The Canadiens have been down this road already in the 2010 playoffs. Despite playing well against the Capitals, the Habs found themselves behind in their first round playoff series. The resolve shown to fight back and eventually win that series astounded the hockey world. Though the situation in this series is similar, there are differences between our two opponents which will make a comeback in this series much more difficult – thus making tonight’s contest at the Bell Centre that much more valuable.
One of the largest criticisms that have been laid upon the Capitals since Montreal’s game 7 win has been that Washington never made the adjustment needed to counter Montreal’s game plan of quick strike offense, and all out defense. Washington played out the series expecting that at some point their offensive ability would trump the Canadiens will to win. The Penguins have already shown us that they are willing to adapt which is as critical a skill needed to become champions as any other.
Frustrated by Montreal’s ability to pressure puck carriers, and force turnovers at the defensive blue line, the Penguins have begun to dump pucks in deep with the intent of banging up our already bruised defenders. Instead of playing to our strengths, they shifted their focus to our weakness. The result of this adjustment is that Montreal has had an incredibly difficult time moving pucks through the neutral zone. The Penguins have turned our own strategy against us. I’d dare say they’re better at it too. The strategy of no-mistake, dump, crash, and chase is best attempted with 4 functioning lines for obvious reasons. While the Penguins have been able to roll 4 lines (in essence), we have relied primarily with 3 because of Martin’s desire to keep Sergei, Darche and Maxwell away from the action. Whether or not we agree with this is irrelevant.
The question for tonight will be: Can the Montreal Canadiens adjust in the same way the Penguins have? There is no doubt that they need to do a better job of controlling the play when they can, especially from the 2nd period on. There was a point in the Washinton series where many of us noted, that the good habits the Habs were displaying were becoming less of an anomaly, and more often the rule. The Habs players themselves talked about the fact that they knew they could beat Washington even after game 4 when they saw the series at 3-1. What I’m trying to say is that by doing the little things well, winning becomes a habit. By imposing your will on your opponent (which is what happened in Washington), you control the outcome of the game. Montreal will not dominate the Penguins, but they can certainly beat them. This series will have an entirely different feel if Montreal can once again defeat the Stanley Cup Champs. Its about skating and making good passes to set up our offense. I can’t wait.
Go Habs Go!!!!