Habs eliminated in round one of NHL playoffs; something went wrong long ago


Come on in from the ledge Habs’ fans, it was over before last night’s loss, the fight has been missing from this team for some time. Now that the unthinkable has happened, and the Montreal Canadiens have been eliminated from the NHL playoffs, there will be postmortems aplenty. imageLet’s face it, it was an odd season all round with the lockout delaying the beginning until January and then a truncated schedule. It will be a season marked by many asterisks. But it was the same for all teams so that’s no excuse for Montreal’s early departure at the hands of seventh place Ottawa. To find out what’s wrong with the once legendary franchise – and there is something wrong when you compare the current team to older, glorious versions – that has now gone 20 years without a championship, you have to look way back to April 17, 1997.

Come on in from the ledge Habs’ fans, it was over before last night’s loss

On that night at the Meadowlands in New Jersey the Habs were playing game one of the Conference Quarterfinals against the Devils. They trailed 4-2 with time running out so they pulled their goaltender for an extra attacker. Devils goaltender Martin Brodeur handled the puck at the side of his net and shot it the length of the ice and into Montreal’s empty net. Yep, it’s not enough you’re beating a team, but to rub their nose in it by having your goalie score is a bit unprofessional to say the least. When you do it to the 24 time Stanley Cup champs it’s deplorable.

I tip my hat to the Ottawa Senator players for their decisive series victory; however I can’t extend the same courtesy to their coach Paul MacLean

As you can well imagine the hallowed Montreal Canadiens weren’t going to take this humiliation without letting Brodeur know what they felt about it. Immediately the red light went on to indicate a goal, several Montreal players converged on Brodeur to drive home the point. Other players came over the boards and a series of fights broke out as the Habs made it clear there is a price to pay for humiliating them. Sticks and gloves littered the ice as frustrated Canadiens players delivered the message. Devils players came to Brodeur’s protection, and the final seconds of the game ticked away with verbal jousting going on and promises to even things up next game.

John Ferguson RDS

If only that is what had actually happened; sadly what did happen after Brodeur scored was … almost nothing. The box score for the game indicates a minimal amount of penalty minutes. There was a tussle between Dave Manson and Lyle Odelein, and Craig Rivet got a misconduct after the goal.  They were a dejected, beaten and humiliated team. As I’ve written before, I grew up watching the Montreal Canadiens when they were the class of the league. Can you imagine John Ferguson letting a goalie get away with that? Chris Nilan? Serge Savard?

Can you imagine John Ferguson letting a goalie get away with that?

This one incident convinced me that the era of greatness of the Montreal Canadiens was over, the torch had been dropped and the pride was gone. I wish I had the answer as how to regain that pride, but I fear that in this era of greed, trying to rekindle the glory of the past is a fruitless endeavor.

I tip my hat to the Ottawa Senator players for their decisive series victory; however I can’t extend the same courtesy to their coach Paul MacLean who, with a comfortable 6-1 lead in game three chose to show no class and take his time-out with 16 seconds left. Just to prolong the misery. (Some have said he did it to tell his players to keep out of any fights as the game ended, but he could have done that without taking the time-out, as coaches did for decades before there were time-outs in the NHL.)

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