A solid spoke-in-the-wheels win by Montreal over Washington in Game 5, and the series that logic forgot has just taken on its most interesting turn.
Yes, we know some of us (me) stuck a fork in their butt after Game Four and had them good as dead, but lo and behold the Habs put everything together after three heartwrenching losses, and won a game the way playoff road games are won.
The coach did some actual coaching on the fly for once, the players dug down deep with sticks as shovels, and Jaroslav Halak stood fort like a padded rempart.
It would be hard to criticize coach Martin in this game, as he seemed to make all the adjustments that were on everyone's collective minds. He didn't just shorten the bench as the game wound down, he figuratively sawed it in half for the entire game. The result being the players most prone to be detonated into nuclear error by the Capitals offensive weaponary were given rookie icetime and a serving of bench slivers as the coach's leash lost all slack.
On the verge of elimination, such a reaction by Martin is only logical, in order to prolong the season.
Benoit Pouliot and Sergei Kostitsyn received Hamilton callup minutes, and Roman Hamrlik was on the Chris Chelios Geritol program after brutal game's three and four. The remainder of the team seemed to seize the message, and there were few extended lapses by the Canadiens in a game for the first time in the series.
Nothing Montreal did in this game was new to this playoff round. They took the lead early and added to it. There were moments of domination by both clubs. Halak was again stellar, as in Game One. The Habs at times looked poised to blow the lead, and at other times were especially adept at containing the Capitals thrusts. They played a third period like they had in their only win.
Essentially, the Canadiens took something from each game of the series (wins or losses) and struck it together for sixty minutes of hockey, for once.
So the series pitting the top team in the NHL against the 16th playoff team in terms of points is now headed for a sixth game. Most figured Montreal had about as much chance as a lit match in a pissing contest when the series began, but that assesement sold the Canadiens strengths and the Capitals' weaknesses short by a good length.
Logically, the series should have been over on Wednesday, strictly judging by the 33 point gap of the teams in the standings.
Illogically, could it be that, talent aside, these two teams resemble each other more than Capitals believers would readily admit?
Honestly, logic has left the building, and this is where Dr. Spock's Vulcan ears begin to rub together and start fires.
The Capitals are the best home ice team in the NHL, yet the Canadiens have given them fits at the Verizon center this season. This makes three wins....shit your pants!
Baffling, is it not?
Perhaps the reason why, again has to do with the similarities between the two teams.
The Caps are an offensive juggernaut, and on home ice, play a style that entertains the local crowd from which they feed on. Who better than the Canadiens to understand such an notion?
The Habs own the NHL's best road power play, but on home ice, the Canadiens are often guilty of attempting too much entertaining dazzlle and flash to please the crowd.
Could it be that the Canadiens undo Washington's offensive enlightening in these situations, because they have a book on how others have messed with theirs on home ice in the same regard?
Another riddle for the logically inclined - how come Martin does better without the last line change in Washington than he does with it in Montreal?
Now that's a poser, ain't it?
Perhaps it has to do with predictability?
With the series returning to Montreal for Game Six, can the Canadiens play the perfect road game again, on home ice this time?
That is likely the one and only way to extend the series to a seventh game, on Washington ice, where they clearly are more comfortable.
Both teams will have two days off to go over multiple aspects of how this series even managed to reach a Game Six, before they play again on Monday
For the Capitals, that means incomprehensibly going over all that has gone wrong thus far.
For the Canadiens, it means accentuating an understanding of what they have so far done right.
On Monday, if the Canadiens can conjure up the road game mode, bore the locals to yawning death and yank off a win, it sets the table for a helluva finish.
A note to doubters, the last three Washington series' have gone the full seven, and they've lost two of those.
It's never sporting to look two games ahead, but in this case, the Canadiens almost must. It might just add focus to what they must do Monday in order to get there.
If they can pull it off, the Canadiens will be playing the deciding game where revamped odds, displaced logic, and every modicum of common sense tells they are the favorite.
It'll be a Vegas bookies nightmare!