With the first round winding down and teams like Vancouver, Boston and Chicago advancing recently, the Montreal Canadiens are proving to be a handful for the Washington Capitals.
In a thrilling contest, Jaroslav Halak and the Habs took on the Capitals and defeated them by a final score of 4-1 to force a seventh game. Halak made 53 saves in the victory, setting a club record. In back-to-back Montreal victories, Halak surrendered just two goals.
Halak’s performance made things difficult for the Capitals, to say the least, as they went a dismal 0-6 on the power play to total up a terrible 1-30 in power plays for the series.
This distinction is made all the stronger by the fact that the Capitals finished a full 33 points ahead of the Habs in the regular season and lead the league in most offensive categories. For the Canadiens to have shut the Capitals down this much in the post-season is perhaps one of the biggest stories of the playoffs thus far.
“We have tied the series, but there is one more to get,” Halak said. “Still, we have nothing to lose. We just need to go out there and play our game.”
Of course, this presents some problems for a seventh game as the Canadiens have to know that they need to tighten up defensively. They simply cannot rely on their goaltender that much and expect to make it deep into the playoffs, let alone past another game with the Capitals. Eventually, the Caps will strike and will crack through Halak’s armor.
That’s not to say that the Montreal Canadiens haven’t been doing a considerable job taking on Alex Ovechkin, however, as defenceman Josh Gorges has been able to frustrate the Russian superstar.
And the Habs have done an admirable job blocking shots, too, with 23 of them in Monday’s game.
But if they expect to come back and win the series’ seventh game, which goes Wednesday night back in Washington, they’ll need to learn to close the gaps and let some of the pressure off of their goalie. As good as Halak has been playing in the post-season thus far, the Canadians run the risk of tiring him out if they expose him to any more onslaughts like the one we all witnessed Monday night.
Posted by Jordan Richardson.