Category archive: Montreal Canadiens
The Flyers won 4-2 to oust the Habs in five games and advance to their first Cup finals since 1997.
(Photo courtesy: Getty Images)
He is now tied with Maurice "Rocket" Richard, Jean Beliveau and Guy Lafleur for the fourth-highest postseason goal total in Habs history. Newsy Lalonde had 17 in 1918-19, Yvan Cournoyer had 15 in 1973 and Frank Mahovlich had 14 in 1971. The good thing for Cammalleri is he might be only halfway done this postseason.
"We've heard since July 1 that we're too small and we won't be able to compete the whole season, we won't be able to make the playoffs," Cammalleri said. "'When the playoffs come, how is [this] small team going to be able to compete?' What can I say? We're having a little bit of success and we're only halfway there."
Special teamsIf there was one area that was particularly off for the Penguins on Wednesday night, it was their potent power play. Coming into Game 7, they were the most prolific of the remaining playoff teams and yet came up empty, constantly misfiring on passes and making ill-advised decisions with the puck. They were 0-for-6 in Game 7.
"We had a few plays that are uncharacteristic of the skill level of the guys we had out there," Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said. "It was uncharacteristic and again was part of that first period we didn't expect."
Shutting down Sid and GenoHow did the Habs feel about limiting Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin to two goals in the series? Pretty good, as you might expect.
"That's a credit to this team. Those are two very, very talented players who I think pushed us to be better," said Josh Gorges, who emerged as a leader along the injury-riddled Canadiens' blue line in this series. "I think we knew what kind of challenge it would be to play against those guys. We didn't shy away from that challenge.
"You can't stop those guys if you don't have five guys playing defense, which we did. Our forwards were unbelievable coming back; they didn't give anyone any time."
Say goodbye to Mellon ArenaIt may have been a melancholy feeling for the Pens and their fans to say goodbye to Mellon Arena, but not everyone shared the same nostalgia for the battered, decaying, old building.
"We've been talking about it all series, let's make sure this is the last game in [Mellon]," Cammalleri said. "Let's do everybody a favor and make sure nobody has to come in here again."
PITTSBURGH -- There was a lot of discussion in the hours before Game 7 about the value of experience in these situations or, if you believe Pittsburgh coach Dan Bylsma, the absolute lack of value in having been down this road before.
"Last year, it didn't feel like Game 7 in the Washington series helped us in Game 7 in Detroit," Bylsma said Wednesday morning.
Of course, the Penguins defeated both clubs on the road in deciding games en route to the Stanley Cup.
"Certainly, the experience is probably a good thing, but it is about this game tonight," Bylsma said. "These two teams have battled six games to get to this one. Both teams are going to know what's at stake. If experience helps, my stomach doesn't feel it right now."
Pittsburgh defenseman Mark Eaton said he doesn't approach this game any differently than the previous six.
"Me personally, I know my routine doesn't change," Eaton said. "It's just another game, albeit a Game 7 of the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs.
"You prepare for every game the same way. For us, we look at a series as a seven-game process. Sometimes it takes less, but in this case, it's going to go the distance and we just want to stay with that process."
Eaton said the Pens have watched how Washington approached its seventh game against Montreal in the first round and hope to avoid the pitfalls the heavily favored Capitals encountered.
"We kind of watched Montreal's last series, their Game 7, and Washington looked tight, they looked like they were pressing," Eaton said. "We know and we feel that's not us. We're loose. We're not going to do anything differently that we haven't done before."
And then there is fear.
"I'm a big fan of paying attention to your emotions, and I think to ignore some of them is to not get yourself to the right spot or your team to the right spot to play the game," Bylsma said. "I think every person, if they were honest, would say that fear has entered their mind or their anticipation of what might happen tonight."
He won't use that fear as a motivating tool and is hoping it doesn't end up playing on his players' minds once the game starts.
