Let the autopsy begin.
Yes, it is unfortunate that the patient is technically still alive. But let’s face it, the Montreal Canadiens really expired sometime during the winter, and thank goodness the Boston Bruins have arrived to end the misery.
|THE CANADIAN PRESS|
|Gainey and his stars feeling the pain as Game 3 ticks down.|
Hard to believe it was just last fall that owner George Gillett and president Pierre Boivin arrived in Toronto for a press conference at the Royal York Hotel all full of bounce and optimism for the club as it entered its 100th anniversary season. Gillett certainly gave no hint his ownership of the storied franchise was in any sense in doubt, while Boivin seemed to suggest the Habs were beyond the point when they would be anything but successful on the ice.
“Today, if you recruit and operate well, are well-managed and well-coached, and have strong fan support, there’s no reason you can’t have a team that’s going to contend . . . forever,” said Boivin.
Those words sure sound a little haunting now, don’t they?
In fact, you could argue that the Florida Panthers, or even the bedraggled Maple Leafs, would have put up a better battle in the first round against Boston than the Habs have. In last night’s Boston victory in Game 3, there were two symbolic moments.
One came partway through the game when Montreal’s Gregory Stewart tried to rough up Boston centre Patrice Bergeron during one of those ridiculous scrums, an indicator that the Habs were so desperate that was the best strategy they could come up with, to have a grinder try to bully a finesse player who had sat out almost all of last year with concussion problems.
The second moment came when Chuck Kobasew scored into an open net with Saku Koivu unable to stop him. As ultimately unsuccessful as was the Mats Sundin era in Toronto, so too is it time to draw a curtain across Koivu’s time as captain in Montreal, which has yielded a big fat nothing.
What went wrong for the Habs?
Maybe it started with goaltending and pretty much finished with goaltending, albeit with a few other issues along the way. Even with all those unrestricted free agents to deal with, GM Bob Gainey’s biggest decision is going to involve the future of goalie Carey Price, and whether he can actually be counted upon to be the backstop of the future.
The jury’s out on that one. But with all the problems the Habs ran into this season, from the Kostitsyn brothers’ social connections to Alexei Kovalev’s year-long funk, all probably could have been handled if Price had delivered top-end netminding.
That’s not to put all the blame on the shoulders of the kid. But in the NHL, it all starts and ends with goaltending. If you don’t have it, you have nothing.
Here’s a few questions for our daily playoff mail bag:
What is the NHL's current policy for officiating? Are the officials instructed to call what they see, or are they instructed to call the situation? Watching the playoffs this weekend, I can't help but think the pendulum is swinging back to the days of few calls down the stretch, and officials trying to "manage" the game. Hopefully you can tell me. I am paranoid.
Mike Pasma, Surrey, BC
A: Don’t be paranoid. Relax, be happy. The referees are instructed to call the rule book, and I really don’t think the standard on interference and hooking in particular has changed. Where they are running into some problems is with all the extra-curricular nonsense going on, and with that stuff, well, I really can’t say what the standard is or even what the rules are. It seems you can mug a guy but as long as you keep your gloves on and make it look like a wrestling match after the whistle you’re likely to escape unpenalized. I like the way, basically, the game is being called, just not the scrum stupidity.
Q: Hello, how do they say on radio? Long time reader first time emailer?
Okay having an uncivilized debate about Steve Mason and the rest of the Goalie corps out there.
I believe that although great as rookie goalie THIS year that I could name 6-7 goalies that were better. That because of all the accolades he has received being a ROOKIE goalie that it is skewed people's thought about where he ranking in term of the Lungo's, Khabulin, Backstroms etc.
Please help by voicing your opinion I don't care if I'm right or wrong I just want to see if the name calling is justified against me...lol
Enjoy the Playoffs
Matthew Fox, Toronto
A: Can’t speak to the name-calling, Matthew. I used to call my daughter (when she was tiny) pumpkin all the time until she lectured me that there was not to be any more vegetable-calling.
I think Mason was right there with the best in the game this season, rookie or otherwise. It was a funny year for statistical comparisons, but if I were to vote for the Vezina (GMs do) I would put Tim Thomas, Roberto Luongo and Mason in my top three, probably. Others might like Miikka Kiprusoff or Nicklas Backstrom. But few would argue Mason doesn’t belong in that group.
Q: Hi Damien,
Just curious about the two year contract that the Leafs gave Christian Hanson. Did those few games he played at the end of the this season count as the first year of the deal? If so, why would they play him and forgo a year of his rights to play in some meaningless games? I thought I read a quote somewhere from Christian himself saying that Burke had promised him a chance to play this year and that was a mitigating factor in his decision to sign with Toronto. Perhaps he and his agent realize this was a one year short-cut to free agency? Is he an UFA at the end of this deal?
Aidan Flanagan, Vancouver
A: Here’s the deal. Hanson signed with the proviso the Leafs would play him immediately and thus burn the first year of the two year deal. He then becomes a restricted free agent at the end of next season. It’s a gamble by both sides. If the kid can really play, the Leafs might be vulnerable to an offer sheet (Dustin Penner, David Backes, etc.). If he’s average, they can dictate his salary on a multi-year deal. But that’s how these deals get done in the absence of huge guaranteed money up front.
Q: Hi Damien. I keep wondering when the Leafs are going to rid themselves of Matt Stajan. For the amount of ice time he gets and 1 mil plus it is not worth 55 points. Don't say he kills penalties as the buds were 29th on the PK. I think the leafs should keep Devereaux long before Stajan.
David Nash, Thunder Bay
A: Right now, its hard to see where Stajan fits on a Brian Burke team. I could see him moved before next fall. But he doesn’t have great value and the Leafs have few assets, so he might get one more shot at finding a more permanent role under Ron Wilson. Devereaux is a terrific guy, but he’s not a long-term answer.
During the playoffs, Damien Cox is answering your questions daily. Click here to submit a question.
**Note: please follow the link above to send a question to Damien. Questions posted in the comments section may not make it to the mailbag. Thanks.**