Jaroslav Halak, the most-recent Hab to really shine in the Stanley Cup playoffs
The playoffs are a time for heroes.
They are a time for winners and losers.
They are a time to separate the men from the boys.
They are a time for memorable moments.
Take this year for example: a gritty Los Angeles Kings team beat out the No. 1 seed Vancouver Canucks in just five games. Then the Kings handled the No. 2 seed St. Louis Blues in four straight. The Kings are on to the Western Conference Finals for the first time since 1993. That year, the Kings went on to the Stanley Cup final, only to lose to the Montreal Canadiens.
That 1993 Cup final series was one to remember. Patrick Roy was stellar in the Habs' net. It would prove to be the last time Wayne Gretzky would play in the Cup finals. What will happen this year? Will similar story lines be made? Can Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick provide the heroics that Roy did in '93?
Only time will tell. So stay tuned.
The Canadiens won't be a part of the final, but the Kings might. So as Habs' fans watch and wait for this year's storybook to be written—which might include the Kings' second Stanley Cup appearance—we can take a look back and remember that 1993 series, as well as nine more of the greatest moments in Habs' playoff history since 1979.
The 1993 Stanley Cup Final is one of the best Cup Finals in the Montreal Canadiens' storied history.
Patrick Roy was amazing in net versus the Los Angeles Kings in the final series, and it earned him the Con Smythe trophy for playoff MVP.
The Kings won the first game 4-1, then the Habs rattled off four straight wins, 3-2, 4-3, 3-2 and 4-1 to beat the Kings in five games and capture their 24th Stanley Cup.
It was Los Angeles' first Cup appearance and Montreal's 34th and it seems experience prevailed.
Los Angeles had a 32-year-old Wayne Gretzky, a 125-point man in Luc Robitialle and star winger Jari Kurri. Rob Blake and Paul Coffey were the two mainstay defenseman and Kelly Hrudey was between the pipes. But the Habs', with the likes of Guy Carbonneau, Vincent Damphousse, Brian Bellows, Kirk Muller, Denis Savard, and of course Roy, proved to be too much for the Kings.
It was a playoff series to remember, and to this day, Habs' fans are still remembering it, because 19 years later, it's still the last time their team has touched the Cup.
In Game 2 of the '93 Final, Canadiens coach Jacques Demers called for a stick measurement on the Kings' Marty McSorley. The curve was deemed to be illegal and McSorley was given a two-minute minor late in the game with the Kings leading 2-1.
Montreal pulled Roy from the net and scored to force the game into overtime, where Habs defenseman Eric Desjardins scored his third goal of the game to tie the series at one.
Some call the stick measurement the turning point of the Cup final and Desjardins is the only defenseman to ever get a hat trick in the final. It was a game to remember.
Also in Game 2 of the '93 Final is a record set by Habs' defenseman Eric Desjardins, who became the only defenseman to ever record a hat trick in the Stanley Cup Final.
Desjardins had scored only two previous playoff goals and that night, he had three.
He scored his second goal of the game in the dying moments of the game on a Habs' powerplay (after the McSorley illegal stick call) to force overtime.
And just 51 seconds into overtime, Desjardins notched his third of the night and tied the series at one.
Yet another moment from the 1993 final.
Late in overtime in Game 4 of the Cup final, Kings' forward Tomas Sandstrom swept in with a shot. Patrick Roy quickly covered the puck before Sandstrom could get at it.
As Sandstrom skated by, Roy gave him a quick, confident wink, which was a way of saying "Better luck next time."
This game was played in Los Angeles, so to have the swagger of doing something like this on home ice, in overtime, was remarkable.
But that was Patrick Roy.
The Habs went on to win the game and "The Wink" became famous. It has been seen by hockey fans around the world since that night and is featured in a montage before every game on Hockey Night in Canada on CBC.
The most-recent Canadien to provide stellar heroics in the playoffs was Jaroslav Halak in 2010.
The Habs netminder, who split time with Carey Price, earned the job after providing the Habs with stellar goaltending early in the playoffs.
The Canadiens finished in eighth place and matched up against the highly-skilled, first place Washington Capitals in the first round. It was a grueling series for the Habs, led by defensemen Josh Gorges and Hal Gill, along with Halak, against Alex Ovechkin and Co.
