Habs Goalie: Halak (L)
Opposition Goalie: Leighton (W)
Habs goalscorers: Gionta, Gomez
Opposition goalscorers: Richards, Asham, Carter (2)
Scoring first is the key (for us at least) to winning, so, getting up within a minute was special and was reason to celebrate. That one goal told us what we all believed all along - Leighton was beatable, their D was penetrable and we still knew how to score. It was a Gionta-Gomez goal which was right off the practice rink. Gio to Scott as he broke in, and then back to the marksman to finish the job. It gave us the start we were looking for and we were off. A few bad plays later (story of the series) and everything was completely undone.
Gionta played a strong game as he scored a goal and added an assist. You can't ask much more of players like that than to score and to get to the net. His 7 shots and tenacity around Leighton made him the single standout in that department for us.
Scott finally scored and it couldn't have come at a more crucial time. That, combined with his assist, was really enough from his line, but with Camms, Pleks and Kostitsyn doing little to contribute Gomez found it hard to add too much more. Scott certainly proved himself as a number-one centre these playoffs and I do look forward to seeing him in action next year.
This can't be, can it? Nothing against Darche, but in yet another 'most important game of the year' we needed someone other than Darche to be here. He worked alright, but didn't do too much to stand out. What he did do, though, may get him a contract this summer and that is that he ended at +2 (the only + on the team). Not sure if he was great in our own end, but at least he can look at himself in the mirror and honestly say that he wasn't the reason we lost. How many other Habs can do that?
The first goal was not Hammer's fault, not one bit. Yes, it was he who crashed into Halak, but what on earth was Jaro thinking? Roman was going to be there and at worst it would only be a backhand partial-break if he wasn't. Aside from that play, which clearly stood out, Hammer played alright. He actually ended the game at 'even' as he was on the ice, a few minutes before his collision, for Gionta's goal - he picked up his 9th assist on the play.
Josh Gorges - Game Puck
Josh was the only other defenceman that I thought actually played well (Spacek was next best with a decent performance). Best of all, he made a few outstanding plays to break up some odd man rushes. These playoffs were a very clear example of why we must keep this guy for as long as we can. Building around him, Markov and Subban would be a very wise move. Add to that the fact that we have Hammer, Spacek and Gill under contract and one may suggest that we should be looking at a little more depth-scoring this off-season, not D.
Halak really dropped the ball on that first goal, a goal that really broke our back (it was short-handed). After that (and even before) he made some fantastic saves and actually kept the game closer than it probably should have been. Not his best game, but not the reason we lost. All in all a good season and good playoffs. I think we all hope to see him back as the solidified #1 next year as a full season with him could be very interesting indeed.
There is the 'at least we made it this far' part of me that is happy and that is grateful that, after 17 years, we have come this far. I am happy that Halak, Cammalleri and Gionta have all emerged as big-game players. Happy that Gorges and Gill and Lapierre and Moore are all a lot more than I thought they were. Then there is the part of me that is bitter, is mad and is wondering how a team that looked so deadly two weeks ago (for a month straight) could, all of a sudden, have trouble getting around this ordinary opponent. Both of these parts of me meet in the middle and my conclusions are that we did well to get here, but we blew what may be our best chance for the next 10-20??? years. 'Blew' is a harsh word, but that is what it feels like.
Chances like this don't come around for the Habs or Flyers of this league very often and to lose as we did (being out-played for most of the series) hurts. We can all look to next year with the hope that we'll be back, with the hope that this was the start of something, but there is also that part of me that wonders if this was our fluke year and if next year we'll be back to normal. What can never be taken away, however, was that excitement in beating the Caps and the Pens. Habs fans haven't felt like that in years and it was fun to, once again, have the city living and breathing the Habs. Hockey is a big part of our lives and we need a run like this, every now and then, to remind us why we watch 82+ games a year. This was reward (slight as it may have been) for all of those fans who believed last July 1st and who gave Gomez, Gionta, Gill, Cammalleri, Spacek and Martin a chance. So, thank you Habs, thanks for giving me good bang for my buck this year. 101 games in your 101st season is pretty good. I do, however, want one more year where those numbers correlate because once you get a taste all you want is more, more, more.