"Everyone fears not moving on, but playing with fear in your mind as you handle the puck is not where I'd like our players to be tonight," the coach added. "We know what's at stake, we know the gravity of the situation, we know where we'd like to go, and it's about our team playing game."
Canadiens coach Jacques Martin concurred, saying, "I don't think that you should fear a Game 7. That's what you work all year for. I really believe that we're excited to be in this Game 7. We're looking forward to the challenge."
Good Fleury or bad Fleury?There was a lot of knee-knocking in Penguins Nation about the play of netminder Marc-Andre Fleury heading into Game 7. He has been both superlative and soft in this series, but history has shown he has an uncanny ability to bounce back (Fleury is 11-3 after playoff losses over the past three postseasons).
"Focus, I think, for Marc is a big thing," Bylsma said. "Coming back after a loss, he seems to be able to bring his game into focus, bring his mindset into focus, and that can be a hard thing after a loss or a bad game, and he's showed before, time and time again, that he's able to do that and he's been able to do that on a big stage like the playoffs. That's been a big part of our success and why he's a big-time goalie -- that focus."
'I expected this to be tough'If there is any surprise the eighth-seeded Montreal Canadiens have been able to extend this series to seven games, it apparently exists only outside the Penguins' dressing room.
"I think everybody else is [surprised], but when you play in the playoffs, you expect it to be tough," Penguins captain Sidney Crosby said Wednesday morning. "I think you always prepare for the toughest route to get there. You hope you win four all the time, you hope you win every game, but that's not the way it works. If you want to have success, you have to find ways to make it work, especially in tough scenarios like this.
"I did not expect this to go four games. I expected this to be tough, and that is exactly what it has been."
More time for Staal & Co.Bylsma suggested Jordan Staal's line would see more ice time in Game 7 against red-hot Mike Cammalleri, who has six goals in this series and leads the NHL with 11 goals in 13 games.
Martin said Cammalleri has that goal scorer's knack of finding a place from which to use his quick release. "He's got great anticipation," Martin said. "He has the ability to find holes."
As for Cammalleri, someone suggested to him the Habs looked loose Wednesday morning.
"It's a fine line," he said. "I don't think we're sitting here sleeping at all. We're excited. We're upbeat. But it's the same old story; no one expects us to be here, so they 'have' to win and we'd 'like' to win."
Lucky tie?As for whether he will be wearing a lucky suit or tie, a la Detroit coach Mike Babcock and his McGill University tie, Bylsma acknowledged he would.
"I will be wearing a suit that's lucky," the coach said. "My wife will probably shake her head right now. I'm occasionally prone to do the lucky suit or a suit that's won a lot of games. It may be a tie; it maybe a suit. I let all the suits try out in the regular season and [some] get a lot of play in the postseason."
MONTREAL -- Mike Cammalleri now leads all playoff goal scorers with 11 goals. Still, it's fair to say no one started the playoffs saying, "Oh, my goodness, how are we going to stop Mike Cammalleri?"
Not that this comes as much of a surprise to Cammalleri.
"That's probably because I didn't score for like 10 games coming into the playoffs," Cammalleri said. "I don't know. I think you go through lineups on each team and look and see what the strengths and weaknesses are and you try and shut down certain things. That's just how it goes."
The seventh gameThe Habs, of course, dispatched Washington at the Verizon Center in the first round in Game 7. And, of course, the Penguins disposed of Washington and Detroit in seventh games last spring. Does that experience count for anything?
"The experience is a good thing to draw upon and we have that from previous [experiences], but now it is all down to one game and they have that as well from Round 1 in a similar situation on the road," Pittsburgh coach Dan Bylsma said. "I'm not going to give any team an upper hand in that regard. They have experience and we have experience.
"This is one game to see who goes to the Eastern Conference finals. They have experience and they are going to go back and talk about their Game 7 against Washington. We have to mentally refocus and regroup and go back to Mellon Arena and put our best game out for Game 7."
