Beast of the east humbled by Habs

So…is the Presidents’ Trophy becoming a curse? Well, if you ask the Washington Capitals and last year’s San Jose Sharks, they just might be open to the possibility that it just might be so.

Last year, the Sharks finished the regular season with an NHL-high 117 points, one more than the Boston Bruins…but fell to the Anaheim Ducks who squeezed into the playoffs with 91 points. This year it was the Montreal Canadiens entering into the post season with a mere 88 points…just five more than the Thrashers’ 83…and they then proceeded to knock off the mighty Washington Capitals, who finished with 121 points.

In fact, of the five Presidents’ Trophy winners since the lockout, three have failed to advance to the second round. In 2006 the Edmonton Oilers knocked out the top-seeded Red Wings and rode that waive right into the Stanley Cup Finals. Going back to 2000, it was the St. Louis Blues that ended their fine season on a down note, losing to the San Jose Sharks in seven games.

Bucking the trend of late, however, were the Red Wings of 2008 who skated away with the Stanley Cup after finishing the regular season with a league-high 115 points. They also pulled off that trick in 2002.

Speaking of ’02…that spring the Canadiens performed a similar feat by bumping the top-seeded Boston Bruins in the first round.

Bruins and Flyers - Who wins?

  • #6 Boston (64%, 69 Votes)
  • #7 Philly (36%, 38 Votes)

Total Voters: 107

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But back to Montreal’s latest stunner…this one was nothing short of amazing as they fell behind Washington 3 games to 1 and have been facing elimination since last Friday night. However since that time, have outscored the Capitals 8-3 over the course of games five through seven despite the fact that they were outshot…now get this…134-65.

The star on the Canadiens’ show was the man between the pipes, Jaroslav Halak who saved all but three of the 134 shots he faced over the last three games, (.978 SV%), including 41 of the 42 shots Washington took on him Wednesday night.

Another 41 shots were blocked in front of him.

Not to be overlooked here is the fact that Montreal’s penalty kill unit faced down the best power play in the NHL this year, holding them to just one, single, solitary goal on 31 power play opportunities. I guess it’s only fitting then that they closed out the deciding game seven while fending off a Caps’ man advantage.

Penguins and Canadiens - Who wins?

  • #4 Pittsburgh (66%, 75 Votes)
  • #8 Montreal (34%, 38 Votes)

Total Voters: 113

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With the 8-1 upset by the Habs, and the fact that all three division winners in the Eastern Conference went down in the opening round, this leaves #4 Pittsburgh as the highest remaining team in the east. Thus, they will take on the Canadiens while the #7 Flyers take on the #6 Bruins.

Of course, given that the Flyers have not seen action since disposing of the Devils in five games last week, the question that will be asked by some is “will they be rusty coming into the second round having spent so much time off?” Personally, I think that after playing 87 games with only the Olympic break in February to rest up, Philly probably looked forward to the time off. They should benefit from having been given time for some of the bumps and bruises to heal and it should make for a great matchup with Boston.

The Flyers got great goaltending from Brian Boucher, whose 1.59 GAA was tops in the first round, helping to keep the Flyers GA/G average down to just 1.80 per game. Philadelphia was led by Mike Richards’ 8 overall points as well as Claude Giroux’s 4 goals and 2 assists for 6 points. Chris Pronger and Danny Brier each had 5 points.

Boston’s Tuukka Rask had a nifty 2.18 GAA and .927 SV% against Buffalo, even though the Sabres were able to get off an average of 32.3 shots per game. The Bruins offense saw four players tallying five overall points…Mark Recchi, David Krejci, Patrice Bergeron and Miro Satan. Two others…Dennis Wideman and Matt Hunwick…had four points.

The Bruins will regain the services of Marc Savard for their series with the Flyers (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer, File)

The Bruins will regain the services of Marc Savard for their series with the Flyers (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer, File)

As for the team Montreal will face, Pittsburgh’s offense was on full display as they gave the boot to Ottawa in six games. Sidney Crosby’s 5 goals and 9 assists for 11 overall points led the Penguins’ charge. He was also a +7 in the series. Evgeni Malkin scored 4 goals, 4 assists and was a +2. Sergei Gonchar had 6 assists and was a +7.

