The Canadiens have been here before.
In 2004, the Canadiens faced the Boston Bruins, and fell behind 2-1 in the series while unable to solve future Calder Trophy winner Andrew Raycroft. In Game Four, the Canadiens would lose again, as Alex Kovalev prioritized selling a call over playing the puck, leading to a Glen Murray double-overtime winner and a 3-1 disadvantage in the series. Undeterred, and after scoring only seven goals in four games, the Canadiens unleashed a ten goal barrage over the next two, before capping their comeback with a 2-0 shutout in hostile territory. Alex Kovalev assisted on the series winner.
In 2010, the Canadiens again fell behind 2-1, this time to the Washington Capitals. The Canadiens were matched against an offensive juggernaut, and in a pivotal game four, they managed to hold their own for most of forty minutes. With a 2-1 lead until the 19:53 mark of the second period, the Canadiens would end up totally overwhelmed by Alexander Ovechkin and his colleagues, surrendering a late period shortie and four more third-period goals, leaving them at a 3-1 deficit in the series. The Canadiens would embark on an unbelievable run, riding the performances of Jaroslav Halak and Michael Cammalleri to win the next three games and the series.
So, it can be done. The Canadiens have been down before, and just like 2004 and 2010, the series is not over.
Just like 2004, the Canadiens have scored seven goals in four games, despite hinting at an outburst here and there. Just like 2004, the Canadiens have been, at times, stifled by a goaltender who seems invincible.
Just like 2010, the Canadiens have played games where they've held strong for two periods, only to be let down by a third period anomaly. Just like 2010, the Canadiens will have to build a comeback on a foundation laid by a goaltender who was never supposed to play.
Unlike 2004, there is no scapegoat after Game Four. There is no Alex Kovalev dropping his glove and shaking his wrist. There is only luck, and officiating, and perhaps Craig Anderson, to explain why the Canadiens are losing when they could be winning. Only four Habs that played in that series - Tomas Plekanec, Michael Ryder, Francis Bouillon, and Andrei Markov - will see the ice tonight. A fifth, Patrice Brisebois, will be watching the game from high above the Bell Centre ice.
Unlike 2010, the Canadiens roster has been decimated by injury. Lars Eller, Brian Gionta, Alexei Emelin, Ryan White, Brandon Prust, and Carey Price will all be unavailable for Game Five. Of those Habs who do suit up, a significant number are coping with a noticeable ailment. At least seven current Canadiens know that good performances from good players, combined with a relentless commitment to a strong system, can defeat the mightiest of opponents.
This edition of the Canadiens will have to take that concept to the next level, persevering with a roster where substitutes permeate almost every line and pair. This team will be led, in part, by Jeff Halpern and Colby Armstrong, who were not in the line-up when this series began. This team will rely on strong, steady play from the likes of Jarred Tinordi, Mike Blunden, and Gabriel Dumont, who were not on the roster when this season began. And if Montreal is to complete the improbable, this series will turn on Peter Budaj.
The Canadiens have been here before, and the Canadiens have won here before, crafting series victories from places where no potential was thought to exist previously. If the Canadiens wish to build a similar success, the foundation will be poured tonight.
As always, the Senators perspective is available at Silver Seven Sens.
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