Some thoughts from the NHL on TSN panel on Wednesday night:
The Montreal Canadiens' upset victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins in the second round could certainly vindicate all the offseason moves that now-former general manager Bob Gainey made last summer.
Last summer, Gainey basically made over the Canadiens and literally turned over half of his roster through free agency and trades.
He brought in a bunch of 'little guys' that people thought were being paid too much money on contracts that were too long.
Well in Game 7, we saw two of those acquistions - Brian Gionta and Mike Cammalleri - score three of Montreal's five goals in their series clincher.
Gainey, who stepped down from his post as GM prior to the Olympic break and is now an advisor to Pierre Gauthier, also brought in guys like Hal Gill and Jaroslav Spacek - guys who were marvelous in this run.
There were a lot of questions about how the Canadiens did their business last summer and whether it would produce any results. And now they're in the conference final.
From the Penguins' perspective, one of the biggest factors in their series loss was their even strength play. Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin could not put a dent in the Canadiens' armour. We saw tremendous game planning from the Canadiens in terms of standing up to players, 'forgetting' about the wingers and focusing on Pittsburgh's centres.
The Penguins are going to be facing some tough questions this summer - paying Crosby, Malkin and Jordan Staal over $21 million and not having the wingers to be able to complement them.
The other team of destiny in the playoffs could very well be the Philadelphia Flyers, who have came back from a 3-0 series deficit to force a seventh and deciding game against the Boston Bruins.
And it all starts with Mike Richards. I don't have enough superlatives to describe what he has done in this series but I'll try with this - call it a 'Tour de Force' for the Flyers' captain.
He has gone head-to-head against Boston's Zdeno Chara in this series, physically matching up with him (think about that for a moment!) and forcing turnovers. Compared to Chara, Richards obviously does not have the physical package. But he led the way again on Wednesday night, scoring an important goal for his team and setting up Danny Briere on what would prove to be the game-winning goal.
With a goal and an assist on the night, he has now been in on five of the Flyers' seven game-winning playoff goals.
And head coach Peter Laviolette is not shying away from the Richards-Chara matchup. He knows that his captain is the only forward on the team that can take that on and win that one-on-one battle.