Well that happened; how did the Habs beat the Pens?
MONTREAL -- The Montreal Canadiens were done. Management had started dumping veterans and stocking draft picks, while the team got set for a historic third straight year without playoff hockey.
Then, a global pandemic hit.
Once months of 'what should we do?' talks ended, the Habs found themselves in a qualifying round against a heavily favoured Pittsburgh Penguins team which had the largest lead (15 points) over its opponent as any team in the qualifying round.
Well, you know that.
HOW DID IT HAPPEN?
Though Carey Price was excellent (1.67 goals-against average, .947 save percentage), the Canadiens' superstar netminder was helped by an overall team effort led by man-mountain Shea Weber (two goals, two assists, +5).
Eleven Habs nabbed points in the series, and the Canadiens' defence was stingy when it needed to be.
ABOUT THOSE PIPES
Carey Price was not having the greatest of regular seasons with a 2.79 GAA and .909 save percentage. As noted, he upped his stats against Pittsburgh, while the other end of the ice was less secure.
You can't win if you don't score, so it's hard to fault Tristan Jarry in game four. He made 20 saves in the deciding game, and played well after cup-winner Matt Murray was pulled after three games.
Price was at his best, and that, as anyone who shoots on him will tell you, is daunting to say the blaringly obvious.
YOUNG GUNS VERSUS OLD TIMERS:
The Penguins, replete with a cast of stars born in the '80s (Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Patric Hornqvist, Jack Johnson, and Kris Letang) and one in the '70s (Patrick Marleau) could not deal with the 20-somethings on the Habs roster.
Crosby turned 33 the day his team was eliminated after watching 25-year-old Atturi Lehkonen open the scoring for the Habs before fellow-captain Shea Webber made it two with an empty-netter.
While the Pens vets did not have a series to remember, Montreal's Hab-lets did. The two 20-year-olds Jesperi Kotkaniemi (two goals) and Nick Suzuki (goal and assist) had solid coming-out parties, while Malkin had just one assist, Hornquvist was a minus-three, and Marleau had zero points and was a minus-four.
Crosby had two goals and an assist.
REGULAR SEASON SHMEGULAR SEASON
Montreal at 31-31-9 entered the qualifying round as the worst of the 24 teams.
The Habs had lost three in a row before the coronavirus pandemic halted the season.
Montreal will now play either the Tampa Bay Lightning or Philadelphia Flyers once the round-robin wraps.