I think the strangest part about last night's epic game 7 victory by Montreal is the number of people who were kidding themselves when they say they were shocked. And I am one of them. For as much as we all tried to tell people there was no way this could happen, if you even passively watched this series you could see Washington simply did not have what it takes. Jaroslav Halak the only reason they won? Not even close. Huge reason yes, but stifling, disciplined defense and a team that forechecked ferociously, taking advantage of Washington mistakes contributed. The Caps powerplay going 1 for 33 or something like that might have had something to do with it as well. More after the jump...
I saw a stat last night that makes you think the upset wasn't so much the shock, it was the collapse and failure by the Capitals. The amount of time the Canadiens held the lead in the series: 434 minutes. Washington? 55 minutes. I was floored by this. Yes, Montreal played their game plan to a T. But the Capitals biggest players let them down, and Bruce Boudreau was out coached by Jacques Martin. Perhaps that might be the key? When I first heard the rumblings from Caps fans that should they lose Game 7 they wanted Boudreau fired, I thought it was a little reactionary. I dismissed it, because after all there are people who follow the Canucks who call for Vigneault's head if there's a bad line change. Grain of salt and all that.
The problem with the Caps, and Boudreau from what I can see is focus. The Canucks had some issues that could have sunk them because of the distraction they could have turned into. But the management and coaching staff did a fine job of stating their piece and then getting the back into focus on the task at hand. The Capitals always seemed to have trouble with this. Criticism, fair or not was reacted to with outrage from media, bloggers, fans and the Caps PR department. Discipline leveled against Caps players, or the discipline given to others for infractions against the Caps were biased, and influenced by the Canadian media. And probably most damaging of all, they have an owner who regularly contributes to this mindset. Ted Leonsis is a popular owner, so his words lend credence to any perceived slight in the eyes of Capitals fans.
Just like there's no conspiracy against the Canucks, there isn't one against the Capitals. The NHL and media on both sides of the border bend over backwards to cater to the Caps (and not that this is a bad thing, they're an immensely talented team with one of the best players in the league on their roster). But to hear the Caps, there's some kind of media embargo going on where they're being portrayed like Kim Jong Il or something. When the chips were down in this series, the focus always seemed to be on "we didn't get this call, this wasn't right". Chances and bounces come to those who work for them. Did anyone see a change in Alex Ovechkin's game plan even once this series? It's been said man is the only animal dumb enough to trip over the same rock twice. I lost track of how many trips that was.
With the Pittsburgh/Washington matchup now gone, the league's playoff focus now turns to promoting Crosby and the Red Wings. That's right, the Red Wings. The Coyotes' remains were being unloaded at the morgue when a new 'History Will Be Made' commercial was uploaded at NHL.com. It features Pavel Datsyuk scoring with the line 'What if the draft didn't go past 5 rounds' or something to that effect. With Ovechkin out of the picture, the NHL appears to be throwing their chips at a re-rematch, or else the Penguins facing the Blackhawks. Just watch, the coverage will bear this out over the next couple weeks.
Not much to cover from our neck of the woods, but remember that we get the news up here asafp, so keep checking back for updates. NM will have it's staff predicitons tomorrow as we prepare for game 1 Saturday in Chicago. In the meantime, lots of great discussion here so don't just lurk, get in on it.