Message for the Pittsburgh Penguins: Time To Hand over the Stanley Cup

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Message for the Pittsburgh Penguins: Time To Hand over the Stanley Cup

Can the impossible be done?

Can the eighth-seeded Montreal Canadiens defeat the defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins , and advance to the Eastern Conference finals?

Not only can it be done, but the impossible will happen.

Since NHL switched to the current playoff format in 1994 of seeding teams one through eight in a conference format, the No. 8 seed has upset the No. 1 seed nine times. 

That includes the Canadiens' upset of the President's Trophy winner Washington Capitals in the first round of the 2010 NHL playoffs. 

Of the nine teams able to pull the upset, only the 2006 Edmonton Oilers made it out of the next round, before falling to the Carolina Hurricanes in Game Seven of the Stanley Cup finals.  The Canadiens can now add themselves to that list—they will defeat the Penguins in seven games. 

If you don't believe me, I understand. Let me explain.

When the Canadiens were trailing the Washington Capitals, no one expected the Canadiens to become the first team in NHL history to defeat a No. 1 seed when trailing 3-1 in a best-of-seven series.  No one expected Halak and the Habs' stymie defense to block 182 shots in the seven games.  No one expected Canadian goaltender Jaroslav Halak to put him team on his shoulders by saving 131 shots over the final three games of the series.

But the Canadiens proved everyone wrong, and they will continue to accomplish the impossible. 

Heading into the playoffs, the Canadiens entered the postseason with the most experienced blue-line corps of all of the 16 playoff participants, in terms of combined regular season experience. 

The experience proved to be vastly important in Round One.  As the Canadiens get deeper into the playoffs, the playoff experience will pay dividends for the franchise that has won 24 Stanley Cups in their illustrious history.

Forwards Scott Gomez and Brian Gionta both have a Stanley Cup championship on their resume.  Along with 20-year veteran defenseman Roman Hamrlik, these three players will provide the veteran leadership this young Canadian team will require as they advance into the later rounds. 

Head coach Jacques Martin, who won the Jack Adams award in 1999 for coach of the year, will try and live up to his reputation and continue to play a tight defensive game.

It might be difficult to believe that Martin is a defensive mastermind because of the massive amount of shots opponents have been getting off his defense.  You do if you have a goalie who's been standing on his head like Halak.  Montreal and their "religious" hockey fans will ride the Halak wave until mid-June when the Stanley Cup is awarded to the eventual NHL champion.

Halak is 10-0 in games this season in which he's made more than 40 saves, and 13-1 when he's made 35 or more saves.  So if the Habs defense continues to break down, they're going to rely heavily on Halak to cover for them, and that is certainly not a terrible idea.

The Canadiens head into Game Three of their Eastern Conference semifinal series versus the Penguins tied at a game apiece.  Penguins stars Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, who had sub-par performances in Game Two, will unlikely have repeat performances. 

It's no secret that Crosby has the reputation and capability of breaking out at anytime.

In the first round against the Ottawa Senators , Crosby had 14 points in six games.  Even though the Stanley Cup champion and Olympic gold medalist struggled last game, Crosby knows how to perform in the clutch.

Makin, who won the Conn Smythe trophy last spring, only had two shots in Game Two and wasn’t all that noticeable. Malkin has only nine points in these playoffs, but the Canadiens should expect Penguins coach Dan Bylsma to put Malkin and Crosby on the same offensive line, in the hopes of creating some much-needed offense for his team. 

It's been 17 years since Montreal won a Stanley Cup.

Game Two hero Mike Cammalleri, who has scored eight goals in nine playoff games, was 10 years old, and the 271st overall pick by the Canadiens in the 2003 NHL entry draft.  Halak was only seven. 

Halak, who's becoming more popular than the 2010 Olympic Winter Games hockey hero (we all know who that is, right?), could already be awarded this year's Conn Smythe trophy.

That shouldn't come as a surprise, because he's been that dominate and impressive through the first nine games of the playoffs.  And if he's dominant for six more victories, their 17-year drought will be soon be over.

They don't have a captain, but they don't need one.

No one expected the Canadiens to beat the Capitals, but they did.

No one's expecting them to beat the Penguins either.

But when the Canadiens are advancing to the Eastern Conference finals, earning the right to play for the Stanley Cup, everyone will realize that anything is possible—even knocking off the defending Stanley Cup champions during the second round of the 2010 NHL playoffs.      

 

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