As for predictions…well, I’m already on record as going with Detroit and Chicago out west. As for the east, well I’m gonna pick the Bruins in seven fun-packed, thrilling games. I’d like to jump on the Habs band wagon, but I think Pittsburgh will be playing just a little better team hockey than did the Caps in these past three games. Montreal makes it interesting though…but fall in six games to the Pens.

And as I said in the previous blog, take these picks to your local, friendly bookie at your own risk as I went 4-4 with my first-round picks. Meanwhile, “lola” accurately predicted 7 out of 8 based solely on whether or not she liked the team’s jersey or not.

But if I am correct, that would leave the Blackhawks and Red Wings battling it out for the Western Conference Finals and Boston dealing with Pittsburgh in the ECCS.

Either way, the Capitals are simply left to admire their President’s Trophy.

148 comments Add your comment

Brendan

April 29th, 2010
12:01 am

I suppose I should pick someone. What the heck, Boston over Philly. Penguins roll all the way to the Cup Finals. Hey, my picks are the same as yours, Rawhide. Pittsburgh, Boston, Chicago and Detroit.

Re: President’s Trophy, it does seem to be a mixed bag of blessings. On the one hand, being the team with the best overall record during the regular season is a very fine accomplishment. On the other hand, it seems like President’s Trophy winners fail to win the Cup 67% of time. I think the mark is 8-16 for the 24 seasons in which the President’s Trophy has been awarded. Here are the clubs who achieved the feat of winning both the Trophy and the Cup in the same year.

1987 Edmonton Oilers
1989 Calgary Flames
1994 NY Rangers
1995 Detroit Red Wings
1999 Dallas Stars
2001 Colorado Avalanche
2002 Detroit Red Wings
2008 Detroit Red Wings

RevB

April 29th, 2010
12:04 am

Brendan

April 29th, 2010
12:05 am

Yes, I know. In 1995, the New Jersey Devils defeated Detroit. Sorry. I’ll stand corrected at seven clubs.

Brendan

April 29th, 2010
12:09 am

WBF, Smoothie, Rob … I know what you’ll say about 1999. But the league says Dallas won.

PensFan

April 29th, 2010
12:29 am

I feeel weird about this Caps loss. As a hockey fan I wanted to see a Caps – Pens conference finals. As a Pens fan, I gotta admit the path to the finals, while not guaranteed, just got easier.

NBC must be pissed, though. CBC is happy though as Ovi’s loss is offset in ratings by the Montreal Canadiens brand name.

I think Pens over Montreal in 5 or 6. Fleury will blow a game or two even if he gets it together eventually.

Tossup: Boston in 6 or Philly in 7.

In the Conf Finals: I think Pittsburgh over Philly in 6.

Western Conference: I have no idea. All 4 teams are Stanley Cup caliber.

Cup Finals: No idea who meet Pittsburgh. And no idea who wins.

PensFan

April 29th, 2010
12:30 am

I gotta say: Semin should have been traded by the Caps for a defensive defenseman or a Selke caliber forward.

Sage of Bravesland

April 29th, 2010
6:05 am

Do not subsidize the incompetence. Do not spend your money on that fraud of a coach or his equally inept hitting coach. Hit the owners where it hurts worse, in their pocket

Lee

April 29th, 2010
6:54 am

Wave off goal shouldve counted. Yes, he did NUDGE the goalie, but not push him! I see that happen in the regular season all the time!! Ovi looked extremely disapointed, sorry caps!

kracker

April 29th, 2010
7:39 am

Congrats to Iola for picking seven of eight first round winners!

Pens too much for Habs w/ home ice….better sweaters, too :)
Flyers….just because I still appreciate them knocking off the Devils.

World Be Free

April 29th, 2010
7:47 am

I mentioned yesterday about getting into someone’s head. Halak did just that in Game 6 and it carried over to Game 7. Also noted that if the score was 0-0 after one, Washington was in trouble. Make it more trouble when it was 1-0, Montreal.