The Habs pushed the Caps to seven games and, leaning on the heroics of Halak, won the series, earning them a berth in the second round. This time, they met the Pittsburgh Penguins, with Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and a star-studded Pens team. But once again, stellar performances by Jaroslav Halak, with few falters, and the Habs beat the Penguins in seven games, and were off to the Conference Finals.
The Penguins, who won the Cup the year before, were stunned, as were the Capitals. This eighth-seeded team shouldn't have even had a chance against two teams like this. But with stellar defense, amazing goaltending and timely goals from their forwards, anything was possible.
The playoffs are a time for goaltending and if any goalie plays like Halak played, the team has a good chance of winning every night.
Unfortunately, the Cinderella-story Habs' faltered in the next round and their luck ran out against the powerful Philadelphia Flyers. The Flyers were just too tough and a small Habs roster was no match. The Flyers won in five games, earning them a berth in the Cup final, and ending a miraculous Habs' run.
The first two rounds by the Habs is one of the most memorable and improbable runs in their history.
Patrick Roy is at yet another one of the most memorable moments in Habs playoff history.
As a rookie in the 1985-86 season, Roy, 20, played 47 games for the Canadiens and earned the starting spot going into the playoffs, where emerged as a star.
The Habs met the New York Rangers in the Conference Final and were up two games to none heading into Game 3. This game would eventually be remembered as one of the finest goaltending displays in modern history.
Roy made save after save in overtime, including 13 in a row, stopping the Rangers every time. It's hard to put such an iconic performance into words. This is where Roy truly showed what he was made of and from these playoffs on, he became a star in the NHL.
The Habs eventually got help from another rookie in the game, Claude Lemieux, who ended the game on the Habs' first and only shot of overtime.
No doubt one of the best goaltending performances of all time.
The next moment takes us to Game 7 of the 1979 semi-final.
After the Boston Bruins took a too many men on the ice penalty late, Habs Guy Lafleur rushed up the ice with the puck. The score was 4-3 for the Bruins at the moment and the Habs were on the powerplay. Lafleur wound it up and took a iconic slap slop from the top of the circle, beating Bruin goalie Gilles Gilbert to tie the score at four with 1:41 left in the third period.
That forced overtime in Game 7 and the Canadiens went on to win on a goal by Yvon Lambert. They went on to win the Stanley Cup, and without that goal from Lafleur, none of that would have been possible.
In Game 7 of the 1992 Adams Division semi-final, the Montreal Canadiens were host to the Hartford Whalers at the Montreal Forum.
The game went into double overtime when Russ Courtnall found the puck in the slot and, with 5:26 left, let a shot go on net. It found its way through, keeping the Habs' playoff hopes alive and eliminating the Whalers.
Although the Canadiens fell short that year, this was one of the most exciting overtime games ever played in the Forum. It is quite rare for a playoff Game 7 to go into overtime, let alone double overtime, so the heroics by Courtnall will by Habs fans for a while.
Fast forward to 2002, where Jose Theodore was the Habs' star netminder.
In Game 6 of the Conference quarter-finals, there was a scramble at the net. With the Bruins trying to tie the game, the puck bounced off the post to the left of Theodore, and behind him to the right side, where Bruin forward Bill Guerin tried to bat it in.
Theodore somehow managed to go behind his back and get his blocker out to stop the shot.
The Canadiens went on to beat the Bruins in that sixth game with that save being replayed on highlight reels for weeks.
It was one of the greatest saves in the last decade of playoff hockey by a goaltender who that year, won the Hart trophy as the league's most valuable player.
In that same playoff year, Jose Theodore was up to it again.
This time, it was in the semi-finals against the Carolina Hurricanes. It was overtime, with the score tied 2-2. Rod Brind'Amour got the puck at the blue line for Carolina and passed it off to Glen Wesley, who fired a shot on Theodore, who got a piece of it.
The puck went behind the net, and with Theodore scrambling to get back into his net, the puck was chipped on net again. Theodore got another piece of it and somehow managed to save it from going in the net.
The announcers, nor most of the players, knew where the puck had gone, but the replay showed that the puck went behind Theodore and up on his back. Theodore somehow managed to reach around his back with his glove hand and grab the loose puck before it dropped into the net.
One announcer got it right when he said, "What an absolutely remarkable, athletic play by Jose Theodore."
This was also one of the greatest saves in recent Canadiens' history but it wasn't enough to keep the Hurricanes from beating Canadiens. The Canes beat the Habs in six games and went on to win the Stanley Cup.
So there you have it. Ten of the most memorable plays in Habs' playoff history captured on video.
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