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Cullen: Habs Eliminate Pens; Wait on Bruins or Flyers

Scott Cullen
5/12/2010 11:25:33 PM
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So it appears that this playoff run of the Montreal Canadiens has moved beyond the mildly amusing fluke stage, hasn't it? 

Sure, an eighth seed knocking off the first-place Capitals, while getting dominated territorially throughout the series, is one thing, but to follow it up with another seven-game upset of the defending champs gives the Canadiens' playoff performance a sense of legitimacy.

Brian Gionta scored a pair for Montreal, the first and last in Game Seven, and led the series in scoring with eight points.

Jaroslav Halak was, once again, a star for Montreal, turning back 37 of 39 shots, running his record to 15-0-1 this season when stopping at least 35 shots in a game.

After destroying the Senators in Round One, Sidney Crosby found out, much like Alexander Ovechkin did against Montreal in the first round, that single-handed efforts won't get the job done. 

The Canadiens defence was extremely effective against Crosby, limiting him to five points, but was especially effective at even strength against Pittsburgh's top players.

Through seven games, here are the even-strength point totals:
Kunitz - 4
Dupuis - 4
Guerin - 2
Gonchar - 2
Goligoski - 2
Cooke - 2
Eaton - 2
Orpik - 2
Talbot - 2
Crosby - 1
Adams - 1
Ponikarovsky - 1
Letang - 1
Letestu - 1
Fedotenko - 0
McKee - 0
Malkin - 0
Rupp - 0
Leopold - 0
Kennedy - 0

What comes out of this is that Crosby, like any other hockey player, can't win a series by himself, so when Evgeni Malkin is a virtual no-show (1-2-3 in 7 GP), it makes it awfully difficult.

On top of their offensive woes, Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury will take heat for allowing four goals on 13 shots in the deciding game; three of which were of the questionable variety -- Mike Cammalleri's one-timer for the third goal was legit. 

The goal was Cammalleri's seventh of the round and 12th of the postseason.  Let's not miss an opportunity to praise Bob Gainey for signing Gionta and Cammalleri as free agents last summer.  Safe to say those moves weren't meant with universal approval at the time.

One observation: it seemed strange, one night after the Canucks were left undermanned on defence, that the Canadiens elected to go with six defenceman, with Marc-Andre Bergeron included among them, just so that they could play Mathieu Darche for 2:10, Glen Metropolit 2:43 and Benoit Pouliot 2:48.

But, with a Game Seven win, who cares?

Montreal now waits for the winner of Boston and Philadelphia in the Eastern Conference Final; a series in which the Canadiens will most likely be favoured, after being serious underdogs in the first two rounds.

GOING SEVEN
Michael Leighton played like he hadn't missed a beat, stopping 30 of 31 shots for the win.

Mike Richards had a goal and an assist, giving him eight points in the series, tying him with Danny Briere, who scored the game-winner, for most in the series.

While any team coming back from three games down has to be considered shocking, just given how rarely it happens, the Bruins are a team that is ripe to have it happen. 

With Mark Recchi and Miroslav Satan leading the Bruins' goal-scoring in the postseason, David Krejci injured and Marc Savard not yet at his best, it doesn't seem like such a stretch to think that the Bruins could be shut down for one more game. 

The good news for Boston is that the Bruins head home for Game Seven, with a spot in the Eastern Conference Final on the line.

Scott Cullen can be reached at Scott.Cullen@ctv.ca and followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/tsnscottcullen.




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