Jacques Martin and his coaching staff are the real stars of this series. They had the Habs ready to play playoff hockey, while Washington stayed in regular season mode. Boudreau doesn’t look like an elite coach today, more like the minor leaguer he was during his playing days. The Caps clinched a playoff birth around January 1, so it’s been awhile since they had a game to play for. The headlights they were staring in last night were pretty bright.

TSN sucks, plain and simple. They spend too much time trying to mirror the idiocy of ESPN.

Brendan, Sabres Cup drought is 40 years total. Ruff and Regier are the “drivers” of the last 12 year drought. I believe, in the end both will end up staying, but at some point the idiots that own the Sabres have to look to make some change. They have 4-5 players that absolutely disappeared in the Boston series.

Ramsay, Luce and Gare were a great line for the Sabres in the 70’s. Perreault was a beast that rarely used his size and strength to compliment his skill. If they guy ever had a heart (like Pat LaFontaine or any of the current Habs) to match his skill he could have been one of the best ever. Starting to lean towards Craig Ramsay as the next coach, though I would be disappointed if Torchetti got the job either. Both would be good picks.

World Be Free

April 29th, 2010
7:49 am

Brendan-1999

And the league has the last word. Hull was in the crease, but he should have been placed on his backside, if the Sabres’ defense was doing their job in the first place.

Cliff Fletcher

April 29th, 2010
8:01 am

Sage of Bravesland-don’t get me started

Terry Pendleton makes Don Waddell look like Sam Pollack

LAC

April 29th, 2010
8:03 am

Maybe Bruce will call John for advice on putting an high scoring team on the ice next season…

D.C. looked really bad, Just believe they “thought” they could win because of the regular season…
Guess NOT !

Riceowls

April 29th, 2010
8:08 am

Definition of manic-depression: go from Beast of the east to losing three HOME games to lose in the first round. D.C. needs a whole lotta Xanax this morning

World Be Free

April 29th, 2010
8:24 am

The Caps fans were pretty more smug during 8-1 Washington’s drubbing of the Thrashers earlier this year. Betcha those Washington idiots who were sitting behind me at that game are quiet today.

lola

April 29th, 2010
8:26 am

Thanks, Mr. Kracker! The pressure is on for Round 2 — I’ll probably do better with my Derby picks.

GaVaHokie

April 29th, 2010
8:31 am

Draft Update… Detroit holds the “key” to our draft position now. We’ll draft either 23rd or 24th based on the Detroit/San Jose series. Nothing else matters.

All four teams in the East are ranked lower than the New Jersey Devils (Division Winner) in draft status… all Division Winners in the East are eliminated (crazy).

Washington is locked in to 26th.

A Detroit win:

26) Washington
25) San Jose
24) Chicago/Vancouver
23) Atlanta (via NJ)

A Detroit loss:

26) Washington
25) Chicago/Vancouver
24) Atlanta (via NJ)

rob

April 29th, 2010
8:39 am

Halak wasn’t in their head, they threw everything but the kitchen sink at the guy, the Habs blocked more shots than most teams actually get on net in a game. We just watched what a hot goalie does in the playoffs, gives ANY team a chance to win. Habs didn’t have the skill to compete, they were completely overmatched. All the ice time was spent in their zone. A hot goalie in the zone crushed a better team, and good sticks in the lane blocked shots. Do they repeat it against the Pens? Seriously doubt it, but the playoffs are a new season and what happened in the regular season doesn’t account for much now. I think we all missed out on what would have been a classic matchup of the Pens/Bruins with Savard back, but oh well.

rob

April 29th, 2010
8:46 am

Brendan,
There should be an asterik next to the Stars names for ‘99 LOL After the league called that the entire season I was just in total shock that the most important goal of the season ended like that, I just kept waiting for them to tell the Stars no goal and to line up for the faceoff, even after it was apparent they weren’t going to. HAHA Buffalo sports are cursed.

On a side note anyone notice how many sticks Ovechkin broke on shots?!?! Not sure that is a normal occurrance with him but I saw 3 I think and I didn’t see the first period and 1/2 of the game. Any Caps or Ovechkin fan know if that is norm for him?