The goalposts are your friendsMontreal netminder Jaroslav Halak was asked if he was thankful for his friends, the goalposts, after the Penguins hit at least three posts in the second frame Monday.
"Especially in the second period, they hit, I think, three posts. Usually, posts, they play with the goalies," Halak said.
So, does he have a chat with them, a la Patrick Roy? Halak seemed puzzled by the question.
"Well, no. Obviously, I'm happy that they didn't go in, but I'm not going to talk to them."
And finally ...Someone asked Montreal's Jaroslav Spacek if he would sleep better knowing he was back in the lineup and had played so well.
"I'm probably going to have one beer to sleep better because I can't really sleep after games because the emotions and everything," said Spacek, who played for the first time in 10 games, after battling what is believed to be an inner ear/vertigo problem, and scored the Canadiens' third goal. "It's a long time. I'm pretty happy the season is not over for us."
"The way he played, he looks like he didn't miss any games," said forward Tom Pyatt. "He came in there, looks like he's been in every game this playoffs. Those are the kind of players we need stepping up, and he was just tremendous."
"It's Game 6, it's Montreal, it's going to be fun," Gill said after taking a brief turn on the ice, when the bulk of the players had finished their morning routine.
Gill missed most of the third period of Game 5 because of a cut he suffered on the back of his leg after getting tangled up with Chris Kunitz. He then had to spend almost all of Sunday trying to get from Pittsburgh to Montreal, arriving late Sunday night. He said it would be a "team decision" regarding his status for Monday's game. Coach Jacques Martin said the decision would be made after the pregame warm-up.
Gill played a significant role in the Canadiens' shutting down Alexander Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals in the first round, and then keeping Penguins captain Sidney Crosby from scoring through the first five games of this series.
The Canadiens trail the Pens 3-2, though, and must win Monday to force a second straight seventh and deciding game.
"It's encouraging. It shows a lot of character on his part to get back last evening and get some treatment this morning," Martin said.
As for Markov, who suffered a knee injury in Game 1 of this series, Martin said he will not play even though he has been on the ice the past couple of days. On Monday, he skated in full equipment before his teammates took the ice for the morning skate.
"His condition is indefinite," Martin said of Markov. "He's ruled out for tonight."
One piece of good news was that Jaroslav Spacek, out since early in the first round with what is believed to be an inner ear/vertigo problem, is expected to play Monday night, although Martin also listed him as a game-time decision.
Taking tough times in stride
It almost seems as though the Canadiens need a good, healthy dose of adversity before they can play their best this spring. They were down 3-1 to Washington and won four straight. They have trailed 1-0 and 2-1 in the Pittsburgh series, and each time came back to tie. Now they need another win Monday to stay alive.
"I don't know if you need adversity, but I know that we need to elevate our game tonight and that's what we're prepared to do," Martin said Monday morning.
"I know we have a lot of character in our hockey club. We've faced adversity before, through the season, through the first round. We'll be prepared to compete tonight."
With all the uncertainty over who will or won't be in the lineup for Game 6, forward Glen Metropolit admitted it's hard to ignore.
"It kind of creeps into your mind a bit," he said. "But at the same time, it gives someone else an opportunity to step up and play more minutes. Guys have been stepping up pretty good."
And then there is the "nothing to lose" mantra that has been so successful for the Habs thus far.
"I keep saying it all along," said Mike Cammalleri, the Canadiens' best forward in these playoffs. "They're supposed to win, and we're not. So we're going to go play the best game we can and see if we can't play the best game we've played, and I think the results will take care of itself."
The Penguins' power play ranks first in both goals (14) and percentage (30.4) among remaining playoff teams. Rookie Mark Letestu, who earned his first NHL playoff point in Game 5, saw some time on the power-play unit during the morning skate. Coach Dan Bylsma said Letestu, who had 55 points in 63 games with the Penguins' AHL affiliate in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, has more to offer than just being a fourth-line checker.
