proof that they are. Ah to be 20.
To be clear, all three players can vote, drink alcohol, run for office and are, indeed, men.
Montreal Canadiens Jesperi Kotkaniemi (15) reacts after scoring the winning goal on Toronto Maple Leafs goaltender Jack Campbell (36) during the first overtime NHL playoff hockey action Saturday, May 29, 2021 in Montreal. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
FANS IN TORONTO
"In the end, it's only a passing thing, this shadow: even darkness must pass," said Samwise Gamgee.
This COVID-19 pandemic has been hard on everyone and it seems llike the darkness may be beginning to pass.
After 2,500 Habs fans sat in the seats at the Bell Centre for Game 6, Ontario Premier Doug Ford OK'ed 550 tickets for fully vaccinated health care workers to attend Game 7.
There is no word yet on whether any of those health care workers will be wearing red at Scotiabank Arena (as there were blue and white sweaters spotted in the Bell Centre), but it will be just the second game in Canada to have fans in attendance.
OT IN TO, OH DEAR!
"All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us," stated Gandalf.
The Leafs better hope the game doesn't go into extra time tonight.
The Canadiens have won two straight, prompting one reporter to ask Ducharme whether he thought about the fact that the Habs won 10 straight overtime games the last time they won the Stanley Cup in 1993.
Not to stretch the good vibes too far or anything...
"We don't get that far," the coach said.
Smart. This is not 1993, 1967, 1964 or 1918. This is 2021. There has been no year like this.
Make use of the time you have and game on.
Montreal Canadiens’ Tyler Toffoli (73) celebrates with teammates after scoring against the Toronto Maple Leafs during third period NHL Stanley Cup playoff hockey action in Montreal, Saturday, May 29, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes