Okay I know the Habs were never going to be competing for the Cup this year but you gotta admit that’s a brutal way to go out. 6-1 to the Senators and pretty darn close to a sweep in the series.
So the dream is over. You remember that blog from a few weeks back when Montreal went off the rails – after they made the playoffs – and I suggested that maybe the first 35 games were “all just an illusion to me now” Well that’s ringing truer than ever now.
The Canadiens have not played with any kind of consistency since they clinched a playoff berth with that win in Buffalo. They were playing above their talent level all year and once they made the post-season, they just had nothing left in the tank. And yes they were more like last year’s team than we ever thought.
There were some great additions this year. Short version? The kids are alright. Brendan Gallagher, of course, was the sensation and that’s why he’s up for the Calder. Alex Galchenyuk is going to be amazing, probably as early as next year. And what do you say about P.K. Subban. Well you say what I said when Marc Bergevin was playing hardball with him during those negotiations – he’s a superstar and you better sign him up for as long as you can.
Bergevin made a mistake refusing to sign him for more than two years and I’m pretty sure he’ll correct that mistake by inking a rich long-term deal with the Norris finalist this summer.
The other major plus was Brandon Prust. This guy is the team’s real leader and I’d give him the ‘C’ in a heartbeat.
That’s the good news. Then there’s the rest of the team. The sad-sack regular-season end and even-worse playoffs does not reflect well on a bunch of guys. David Desharnais hasn’t played a good game since he signed that big deal. He should be ashamed of himself.
The only silver lining with Michael Ryder is he’s no longer under contract with the Canadiens. He looked bored over the past month. Now you get why teams don’t hang on to Ryder. Travis Moen? See the comment about Desharnais above. Colby Armstrong? See comment about Ryder above.
Then there’s my bete noire, Carey Price. Look he’s not the main reason Montreal lost the series. Montreal lost because our forwards were worse than the Senators’ forwards.
But Price wasn’t good enough in this series. Again. The guy in the mask at the other end delivered a truly great performance. Price was inconsistent. Again. How long are you going to keep saying next year will be his year?
But maybe the most depressing thing about the series was how Paul MacLean out-coached Michel Therrien from game-one on. The Walrus played Therrien and Therrien never seemed to understand he was being played. Take the famous end-of-game time-out that so enraged Therrien. Mr. Walrus did that to upset Therrien and get him off his game, and it worked a charm.
Instead of looking long and hard at how to make his team better, Therrien got hot under the collar about MacLean. That was the idea. The Walrus got inside Therrien’s head.
So sure it was a surprisingly good season in some ways. The team finished second in the conference. But it was at least partly an illusion. They weren’t really a second-seed team, a fact proved by their whacking at the hands of the seventh-seed in this series.
And yes there are lots of positives. For the first time in years, there’s a core of young stars in Gallagher, Galchenyuk and Subban. But Bergevin has his work cut out for him in the summer. And guess what? The most important piece of the puzzle missing is a big, strong talented first or second-line centre. Sound familiar? Bergevin is facing the same problem that’s dogged Habs GMs for 20 years.
And no there will be no 20th anniversary Cup. Sigh.