Because of the intense interest in this series from media in both official languages (French and English) and the large number of French Canadiens in the Penguins' lineup, the team's PR staff has been splitting scrums into both English and French.
Which brings us to the line of the morning, which came when defenseman Jordan Leopold, who hails from Golden Valley, Minn., announced to reporters that he would be conducting interviews only in French.
As far as we can tell, Leopold's knowledge of the French language begins and ends with "oui."
MONTREAL -- What do you think is worse for Sidney Crosby, not scoring game after game or having to explain why he's not scoring day after day?
"Probably answering it," Crosby said Sunday at his team's hotel. The Penguins were preparing for Monday's Game 6 against the Canadiens and a chance to move on to their third straight Eastern Conference finals with a victory.
Not that Crosby is complaining.
He knows who he is. He knows when he doesn't score for six straight postseason games, it's news. Every day.
"You know what, it's the way it is. It comes with the territory. I understand that," Crosby said. "It's difficult when you feel like you're doing things well and you're still getting questioned about it. Then, I'm giving you the same answer. I don't feel like I'm doing terrible. I feel like I'm working hard out there and all those things that you try and do.
"You try to get to the net, they do a good job of boxing guys out. You've just got to continue to do it and stick with things. That's all I'm trying to do right now and then, like I said, I trust that if I do that, I'll find a way to produce."
Crosby led all playoff goal-scorers last spring as the Penguins won their first championship since Crosby's landlord, Mario Lemieux, was the team captain. He roared out of the blocks this spring, too, with five goals in his first five playoff games. But he's gone dry since.
"That's the playoffs," Crosby said. "There's not a lot of goals scored. Believe me, I'd love to score every game."
Teammate and friend Maxime Talbot said the good thing is the Penguins have continued to have a measure of success even though Crosby hasn't scored. He also said it's still light enough in the dressing room that they can joke around with Crosby about his parched goal-scoring stretch.
"Obviously, he would like to score," Talbot said. "Like everybody can see, he's doing some other really good stuff out there. It's not like if he's not scoring he's not useful to your team. He's our leader out there, he's creating a lot of things out there. We can definitely joke around with him."
"He takes it great. He's a great guy. He's a friend and that's what friends do," Talbot said. "If you take it too seriously, you know, sometimes it's definitely going to get to you."
Penguins coach Dan Bylsma takes a more analytical approach to "The Drought." He said Crosby led the team in something called "net-front appearances when the puck was there," Bylsma said.
"He was in there six times when the puck was around," Bylsma said. "That's how you get goals. That's what goal-scorers do, and that's why he's had a lot of success in the past in the playoffs. If he wasn't getting there, we'd be having a conversation or maybe showing some video, but he's been there, he's been going to those areas. He's been there for screens and second chances, and that's what you need to keep doing to get those opportunities and he will."
OK, so who will be more relieved when the questions about "The Drought" end, Crosby or Bylsma?
"I think we'll both be pretty happy when he doesn't have to answer that question anymore," Bylsma said.
The injury reportThe Habs appear to be getting one of their walking wounded back in the form of defenseman Jaroslav Spacek, who last played in Game 3 of the opening round against Washington and appears to have been cleared to play in Game 6.
''I'm very close to playing,'' said Spacek, who spoke to the media for the first time since leaving the lineup with what is believed to be an inner ear/vertigo problem. ''Let's see what happens.''
And he added to the mystery by calling it ''an unusual injury, it doesn't happen to too many players. It came from something I had before. I know a couple of players who retired from what I had. That scared me."
Two other injured players, Andrei Markov, out with an ACL injury since Game 1 of this series, and Paul Mara, who hasn't played since Jan. 22 after undergoing season-ending shoulder surgery, skated with a trainer briefly. There has been talk that if Markov can get a knee brace fitted before Monday night, he could play, but it seems like an outside shot at best.
On the road againThe Pittsburgh Penguins have closed out five straight playoff series away from home, but Crosby said he figures doing the same at the raucous Bell Centre won't be a cake walk.