World Be Free

April 29th, 2010
8:50 am

rob-how many times did Caps’ players look to the sky after a Halak save?
I give the Habs’ alotta credit for blocking shots, no doubt. But in the end, Montreal beat Washington 3 straight for 2 reasons 1) the way they played as a team 2) the guy in nets for games 5-6-7

Price is now officially available for trade.

DWTOO

April 29th, 2010
8:53 am

Think Mr. Halak will be receiving a HUGE raise next year. Let the bidding begin.

FormerIslesFan

April 29th, 2010
9:05 am

Following up on DWTOO’s comment:

So, once again I ask the question to GS29: Still think Halak is not a “money” goalie?

Savannah Blueland Fan

April 29th, 2010
9:05 am

I’m just as stunned this morning as I was last night. Then to switch channels and watch the Braves lose yet again??? Stunned, just stunned. I only hope that while building that statue to Halak, the classy Montreal fans (yeah, I know, that’s an oxymoron) will pause to honor the services of Mike Green since he was equally responsible for the Habs victory. Anyone think that old BB will be joining his good buddy JA down at the local labor pool? Probably not.

Philly/Boston—the Flyers are checking themselves INTO the hospital while the Bruins are being released….my money is on Boston.

Montreal/Pittsburgh—maybe I’ll just skip this one since I don’t want either team to win.

Scotty

April 29th, 2010
9:06 am

It’s a good thing I don’t root for teams based on their jerseys or I would never be a Thrashers fan. Those blue things are hideous. Glad the system worked for lola though.

Anyone else notice how AO tried to win the game by himself last night? In the second period he wasn’t even looking to pass the puck. Playing against one player is pretty easy to defend.

I simply can not pull for the frogs, but I can admire what they did this past week. I think they will give the Pens a run but I’ll take Pittsburgh 4 to 2.

I like Philadelphia to keep rolling and take the Bruins in six or seven. I am interested to see how well Savard will play coming back from that head injury. Cooke is a goon.

Out west I’ll take San Jose in seven and Vancouver in six.

Sage of Hawksland

April 29th, 2010
9:10 am

EA

April 29th, 2010
9:19 am

Semin and Green are literally being trashed on the DC blogs. Ovie has upset many fans as well. Many feel he is a one trick pony and the Habs had his number. The reaction to JA’s good friend Bruce,is very mixed, but definitely leans negative.

R. Stroz

April 29th, 2010
9:20 am

The Capitals were stripped of their Stanley Cup dreams by a hard working opponent. When the rubber met the road, the Caps couldn’t close the deal.

As Ovechkin had his head fixated on the puck instead of the entire playing surface, he wasn’t able to see the other players preparing to steal the puck away.

The Caps have learned a very valuable lesson, the hard way.

Alan R.

April 29th, 2010
9:30 am

The Cup is for closers only (nsfw-language). The Canadiens were sitting there, waiting to give the Capitals the game. The Capitals weren’t man enough to take it.

It was F or walk. We see what the Capitals decided to do.

Red Light

April 29th, 2010
9:31 am

Maybe Ovechkin is the next Charles Barkley, who had 123 playoff games in 13 playoff appearances with just one trip to the NBA Finals. Wouldn’t that suck for him?

Joe Friday

April 29th, 2010
9:47 am

“Halak wasn’t in their head, they threw everything but the kitchen sink at the guy, the Habs blocked more shots than most teams actually get on net in a game. We just watched what a hot goalie does in the playoffs, gives ANY team a chance to win. Habs didn’t have the skill to compete, they were completely overmatched. All the ice time was spent in their zone. A hot goalie in the zone crushed a better team, and good sticks in the lane blocked shots.”

Bingo. This is 100% spot on. The Caps massively outplayed the Habs in this series. There was one reason they won, and that’s a goalie who stood on his head for three straight games and the guys in front of him recognized it and shut things down and leaned on him. It’s hockey, it happens. Get in the real season and get a goalie who’s hot, and you can run all the way to the Finals. Halak keeps playing like that and they can take the Pens out as well.

