After the way the season went with injuries and then the line juggling in the lineup…. the seeming lack of simple coaching moves like taking a time out… I’m almost amazed at how the Canadiens have looked after 6 games against the mighty Washington Capitals.
Coming into this series I had no doubt in my mind that the Capitals could be beaten. I’m not gonna tell you I would have bet on it at the time but I certainly did believe they could be beat.
Washington’s biggest weakness is their defense.
They finished off the season with a 2.77 goals against average which ranked them 16th in the league. While they boast being a powerhouse offensive team you’ll often hear something about winning in the playoffs. Defense.
The New Jersey Devils would choke their opponents not so long ago… the Detroit Red Wings were also masters at controlling the puck.
The Canadiens were not a good defensive team this season. They were right at the bottom at 5 on 5 hockey. They did however spend a huge chunk of the season without key players. Markov, Gionta, Cammalleri, Gill…
The team struggled along and made the playoffs. In these playoffs they pretty much have their lineup as it was projected at the start of the year…. with a few minor tweeks here and there of course. So they’ve finally got their skilled puck moving players running on all gears… they’ve got their defensive players running on all gears. They’ve got a goaltender who’s gained a heck of alot of confidence.
What could this team have accomplished had there been a fraction of the injuries?
The team is playing some defense around the net. It was very frustrating watching teams falling all over Price and Halak this season. Now in these playoffs you’ve had O’Byrne logging some ice along side Markov…. a big physical d-man who is clearing more room in front of Jaro… and one of the greatest puck moving defensemen in the game today in Andrei Markov to move the puck out.
You’ve also got Stanley Cup champion Hal Gill who played a huge role in the Penguins Cup run… as a shut down guy. Hal Gill has been great. He’s used his long reach perfectly, his body is somehow always in the opponent’s way or he chokes up passing and shooting lanes with that long reach.
Josh Gorges, who’s been Gill’s partner in crime, seems to be playing some of the best hockey in his young career as well. What I’ve really enjoyed is how both Gorges and Gill have shown patience, trust in one another and they’ve made simple plays to move the puck out of the zone when needed. You don’t need to do anything fancy to win hockey games. Something I’ve also noticed is that although Gill doesn’t throw huge punishing hits, he uses his big body well enough that he can bump someone off the puck without having to throw the big hit.
You don’t have to kill someone against the boards to get the puck away from them. As long as your team gains possession, that’s all that matters.
So we’re gonna witness a game 7 in a series where most people had written the Habs off early.
Well done guys!
Go Habs Go!