Deep breaths … nice and easy; game one of the NHL’s Eastern Conference Final was just a blip on the radar. It’s over and done with, finito, history, forgotten … well, almost. The 7-2 drubbing my Montreal Canadiens were handed by the New York Rangers, on home ice no less, has to be put aside.
But like an exploring tongue that just has to keep poking a cavity even if it hurts, the question of what went wrong persists. How could a team that had played and won such a tough seven-game series against their long-time and very bitter rivals from Boston fold like a house of cards? Could it be that the Rangers are an extremely fast team and were able to skate circles around Montreal? Or that Montreal’s goaltender Carey Price, who has been stellar through two series thus far, got off to a slow start and then may or may not have been injured? Both of these are possible, but true Habs fans know the real culprit is NBC Sports and their 1:00 start time.
In the last series against the loathed Bruins, the teams met at the ungodly hour of 12:30 PM Saturday afternoon to accommodate NBC’s Kentucky Derby coverage later. The Habs coughed-up a 3-1 lead in the last part of third period. Why? I suspect it has to do with the fact few Habs had played at that time since they were in Peewee Hockey, and those games are only 45 minutes long. No wonder they got confused and stopped playing early!
The Rangers whipped the Habs in a game with a Saturday afternoon 1:00 PM puck-drop. How are they supposed to rejig their game day preparations? When is the morning skate if the game starts at 1:00? How about 4:30 AM? And when does one slip in the all-important pregame nap? Sometime around 9:30 AM? The rules of napping clearly indicate that morning naps are not allowed unless the napper is sick or hung-over. Evidently some members of the Canadiens stuck to their usual routines and had their sleep at 2:00 PM, about mid-way through the second period.
I know what you’re thinking; it was the same for both teams. Of course you’re correct. Even winning Rangers coach Alain Vigneault pointed out that in Canada we are used to Hockey Night in Canada, not Hockey Afternoon.
So now we’re back to night games, in fact the rest of the games have an 8:00 PM start time, not the more common 7:30 PM. This reminds me of the old days when eight o’clock was the standard game-time, and that seemed to suit the Habs to a tee. Let’s see if a properly-napped Habs can bounce back tonight.