It’s why the goaler is the most important position on the ice and regardless of what you’ve seen Waddell do trying to build this club, it’s the first and most important position that must be addressed. Build from the goal out. If we want success, it’s the first thing that needs fixed on this club.

“Still think Halak is not a “money” goalie?”

You’re kiddin me? That was the definition of money.

Red Light

April 29th, 2010
9:48 am

For those of you who believe that the Penguins are a given in the Eastern Conference, I’d like to point out that the last time a team appeared in the Stanley Cup Finals in three consecutive seasons was 1983-85 when the Edmonton Oilers did it. They lost to the Islanders in ‘83 and won the Stanley Cup the next two seasons beating the Islanders and Flyers.

Since the current playoff format was instituted for the 1994 playoffs, a sixth seed has hosted a second-round series four times, most recently in 2006 (Anaheim). The Eastern Confrence’s 4-6-7-8 seeds also won first-round series in 1998 and 1999. Oddly, this is Boston’s second time hosting a second-round series as a No. 6 seed (1999).

I think we’ll see a Pennsylvania Turnpike Conference Finals with the Penguins winning in 6 games and the Flyers also winning in 6 games.

Montreal can play with the Penguins but in the end I think they have too much for the Habs, particularly on their third and fourth lines. As the talking heads said last night, Martin was forced to play a short bench and that’s not a good sign against the Penguins.

The Bruins defensive corps is weakened without Seidenberg, Ference and Stuart, forcing Hunwick and Boychuk to play too many minutes. The Savard return will no doubt be a boost but Philly is not only rested but they have the veteran North American leadership so vital in the playoffs.

So, my Final Four includes the Sharks, Blackhawks, Penguins and Flyers.

World Be Free

April 29th, 2010
10:05 am

I am just wondering how much Montreal has left in the tank after that series. They are small, have limited depth and played a number of guys alotta minutes in this series. They also have a bunch of bruises from all the blocked shots. That will catch up with you, as the bruises mount.

Washington never altered the way they played throughout the series. You habve to play playoff hockey in the 2nd, not just believe your regular season game plan will transcend to the playoffs. It doesn’t work that way, no matter who you are.

Eric Belanger and Scott Walker would be great pickups for the Thrashers. They are both UFAs.

World Be Free

April 29th, 2010
10:09 am

Believe me, a hot goalie that gets in the zone does get into the heads of the opposing team, especially in a long series. When you are throwing everything at a goalie and nothing is going in, it has an impact on the opposing team.

R. Stroz

April 29th, 2010
10:15 am

Kovy has another golfing buddy today.

DWTOO

April 29th, 2010
10:18 am

The Caps looked very frustrated last night. From the looks on the faces from the bench it looked like they couldn’t believe what was happening and didn’t know what to do.

Joe Friday

April 29th, 2010
11:08 am

“I’d like to point out that the last time a team appeared in the Stanley Cup Finals in three consecutive seasons was 1983-85 when the Edmonton Oilers did it.”

Well, since Crosby is the Next One and the greatest player since, they should do it, right?!?

Red Light

April 29th, 2010
11:39 am

Well, the Penguins also broke a 24-year long streak last year. That was that a team that finished runner-up the prior year hadn’t returned to the Cup Finals since the Oilers did in 1983 and 1984. So, they completed the first part and certainly are capable of taking the next step. But, I sure hope not, I’m having a bad case of Penguins-envy.

Smoothie

April 29th, 2010
11:47 am

I am most disappointed for the NHL. The Habs played well and deserved to win the series. But right now, the NHL needs Ovechkin vs Crosby. Plain and simple. There’s no way they capitalize on the ratings momentum they had coming out of the Olympics. Perhaps a Pens v. Wings rematch will do pretty well, but casual fans won’t tune-in to watch Pens v Habs and B’s v Flyers. Well, the ratings in the NE will be okay, but this certainly isn’t what Gary Bettman and company had hoped for.

kracker

April 29th, 2010
12:01 pm

That’s a good point, Smoothie…They needed a ratings matchup like all those Bird-Magic series.

