Near the beginning of the movie The Princess Bride , Vizzini, a criminal mastermind, has put together a ridiculously complex kidnapping plot in order to start a war. While kidnapping the Princess he finds that he and his henchmen are being followed by a mysterious man in black who overcomes all obstacles to hunt him down and rescue the princess.
When it is first suggested that the man in black is following them, Vizzini insists, "As I told you, it would be absolutely, totally, and in all other ways inconceivable."
The man in black overcomes impossibility after impossibility all while Vizzini states for the record that everything this man is doing, is inconceivable. Finally the sword master, Inigo Montoya, calls him on it. "You keep using that word. I don't think it means what you think it means."
This is my rather longwinded way of saying during these NHL playoffs I am Vizzini watching the Montreal Canadiens in disbelief as they dispatch the President's trophy winning Washington Capitals and the defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins in successive agonizing seven game series.
The man in black in my analogy is the aforementioned Canadiens and, more specifically, the spectacularly resilient Jaroslav Halak.
Montreal won another improbable contest last night when Marc-Andre Fleury managed another unfortunately egregious display of goaltending. The Penguins got rattled early and despite their surge and two goals in the second, and outshooting the habs 18-3 in the final period, barely seemed in the game.
The team stars often seemed to be competing against each other and the role players, notably Guerin and Ponikarovsky, generated nothing.
The game and the series depended on Halak again. In a performance reminiscent of Hasek dragging a poor Buffalo team into the Stanley Cup Finals in 1999 Halak has demoralized and defeated two of the highest scoring teams in the league this year. Montreal's handful of offensive talents have managed to score enough to win.
The defense has collapsed around Halak and he's stopped 93.4 percent of the league- leading 489 shots he's faced. No one else is close to having faced as many shots or to having made as many saves during these playoffs.
That this Montreal team that seemed unworthy to make the playoffs, should beat two of the Stanley Cup favourites in the first two rounds of the playoffs, is, to me, inconceivable. I can't put together a reason or set of circumstances that can rationally explain what is happening, beyond a hot goalie trumps everything else.
This Montreal team making the Stanley Cup Final is inconceivable to me. Yet as friends, enemies, and a fair number of strangers have been telling me, there they are, beating the Caps, beating the Pens. It's happening. Maybe it's time to stop analysing and start observing.
Maybe I don't know what that word means.