I’m in shock. I had predicted the Habs losing to the Caps in 7. After all, Halak has the hot hand, but really, who expected the firepower of Mike Green, Alex Semin, Mike Knuble, Nicklas Backstrom, and Alexander Ovechkin would falter at Halak’s door for four of seven possible games? Not I. But boy, was I wrong.
Halak posted a 2.46 GAA and a .939 save % on route to winning 4 of 6 games he played in this series. Mike Cammalleri snagged 10 points in 7 games, Tomas Plekanec was second with 7 points in 7 games. They weren’t always pretty goals, but they were always in the net, which is more than can be said for Green and Semin, both of whom were held scoreless.
The biggest story is the Habs’ penalty kill, which was 97% successful. A lot of people seem to think this reflects on the Capitals failing to convert, but I think it’s a combination of running into a hot goaltender and excellent team defense. Hal Gill blocked 31 shots in the series. If it was a failure of the Capitals to score on Halak, then why didn’t Carey Price get lit up hard when he started? Even most of the goals on him were even strength or shorthanded for the Caps.
The Caps are done, and I hope the Habs are looking forward. Last year, I’d be more worried, because that would have been the first playoff series a lot of guys in the locker room won, and for most of the rest, they’d never seen the conference finals. This year, I’m feeling much better about our prospects. We have three solid veterans leading the way in Brian Gionta (The C without a C), Scott Gomez, and Hal Gill, all of whom have established themselves firmly in the locker room. They may not speak French – hell, they might all be American – but they’re wearing the rouge, blanc, et blu with pride so far, and trust me, we’ll take their leadership and skills as we make an unlikely drive forward.
The Penguins are the best team remaining in the east, both in terms of talent and in terms of experience. Crosby, Malkin, Staal, Gonchar, and Fleury are all legitimate superstars, and we’re going to have a very interesting time up against them. I find myself wondering how Crosby is preparing his team to face off against Montreal. This hasn’t happened in a long while, and Crosby’s never played a playoff game in the Bell Centre.
I think we’ll shock the Penguins. I think the layoff combined with Montreal entering in on a roll will be enough to let us win one game at the Igloo. I’d love to see us win both at home and go up 3-1, and then close it out at the Bell Centre in Game 6. In fact, I think that’s my prediction – Habs in 6.
If that happens, I imagine we’ll face the other hot goalie still in the playoffs: Tuukka Rask. Bring it.