Montreal Canadiens Have Now Officially Drawn Everyone's Attention
When given the choice between watching a hockey game on TV or some other sporting event, I'm usually going with the latter.
However, the 2010 National Hockey League Playoffs have gotten me to pay a little more attention to those guys on the ice with the sticks.
Now, I'm still not watching the games per se, but I find myself wanting to know what happened. Actually, my focus is on just one team, the Montreal Canadiens.
The Habs, as they are known around the hockey world, have the most Stanley Cup victories (24) and appearances (34), but haven't made an appearance in the finals since 1993, which is also the last time they won it.
This season, the Habs limped into the playoffs, having the least amount of points amongst all 16 playoffs teams with 88 (tied with the Philadelphia Flyers) and were the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference.
That means they would have to face the Washington Capitals, who absolutely blew through the regular season, amassing 121 points (18 more than the New Jersey Devils in the East and eight more than the San Jose Sharks in the entire NHL).
All Montreal did was force seven games with the Capitals and win the series 4-3, despite being outscored 22-20 in that opening round series.
With the Habs being down 3-1 in the series, goaltender Jaroslav Halak decided to make a name for himself with Montreal. In the series with Washington, Halak played six games, winning three, while making 217 saves on 231 shots (92 percent), including 53 saves in Game Six.
The Capitals only managed to score three goals in the final three games combined.
It was said the reason that Washington lost was because they had everything wrapped up by January and didn't have to play a meaningful game for the last three months of the season.
Like any sport, the playoffs are a totally different atmosphere than the regular season, and if your aren't preparing for it the entire regular season, you won't stand a chance.
In the Eastern Conference semifinals, the Habs were at it again, proving it wasn't luck that got them past Washington.
Montreal forced yet another Game Seven, and won the series, beating the defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins on Wednesday to advance to the Conference Finals to face the winner of the Flyers/Boston Bruins match up.
Against the Pens, Halak played all seven games, with four wins and saved 203 of 219 shots (93 percent).
Halak only played in 45 games during the regular season, but finished ninth in goals against average (2.40) and tied for fourth in save percentage (0.92); two of the biggest categories for goalies.
Montreal has played the most games a team could have played up to this point in the playoffs—14—the only team to do so.
With the San Jose Sharks defeating the Detroit Red Wings, 4-1, in a Western Conference semifinal series, the past two Stanley Cup winners have now been eliminated.
The Montreal Canadiens are on a mission to do something that the franchise hasn't done in 17 years.
The Habs are not alone, though, as the Flyers haven't been one of the final two teams since 1997 and the Bruins have waited since 1990.
Game Seven between the Bruins and Flyers will be played at 6 p.m. Friday in Boston.
In the Western Conference final, the Sharks will play the Chicago Blackhawks. The Sharks have not made a Stanley Cup appearance in their 18 years of existence, while the Blackhawks are in the boat as the Bruins, 20 years and counting.
Even though my knowledge of hockey isn't as expansive as it is in baseball or football, I know a team that accomplishes what the Montreal Canadiens have is a very dangerous team, especially the longer that they are allowed to play.
So don't be surprised if the Habs make it No. 25 when all is said and done.
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