Montreal Canadiens-Washington Capitals: Halak's Performance Forces Game Seven

Kamal PanesarCorrespondent IApril 27, 2010

Wow. I mean, wow. What an unbelievable performance by Jaroslav Halak.


Yes, the Montreal Canadiens won 4-1 last night against the Washington Capitals to force a game seven, Wednesday night, in Washington. But the score doesn't necessarily reflect the game story.


As has become the case for most of the games in this series, the Habs came out like they were shot out of a cannon. They took the play to Washington and scored two first period goals—both by Michael Cammalleri.


After that, it was Jaroslav Halak that shut the door on the Caps and vaulted the Habs into victory.


There was a key 5-on-3 powerplay for the Capitals in the first period, with the Habs leading 2-0, but Halak and the Habs penalty killers were able to keep them off of the score board.


The Habs got goals from Cammalleri (2), Maxim Lapierre, and Tomas Plekanec (empty net), and the Caps responded with a lone goal from Eric Fehr with less than five minutes to play.


Final score: Habs 4 - Caps 1. The series is tied 3-3.



Game Notes

1. Halak played one for the ages.


With 53 saves on 54 shots for a scintillating .981 save percentage, Halak was the undeniable star of the game.


The win pushed Halak's record when facing 35 or more shots to 12-1 and 9-0 when facing 40 or more shots.


You've got to be kidding me!


This is a guy who wants to be in the action, who thrives off of being busy, and who rises to the top of his game when he is being bombarded.


Make no mistake, however, that despite Halak's performance the Capitals are not a team that you can give up 54 shots to on a regular basis, and expect to win.


2. Powerless powerplay or powerful penalty kill?


The Canadiens played an undisciplined game last night, and allowed the Capitals six powerplay opportunities, including a 5-on-3 PP in the first period.


Despite all of their opportunities, the Capitals continue to fire blanks on the PP and while part of it the problem is with the Caps pp, you have to give a ton of credit to an extremely tenacious Montreal penalty kill.


Lead by Hal Gill—the shot blocking machine—and Josh Gorges, the Montreal penalty kill has limited the Caps No. 1 powerplay during the regular season, to one goal on 30 powerplay opportunities.


With the likes of Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, Alex Semin, Mike Green, and others on their powerplay, that is a truly amazing stat.


If the Caps had been scoring on their power play so far, this series would be long over.


The Habs, on the other hand, continue to score one powerplay goal per game, as they did last night. Clearly, they are winning the battle of the special teams.


3. P.K. Subban is alright.


With 10:02 of ice time last night, P.K. Subban did not look out of place. While he looked a little over excited to start the game—a natural side effect of playing for the first time in the NHL playoffs in front of the raucous Bell Centre crowd—Subban quickly settled down to become an effective player for the Habs.


Subban was paired with Roman Hamrlik last night—due to the continued illness of Jaroslav Spacek—and did not look out of place.


If there is one thing that is evident, it is that Subban has a ton of self-confidence and he displayed it was a few between the leg passes, and a nifty feed to Cammalleri on his second goal of the game.


In case you’re counting, that is three NHL games for Subban and he has three assists.


4. The supporting cast came out to play.


Starting with Maxim Lapierre and ending with Ryan O'Byrne, the Canadiens got contribution for their entire lineup.


O'Byrne saw just over twenty minutes of ice time, paired with Andrei Markov, and looked every bit like Mike Komisarek of last year but with better skating.


O'Byrne was blocking shots, clearing players from the front of the net, and dishing out punishing body checks all night long. It makes you wonder why Coach Martin decided to bench him until game four.


Lapierre too, played one of his best games of the season. He was combative and moving his feet all night long. The result was a bunch of scoring chances and his first playoff goal at 4:17 of the third.


Despite his strong play, Lapierre was up to his old tricks and took two diving penalties as a result. As much as his contributions up front were needed and appreciated, he cannot go around putting his team in trouble like that.


The Habs are very lucky that their indiscipline didn't lose them the game, and must cut down on stupid penalties if they want any chance of winning game seven.



Look Out Ahead!

The Habs won game six in Montreal in an improbably fashion, and will be playing a do or die game seven in Washington on Wednesday. That being said, and despite the win, they need to be better if they want to win this series.


While the Caps outshot the Canadiens by an unbelievable 54-22 margin last night, the worst part was that they had about 15 clear shots from prime scoring areas. This was a disturbing trend and if it wasn't for Halak's brilliance, the Habs would surely have lost the game by three or four goals.


If they want to win on Wednesday, they must do a better job of protecting the high slot.


For the Caps, I would expect that they will basically try to emulate their game six performance. I mean, if the game plays out identically on Wednesday, there is no way the Habs will come out with the win.


That being said, I noticed the Caps players getting frustrated during the third period and wonder how much Halak has started to get into their heads.


When you see Alex Ovechkin passing instead of shooting from a good shooting area, you have to wonder. He was not the only Caps player to look for a pass when a shot was the right play, last night and that tends to point to them being affected by Halak's play.



Next Game

The Habs have done the supposedly impossible and forced a game seven. Both teams have the day off before playing a winner takes all match in Washington tomorrow night.


As much as the pressure has been on the Habs for the last two games, it now shifts to the Capitals.


For the Canadiens, they weren't even supposed to make it this far. While they have clearly grabbed the momentum in this series, if they lose tomorrow, they go home as heroes.


For the Caps, however, it is a different story. They were the No. 1 team overall in the league who were supposed to contend for the cup this year.


If the Caps lose tomorrow, they go home as zeros. They have everything to lose while the Canadiens have nothing to lose and should play loose.


That being said, anything can happen tomorrow and I would not be surprised if either team wins.


For Habs fans, whether your team loses tomorrow or not, you should be proud. They have done so much more than anyone expected and should come home carrying their heads high.


So let's see what happens Wednesday, in the final installment of what has been one of the most entertaining series' in a long time!


So what do you all think?  Who wins the next game and the series?

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