Where to start?
After letting it sink in for 12 hours last night’s loss is still as enraging and disappointing as it was initially.
The Canadiens with a chance to all but finalize the series totally outplayed the visiting Canes for 95% of the game. Killing penalty after penalty and leading 1-0 until late into the 3rd it was looking great.
Then guess who makes a weak play resulting in a poor Carolina tying goal late in the 3rd? You guessed right, ol’ sore nuts Sheldon Souray. Say what you will about Souray but it was a bad play and it WAS his fault and it wasn’t the first time he’s been the primary reason for weak goals.
I’ve been critical of Souray in the past and deservedly so. The type of player that can make you cringe with one of his bonehead brain lapses and then make you crazy when he rips a blast from the point. Balance the offence he produces with the defensive lapses and it’s almost not worth having him play or having him on the ice for anything but powerplays.
Small things make big differences in the NHL playoffs and what could and would have probably been a 1-0 win and 3-0 series lead was lost because of Novice defending.
What’s more infuriating is the Officiating. Everyone’s seen the replay of Saku Koivu skating off the ice with blood dripping out of his eyeball. A wild and errant stick striking him under the visor and in the eye. Koivu was injured seriously and the extent is still not known.
Where’s the penalty call?
No penalty, no call. 4 officials on the ice. The infraction happening not behind the play not hidden in the corner but smack in the middle of the action and right in front of the net. How can that be missed? Another game changing and perhaps season changing moment.
Any remorse from Justin Williams? Any comment at all after potentially ruining a man’s career?
If that wasn’t bad enough, while the Canadiens Captain in a hospital potentially blinded and with his career in jeopardy, the officials then proceed to call 5 consecutive penalties on the Canadiens including a four minute double minor with less than 5 minutes remaining in the 3rd period. For HIGH STICKING no less. The Canadiens work it out only to be given one of the weakest calls of any game so far in the playoffs against Plekanec in overtime.
Game over. A lost stick turns it into a 5-3 and a long point shot wins the game.
Trying to be as unbiased as possible but who can argue that wasn’t the most appalling officiating?
It was a sinking feeling and things like that have the possibility of completely turning the series around. Who wants to give Carolina life? Who wants to let Cam Ward build confidence after an outstanding performance? It was reminiscent of the 02 series and the Canes comeback. The Canadiens can’t shake those memories and everytime they lose the doubt resurfaces.
Can the Canadiens shake it off? Does this build character as a team and bring out more from the Habs or do they shrivel up and die?
Will the loss of Koivu be detrimental to the Habs? One could argue that losing your Captain in a playoff series is a huge loss. One could also argue that Koivu had been a non factor in the series scoring no points and having less than normal ice time. It was speculated that he may have already been nursing an injury to begin with. Whatever the outcome we all hope he makes a full recovery after what looked like a very serious injury to the eye.
Taking a minute to slow down and look at the positive. The Canadiens lead the series 2-1 and are playing another home game where they can regain a stranglehold on the series. They were not out played and they looked like the better team. Their penalty killing was absolutely fantastic. No one thought it would be easy and given the choice of starting the series 2-1 at home everyone would have taken that.
If the Canadiens managed to somehow squeak out that overtime goal and win the game would everyone be so outraged? Hardly. Definitely upset, but assuming Koivu does make a healthy return it’d be soon forgotten.
The NHL Playoffs are a wild ride.