Thursday, May 13, 2010
Halak, Habs oust champs, Flyers on verge of history
Sometimes, things live up to their billing. Such was the case tonight with two stunners taking place. First, the Canadiens backstopped by Jaroslav Halak (37 saves) eliminated the defending champion Penguins 5-2 in Game Seven- advancing to the franchise's first Conference Final since they last won the Cup in 1993. Another improbable run led by Patrick Roy. The eighth seeded Habs have now ousted both the President's Trophy winning Caps and Pens in deciding games on the road. While they didn't have to win three straight, this time they had to contend with a more experienced/better overall team. To accomplish what they have is remarkable. Kudos to Mike Cammalleri, who added to his postseason-leading goal total with No.12. Brian Gionta was equally great, tallying twice including just 32 seconds in to set the tone. Camms and Gio combined for 12 of the Habs' markers in the series.
More stunning was how well Hal Gill on one leg played after missing Game Six. The heart he demonstrated going back out there to lead his new team past the one he won with is something to behold. That's what it takes. It was nice to see the big guy prove us wrong. How about Scott Gomez netting two assists and playing to capability. Guess Bob Gainey wasn't so crazy reuniting Gomer and Gio after all. We'll take our crow barbecued to a crisp. There's only so much one can say about Halak, who made a huge stop on Sidney Crosby early in the third to thwart the Pens rally. The man was simply sensational, putting together some of the best goaltending since Giguere and Roy. Who says he can't keep it up?
They still don't know who they'll face. That's because the Flyers simply refuse to go home quietly. They have now rallied from an 0-3 hole to tie the series against Boston. Michael Leighton was terrific in his first playoff start holding the struggling B's to one late Milan Lucic tally with a minute left before the Flyers held on to win their third in a row. Simon Gagne and Daniel Briere came through for the home team, who now see the same light the Red Sox saw against the Yankees. Just the dejected looks on Boston's side as they exited told the story. Can Claude Julien and his leadership of Chara, Savard and Recchi possibly restore order for Friday? Or are the Flyers 35 years after the Islanders did it to the Pens destined to make history. It looks like it's going to be tough and not so much for the orange and black.
Finally, it's amazing to think that in a seven-game series, Crosby and Malkin combined for only two goals. It's a credit to how determined Jacques Martin's scrappy bunch were taking away passing and shooting lanes while limiting time and space. But we also saw both superstars pressing in a flat first that saw neither register a shot while both made uncharacteristic errors we're not accustomed to seeing. Sid was in the box for Gionta's early PPG for a mistimed rough. Malkin had several mystifying giveaways on power plays, passing up great opportunities to shoot. Though they combined for 11 shots the final 40, neither really distinguished themselves.
Stunning stuff in Pittsburgh on what became Mellon Arena's final night. Kudos to the fans who stayed and gave their team a nice salute as did the disappointed former champs. Thumbs down to the ones who left early. Especially on The Igloo's final day. A Cup winner that reached two straight Finals and delivered so many bright stars and some left. Unbelievable.
A great night for hockey regardless. Eye opening to say the least.