"It's always a challenge, and I think when you look at this one, this will probably be the toughest one we've had with this crowd and with this team being in that situation already," Crosby said. "We realize it's going to be a big test, but at the same, it's somewhat familiar for us, which is a good thing and will help in preparing."
The last time they had an opportunity to close out a series (in the first round against Ottawa), the Penguins trailed 3-0 in the game before coming back to win in overtime on Pascal Dupuis' winner.
Crosby doesn't expect such a slow start Monday in Montreal.
"I think our desperation will be there much more than it was," Crosby said. "I don't think that's going to be the case here tomorrow. I think we realize the situation we're in. We should be a much more desperate team than we seemed last time."
PITTSBURGH -- It was a frustrating night for the Canadiens, who lost the services of rock-solid defenseman Hal Gill after he was apparently cut on the back of the leg by Chris Kunitz's skate when the two players collided early in the third period.
Radio reports indicated Gill remained in Pittsburgh overnight Saturday and did not travel home with the team. He was expected to return to Montreal on Sunday for further evaluation.
His loss would be a huge blow for a Canadiens team already missing top defensemen Andrei Markov and Jaroslav Spacek. Both of those players, however, could be in the lineup Monday. Markov is reportedly looking for a brace that would allow him to play. Spacek has been skating regularly and is close, said Montreal coach Jacques Martin.
"It was a tremendous game, highly competitive," Martin said. "I thought we had some good opportunities. It was a good game. We just have to make some adjustments, and now we go home to play in front of our fans."
'I wasn't happy'The Canadiens were outshot early by a wide margin, but it was Mike Cammalleri who had the game's first terrific scoring chance, slamming a Brian Gionta pass into Marc-Andre Fleury's pads. He wasn't happy with the outcome.
"To get a chance like that early, and I hit him. I hit low on the knee," Cammalleri said. "He made a good play to come across, but I've got to make a better shot there. I wasn't happy with that shot."
Road rulesStarting with the opening round last spring, the Penguins have closed out series in Philadelphia, Washington, Carolina, Detroit and Ottawa. Bill Guerin thinks it's the attention to detail that has allowed the team to have such success in crucial situations away from home.
"I just think we're definitely aware of how difficult it is to play on the road," Guerin said. "In those games, we maybe pay a little bit more attention to detail. Most of the time, I feel it's that a lot of little things get done in those games."
Redemption is mine!Kris Letang scored the first goal of the game on the power play, ripping a high, hard shot past Habs goalie Jaroslav Halak stick side. It was a nice piece of redemption for Letang, who had Montreal's winning goal go in off his leg in Game 4.
PITTSBURGH -- Momentum has been hard to come by in this Penguins-Canadiens series, with neither team able to put together two wins in a row. But Montreal forward Dominic Moore said you can't be hoping for momentum at this time of year.
"The playoffs are so unpredictable, I think it's a mistake to buy into any of that," he said. "I think the focus always needs to be putting forth your best effort at the moment."
The Habs would like to seize momentum after their 3-2 victory in Game 4.
"I'm sure they thought that after Game 3, but you can't really think that way," Moore said. "You just need to stay in the moment and, win or lose, be ready for the next challenge."
Still, there is definitely the sense the Canadiens are enjoying this improbable playoff run.
"Definitely," Moore said. "For us, we knew it would be a huge challenge in the first round and we knew the second round would not get any easier, and I think we've enjoyed the challenge, though we've still got a lot of work ahead of us."
Montreal coach Jacques Martin said he thinks his players have thrived on playing against top players like Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, who have combined for one goal and zero five-on-five points in the first four games of the series.
"I think it's kind of an inner motivation," Martin said. "I think our guys have responded."
Defenseman Jaroslav Spacek will remain out of the lineup for the Canadiens. "Still not quite ready but progressing," Martin said.
Clutch Pens?Crosby was asked about the Pens' ability to deliver in the clutch the past couple of playoff years.
