Just one last question.
Now that the Montreal Canadiéns have knocked off the President’s Trophy winner and defending Stanley Cup Champions, ousting the game’s two brightest stars in the process, I think it’s safe to say the ‘flying under the radar’ technique is pretty much done for these playoffs.
Of course, that would be a factual statement even if another so-called powerhouse had been waiting in the conference final, but seeing as how the Habs are facing either the sixth or seventh seed next round, their new persona is just going to be magnified.
Make no mistake, no matter who wins game seven between the Flyers and Bruins, the media – especially north of the border – will name the Canadiéns the favourite. The percentage of experts who pick the Habs to win the East will far outweigh those who believe differently and what was originally deemed so improbable it should have been impossible will now shift to a complete expectation of victory.
If you ask me, this couldn’t be better news. As far as who the experts side with, there couldn’t be a more meaningless tipping of the scales, no matter which direction they sway. But I was sure the notion that somehow this run was based on luck was officially labeled a joke after game two of round two, and the quicker every highlight show’s feature segments stop being about how unbelievably fluky this all is, the better.
I’m not saying they haven’t been the underdog, I’m just saying you can’t accomplish what this group has already accomplished, without deserving every ounce of it. And deserve it they have.
But before I too officially stop inquiring into this group’s capabilities of making the conference final and begin to look at the them as the serious contender they clearly are, I just have to explore one quick question, one final time.
How in the flying f@#k did they do this?
Seriously. I’m not kidding around here. I’ve had 16-straight disappointing finishes to show me what I can come to expect from this franchise and the way this new group played down the stretch, I thought the streak would continue to swell with ease.
Entering the playoffs I called the Habs the softest team in the league and at the time I wasn’t exactly lying. They looked like they didn’t much care about the task at hand and when a club with the list of undersized players as long as the Habs decides to stop trying, the result is a whole lot of time laying on their asses, wondering what the hell hit them.
I have recorded posts on this site where I chastise players like Hal Gill for being utterly useless. I’ve got entire blogs focused on all the horrible decisions I witnessed Jacques Martin make behind the bench. And hell, I’ve even publicly admitted pure shame to having guys like Maxim Lapiérre on this team based on him arriving to play this season with all of the pesky, dirty attributes he had the year before but missing everything else. And a player who contributes nothing but bad penalties, a reputation for diving and a nature for backing away from fights, without putting the puck in the net from time to time and dishing out the occasional hit, almost always scores the permanent label of whiny little ‘female dog.’
And when a truckload of new players came into the organization last season, it’s not that I didn’t recognize their capabilities but I was pretty sure they would need to get at least this first season out of the way before they really did anything. Then the year started and they resembled the exact club I was expecting.
Signs of a good team existed but the inconsistencies were almost overwhelming. Whenever things started to go well and fans started to feel a little comfortable with their new roster, injuries and sloppy play would take over and a skid would commence. The Olympic break allowed some of the injuries to heal up and when games resumed, the Habs exploded out of the gate, leaving those of us who write about them discussing the club with that evil comfort level again.
With six games left, the boys needed only a few points to secure the sixth seed in the East and a date with the Sabres, a team most of us thought would be the Habs’ best shot at seeing the second round.
Then that soft bunch of don’t-seem-to-give-a-crappers showed back up and played in a way that almost made you wish they wouldn’t make the playoffs just to save the embarrassment of a sweep. They looked so awful in that final week and a half that I – and every other member of the media – figured the Caps would stomp the boys so badly, they might only need three games to rid the post season of Les not-so-Glorieux.
But the Habs did make it. They didn’t get swept. And they have shown so much heart and determination that I – and hopefully every other skeptic – am completely ashamed of my earlier statements about this group.
So what exactly happened? Unfortunately, I don’t think anyone outside their dressing room will even be able to make an educated guess.
And maybe we’ll never truly know exactly what transpired to turn this group into an absolute beast basically overnight, but one thing is for sure, this time there figures to be zero sign of Mr. Hyde.
Gill isn’t just useful he’s apparently the best shutdown D-man on earth. Martin has outcoached two of the game’s apparent bests for the past month and he did it in a landslide. Lapiérre isn’t just putting the puck in the net or throwing an occasional hit, he’s potting game winners and taking the opposition’s heads off.
Add in a superstar winger with a dozen goals, an unconscious goaltender and a nucleus of proven winners who know just what it takes to win it all and you have yourself a delicious recipe for success.
How they’ve done this no longer matters and what they do next is all anyone cares about. All we are supposed to do is enjoy the ride.
So, no more questions.