Capital Punishment

29Apr10

Ding dong, the Caps are dead. And what a shocking demise it was for the NHL’s 2009-2010 President’s Trophy winner.

Yes, the Montreal Canadiens have pulled off the impossible. Pegged as underdogs by anybody with the slightest modicum of hockey acumen, the Habs knocked the Washington Capitals off on their own home ice last night in Game 7 of their Eastern Conference Quarter-Final series.

Nobody, this fan included, expected Les Habitants to stand a chance in this series, especially after they fell behind 3-1 in the series after Game Four.

But the Habs prevailed through tenacity and unbelievable goaltending from Jaroslav Halak. So, the Caps are dead and about to begin a long off-season of questions after fizzling in the first round.

As jubilant as I am about the Habs’ win though, some things are troubling me about the way the media in this part of the country  — read: Leafs Territory — are slanting the win.

“Canadiens Advance After Capital Collapse”, read the headline on Sportsnet.ca (Ontario) shortly after the game.

To be fair, Sportsnet ran an article from AP that focused on the Caps unquestionable collapse.

But I still think some media outlets are having a hard time wrapping their heads around this one. Yes, the Habs were woefully outshot in the series. Yes, Halak was outstanding. But as some have pointed out, Habs players themselves blocked an astounding 41 shots in Game 7 . Forty-one shots! That’s an entire game-and-change more worth of shots.

In the end, the Caps were undone by a number of things, including a lack of veteran leadership, an inability to match the fight in their small but scrappy opponent, the inability to shift their game plan when it became clear it wasn’t working, and the overall determination of the Canadiens.

Sure, Halak stopped a tonne of shots. But the Habs did a masterful job of keeping Washington’s big guns on the periphery and making them shoot from 40-feet out.

Damien Cox, of the Toronto Star, might have summed things up most accurately in saying the Habs victory was equal parts their own play and Washington’s poor play.

To simply credit Halak and the Capitals collapse alone is to ignore a great team effort from this year’s playoff David.

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