"I think there has always been a confidence in everybody and a trust there that when the time comes and when it is important, everyone is going to do their job," he said. "That is something that is built. It doesn't happen overnight. But I think that trust is there and it is important, especially as the games get bigger."
MONTREAL -- You've got to hand it to Jordan Staal, the guy looked pretty good for someone who had a tendon in his foot sliced in Game 1 and required surgery to repair the wound. He played 13:24, had a couple of decent scoring chances, and won five of eight faceoffs.
"The plan was to ease him back to minutes, start him on the fourth line," Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said. "And I think I was pretty confident that once he got a few shifts under his belt that he would be fine. The game played out pretty close to what I thought it might be for Jordan in terms of minutes he played and the situations he played in and ... I didn't think he missed a step. I think he looked pretty good."
Letang's own-goalBylsma said the team didn't dwell too much on the own-goal that bounced off Kris Letang's skate and into the Penguins' goal for the winning tally.
"Those situations, it's not the first time that's happened in a game and you've got to get refocused on it and keep playing and that's just the message to Kris," Bylsma said. "I think [that message] comes from the coaches, but I also think it comes from his bench and you've got to fight through that."
Thunder Bay shout-out!Usually when you think Thunder Bay, Ontario, you think the Staal family. But on this night, it was Tom Pyatt who was the T-Bay man of the hour, scoring his first playoff goal early in Game 4.
"You never know, especially early in the game, when the goalie hasn't seen many shots," said Pyatt, who came to the Habs as part of the Scott Gomez trade from the New York Rangers last offseason. "Just get the puck to the net, and even if it doesn't go in, there can be rebounds, and there are a lot of rebound goals. I was just focusing on getting it to the net."
Not only was the goal his first, it was also his first point of the postseason.
"It was starting to get a little frustrating," he said. "Obviously, you want to contribute, but I just kept telling myself to keep doing the same things. I was getting some chances the last few games and kept shooting the puck because eventually it is going to go in."
MONTREAL -- Veteran winger Bill Guerin, who continues to be an effective point producer with eight points in eight games this spring, hopes to be back in the Penguins' lineup for Game 5.
He missed Game 3 and will miss Game 4 on Thursday night even though he skated hard during this morning's practice. He would not say what is ailing him, although he did miss several games earlier in the season with back spasms.
"It's something that's been lingering and happened during the Canadiens series," he said. "How's that?"
Guerin did say he came to Montreal for these two games hoping to play. He said it was less frustrating sitting out Game 3 because the Pens won.
"It's tough watching, but just as long as we get a win, that makes everything better," Guerin said. "You want to play, you want to be in there, but at the same time, you have to be smart."
Getting to CrosbyMontreal fans were trying to get to Sidney Crosby in Game 3 by chanting, "Crosby sucks," a chant the Pittsburgh captain hears in other buildings, especially in Philadelphia. But Crosby said he didn't hear the chants.
"I didn't. Honestly, I've heard it in Philly before. Last game, I didn't hear anything," Crosby said Thursday morning. "I'm not afraid to say whether I have heard it or not. It's not something that I am dealing with for the first time. But, honestly, last game, it wasn't even something I noticed."
Dealing with the KostitsynsMontreal coach Jacques Martin had Andrei Kostitsyn skating with Mike Cammalleri and Tomas Plekanec in the hopes of trying to squeeze some more depth scoring from his lineup. Plekanec has one goal in his past seven games; outside of recording a hat trick in Game 2 of the first round, Kostitsyn has failed to score in any other playoff game this spring.
Speaking of the Kostitsyns, hard-luck Sergei Kostitsyn didn't even get an invite to the morning skate and instead worked out at the gym.
Martin would not explain why, although Kostitsyn was called out after the morning skate before Game 3 by backup netminder Carey Price, who asked why the younger of the two brothers had left the ice early. Sergei has been a healthy scratch for the past five games.