Red Light

April 29th, 2010
12:05 pm

Screw the NHL Smoothie! I’m sick of the incessant Crosby-Ovechkin BS. There are 690 players in the NHL, not two, and the sooner they realize it the better off the league will be in the long run. It’s time to begin pushing the other great players in the league. Everyone knows #87 and #8, but we don’t need to further the whole star struck generation that has been fostered by ESPN and others for the past 30 years.

As a hockey fan, I know you appreciate the unseen, unheard part of the game, ie the boardwork, backchecking, forechecking, shot blocking etc. It ain’t sexy but it’s a huge part of the game. Others need to realize it to, and not be so fixated on highlight reel goals and no-look passes. Bettman has brought this BS on himself.

Sell the game, not the people.

da 'boomer

April 29th, 2010
12:07 pm

Is Mike Green the lamest Norris Trophy nominee ever? Ya think Stevie Y knew something when he overlooked Green for the Canadian Olympic team?

R. Stroz

April 29th, 2010
12:10 pm

Bettman has brought this BS on himself.

Bettman is following the footsteps of Stern and the NBA.

Red Light

April 29th, 2010
12:12 pm

Yes, and look where the NBA is now!

Dwayne

April 29th, 2010
12:13 pm

I’m sick of crotchby and the dirty player from the crapitals also, it’s as bad as hearing about the spankees and the red sux. excuse me, i have to go puke!!!

rob

April 29th, 2010
12:23 pm

While the name recognition might not be as high, I have to think that every Stanley Cup playoff game is great for the game. I don’t care who’s playing, I am watching it, because while the regular season is great, playoff hockey is AWESOME. Go back to listen to the Habs fans in Game 6 and tell me where else you would get that kind of intensity?!?!?! Folks watching just because of one name aren’t fans of the game, it is a team, an attitude, a culture. If you watch just one game, and can get an understanding for what is happening, you are hooked. I say the top teams falling out adds more drama to it, because it took something special for them to lose, ex. Halak standing on head and building a brick wall at the goal line and taking all the potshots the Caps could throw his way to no avail. Now let’s watch and see if he does it again, or gets dismantled by the Pens. That’s a story. B’s get Savard back, let’s see if he’s OK and where they can go from there. Sharks snake bitten yet again or is this the year? Hawks legit or not? Will we see yet another Wing drive (I hope not someone else needs a shot from out west)? Vancouver, let’s see?
All are good stories for the NHL and a good reason to be watching playoff hockey.

I left out mentioning the Bums in Philly, just can’t bring myself to say good about them (apologies to Philly fans but I am sure you understand).

Joe Friday

April 29th, 2010
12:25 pm

“I sure hope not, I’m having a bad case of Penguins-envy.”

I don’t know if you remember seeing her in her Pens Mario sweater at games, especially in the early years when Pitts. came to town, but the wife is a huge Pens’ fan, so she’s pretty happy with the turn of events–if it winds up Pens-Hawks, I may have to sleep in the guest room. I don’t root much for the Pens, but I respect and like the club, always liked Mario as well and appreciate what he did to save that franchise for the city. Don’t get all the Crosby bashing, unless it’s just pure envy, the kid is a player.

R. Stroz

April 29th, 2010
12:25 pm

Yes, and look where the NBA is now!

Exactly. In fact, the NBA playoff games, at times, appear staged to promote certain teams to the deep rounds of the playoffs.

ben

April 29th, 2010
12:33 pm

Crosby is waaaay overrated.

R. Stroz

April 29th, 2010
12:42 pm

Joe Bob Friday – Yes, Crotchby has talent, but he’s also a whiny punk.

The Boris backside ball attack was one of the most gutless acts I’ve ever seen in hockey.

If an official dares to call a penalty on him, you’d think someone just took his teddy bear.

If Crotchby would just shut up and play the game, take checks like a man, and respond by checking back, I’d have some respect for the kid.

rob

April 29th, 2010
12:43 pm

Joe,
I tried not to like him but the more you watch the more it seems he finds a way to come through when they need it. I think most people don’t like him because they feel he didn’t pay his “dues” yet, but if anything that should be more to his credit now that he is showing it wasn’t just a flash in the pan and he is living up to the hype.