Have the Montreal Canadiens learned their lesson?
When you’ve got your foot on a team’s throat, there’s nothing to be gained from easing up.
That’s what Montreal did in Game 5 of its series versus the Boston Bruins. It had all the momentum in the world coming home after seizing a 3-1 series lead in Boston and instead of delivering the knockout blow, the Canadiens basically hoped for a hand out.
They stood around waiting for the gritty Bruins to roll over and out of the playoffs, and it simply wasn’t going to happen.
Had the Habs showed some killer instinct in Game 5 – or in Game 6 when they had two third-period leads – they never would have been faced with playing a Game 7.
Many people had high hopes for Montreal at the start of the playoffs and justifiably so. However, the words “youth” and “inexperience” were also being tossed about quite a bit.
The red, white and blue are a green group and it has certainly showed at times versus Boston.
There was 20-year-old Carey Price’s brain cramp in Game 5 that gave Boston the lead. Then, a few minutes later, 21-year-old Sergei Kostitsyn took a horrific hooking penalty in the offensive zone and the Bruins opened up a 3-1 advantage on the ensuing power play.
Even players who’d been in the playoffs before were forced to learn some hard lessons.
Tomas Plekanec was a part of the Canadiens team that lost in six games to Carolina in 2006, but he is playing an entirely different role this time around.
As the middleman on the No. 1 line, Plekanec draws all kinds of attention from Boston brute Zdeno Chara and the rest of the Bruins. With less room to maneuver, Plekanec didn’t score his first goal of the series until Game 6.
If you’re a Montreal fan, you’ve got to hope he’s learned about the distinction between regular season and playoff action, and that regular effort simply doesn’t cut it in the post-season.
Game 7 never should have happened for the Canadiens, but the fact it did might actually benefit the young team in the long run if they learned something along the way.
This column also appears in the Montreal Metro newspaper.
Ryan Dixon is a writer and copy editor for The Hockey News magazine, the co-author of the book Hockey’s Young Guns and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog appears Wednesdays and his column, Top Shelf, appears every second Friday.
For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, Subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.