Montreal: 2 - Washington: 1 (Canadiens Win Series 4-3)
Where do we even begin to start with this one? Do we try and compare it to some of the all-time greatest upsets ever? Do we single out Alex Ovechkin who granted unfairly will be the focus of people when they talk about this epic 3-1 choke job the Caps just pulled off? Do we start ranking Jaroslav Halak's performance over the last three games in terms of one of the greatest playoff performances of all-time? Do we call into question Bruce Budreau's coaching ability?
Ok, well we'll start with a flashback to something I said ten days ago:
Then again it could be that the Washington Capitals did in fact remember they are the Washington Capitals and have no business being in an even close series with the Canadiens. Hate to say it Montreal fans, but this is the beginning of the end!
I was a bit off there. But can you blame me? I mean no one - save for some diehard Canadiens fans - felt after game three or game four for that matter than this series was in any more doubt. Montreal dropped two in a row at home, they had no answer in goal and the one win they did have wasn't exactly convincing anyone that they still had a shot at winning the series even if they somehow managed to lock up the Caps and prevent second chance opportunities on the Canadiens net like they did in game one.
And yet ten days later here we are. The Caps are going golfing, the Habs are off to Pittsburgh.
The Caps led the league in 5 on 5 goals this year and their powerplay also led the league, yet all that offensive firepower suddenly had nothing but blanks over the last five games. Yes Halak was outstanding - three goals against three straight nights of 40+ shots against will attest to that - but going 0 for 14 on the powerplay over the last three games has to fall on the Capitals players as well as Halak's netminding.
The Caps also had the best home record in the league during the regular season, yet lost games one, five and seven on home ice... If this isn't a choke job of the highest caliber the likes of which we haven't seen since 94 Sharks and Red Wings series, than I don't know what is.
Last night I sat here and called out Dave Tippett on the fact his teams can't get the job done in the playoffs, but while I say that and believe it you could make the argument that the teams he runs up against most times has as much talent if not more that what he has to work with. This isn't the case with a guy like Bruce Boudreau. Bruce has the tools and the talent and yet again he's failed to get them anywhere of significance. A Presidents Trophy? Big deal! We've seen tonight as we've seen so many times over the last three decades, winning the title of "best regular season team" doesn't mean squat. Is Bruce's job in jeopardy? Probably not because Ted Leonsis is a loyal guy and believes in his team and Boudreau, but then again I can't see why it shouldn't be.
And then there is Ovechkin who somewhat unfairly will get a lion's share of blame for this choke... And while he deserves some jeers, this series wasn't lost by just him not showing up for most of the games. Alexander Semin had a measly two assists in seven games. Mike Green with only three assists and was only a +1 for the series. Nicklas Backstrom was below average on faceoffs with a 46% win rate despite having taken 1/3rd of the team's faceoffs the entire series.. Jeff Schultz, Joe Corvo and John Carlson brought very little physical play when all their game should be about is being physical. All of this, yet it'll be Ovechkin who at least led his team in scoring and was a respectable plus five in the series that will be the focus. Doesn't seem fair does it?
Canadiens fans, I know you'd like to think your team earned this series win and while I don't want to take anything away from your boys lets call this for what it really is: Halak got white hot and your team got just enough scoring to squeak through. This is more about the Caps collapse than the Habs winning and you'll have to excuse most of the media and us bloggers as we don't expect them to do anything in the second round against Sidney Crosby and the Penguins.
Then again, we didn't think your team would pull off a minor miracle like they just did tonight and we didn't think that the Capitals would fold as badly and quickly as they did over the last three games.