One of the best parts of covering the Montreal Canadiens is getting a chance to communicate with Habs fans from all over the world via email, Twitter and Facebook. All Habs has also created opportunities for fans to get together to watch games through the very successful
I’m pleased that she has contributed the following comprehensive year-in-review article to All Habs. I’m sure that she would appreciate your comments.
MONTREAL, QC — The past season, which ended both later than expected and earlier than expected, can only be described as the Year of What Just Happened?
You could argue that the What Just Happened?ness surrounding the Montreal Canadiens began with the 2008-2009 team’s slide into the depths of embarrassment (or what is known as ‘being mocked by fanbases of teams as successful as the Toronto Maple Leafs’), the unceremonious dumping of the coach, and the first round sweep by our favourite Boston Bruins. Seriously, I would rather the Habs have been swept by a composite team comprising Toronto Maple Leafs, Ottawa Senators and even a Quebec Nord or two than the Boston Bruins.
What just happened? Oh, nothing. The 2008-2009 Montreal Canadiens just soiled the sheets and Guy Carbonneau took the fall for it.
So Bob Gainey rolled up his sleeves, hired a coach whose only redeeming quality was that the local media would not be able to decry his lack of French-speaking skills for the duration of his tenure, and sent goodbye cards to half the roster. Players many thought would have been part of the team’s core for years to come were traded, allowed to walk, or lost to the incompetence of their agents. Then Bob went on a shopping spree.
What just happened? Not a whole lot. Except that Bob acquired some very small players for some very big money. And also, everyone knows Hal Gill sucks. And also, who’s going to score goals without Kovalev?
Training camp started, and Scott Gomez opened the preseason scoring at a sold-out Bell Centre. The look on his face as the crowd reacted to his goal said it all: What just happened?
Our Habs started their season by stealing two road games against division rivals, losing Markov in Game 1. Carey Price put on an audition for Cirque du Soleil in those games and everyone believed he was bouncing back from his sophomore slump. And then came a series of losses and an inability to win in regulation. In fact, for the first 30 games or so, the Habs looked… well, bad. Not basement bad, just run-of-the mill bad.
What just happened? Oy. No Markov, no chemistry, injuries, a couple of beat downs, your usual Habs fans jumping off balconies and calling for Gainey’s head. Oh, right, also, Sergei Kostitsyn keeps running away from home because J-Mart insists on parenting him. Apparently Sergei’s not into curfews.
Then came the Montreal Canadiens Centennial Game on December 4th. The Habs showed the world they could get up for big games, and the 2 per cent of Habs fans who didn’t already want to have Michael Cammalleri’s babies caved that night. It set off a fairly good December for the Habs, and mid-to-late December was when Halak first started to show signs of bumping Carey Price to backup purgatory. The Habs chugged along in January, with Halak stealing more and more games. February brought some losses in important games and the Olympic break, but not before Bob Gainey fired himself.
What just happened? Well, we have no idea how the Habs are doing, and they probably have no idea either, but in their defense they’re all on IR. In the meantime, Jaro put on the show of a lifetime in Vancouver, and Bob must either feel his summer experiment failed or is resigning in protest because the brass wants to trade Carey.
The Habs came back from the Olympic break and went on the not-sucking streak that would determine that they maybe possibly might have had a fighting chance at the playoffs. Whether they were coming back to win in OT in Anaheim or just eking out a win against Boston, they managed to rack up some valuable points while the IR continued to be a revolving door.
Unfortunately, their old friend inconsistency was back down the stretch, which of course meant Habs’ fans were having heart attacks all over the country and your usual Habs’ fan disowning of the team, jumping off of the bandwagon, etc, was in full display. As seems to have become their custom, the Habs waited until the very last possible second to decide whether or not to make the playoffs.
What just happened? For the second year in a row, the Habs made the playoffs with a loser point generously donated by a hated rival. They’re so going to get swept in the first round, right? Well, no, they’ll lose in six games.
The Habs became the first 8th seed to come back from a 3-1 deficit and win the series against a 1st seed when Halak and his defensemen pulled off a shot-blocking miracle on ice and frustrated some Very Big Stars in Washington. They shut down Ovechkin and Semin, and most importantly, the Capitals power play. Cammalleri & Co. took care of the rest.
Oh, yeah, and Brooks Laich magically sensed that a lady and her daughter were in trouble and flew through the air (in a thunderstorm) to the rickety bridge they were stranded on with a flat tire, lifted their entire car with one hand and changed the tire with a flick of his other wrist. Okay, those are not the exact details of what happened, but tell that to the mainstream media.
What just happened? Well, the Habs are going to the second round. Are you serious? Yes. They didn’t get swept? No, in fact they came back from a 3-1 deficit. No way. Dude, did that just happen?
The Canadiens went on to Pittsburgh to dance with the defending champions, who put on a clinic in the first four periods of the series. At which point the Habs decided to put that clinic out of business, despite having lost Markov. Through patience and some really smart play, the Habs came from behind to win games and eventually, the series. Cammalleri, Gorges, and Halak really stood out in this series. Sidney Crosby only stood out if you’re just looking at pouting stats.
What just happened? The Habs eliminated the defending champs and made the conference finals for the first time in 17 years. Can’t you hear the celebrating? All I can hear is store windows being broken and shoes being stolen from the Foot Locker downtown. You can hear shoes being stolen? Yeah, man, and booze, too. Dude, did that just happen?
And along came Philly, otherwise known as kryptonite to the Habs. The Canadiens seemed to have lost steam and their ability to score on the power play. Or at all. They were not going to win a series by being shut out three times by a journeyman goaltender. They played one game well. They played miserably in the other four. Was it a letdown?
Those of us who remembered the Flyers series from two years ago or watched them at all this year could kind of see this coming. Philly is a tough, tough team, while the Habs are just not. And when you get to within four games of the Stanley Cup Final, the tougher team has an edge.
What just happened? Well, the Habs gave us a playoff run to be excited about. Dude, I meant what happened this year? Well… I’m still scratching my head.
Thank you, Montreal Canadiens, for a crazy season and an exciting postseason. See you at training camp!
Category: Guest article