The Habs beat the Caps in a 4-3 victory on Wednesday evening, and it was very clear from the start that this is not a team that is looking to tank their season.
The Habs scored first, with a beautiful goal by Alex Galchenyuk at almost the halfway mark. It was followed by a power-play goal at 17:47 by Brendan Gallagher, and the Habs chased Washington’s goaltender, Braden Holtby, with a third unanswered goal at 1:54 of the 2nd period (scored by Tomas Fleischmann).
Washington scored their first goal at 5:32 of the second, with Montreal responding at 12:36 as Alex Galchenyuk netted his second of the night.
The third period yielded some action as Washington fought to score, and they succeeded twice more; but with the net empty, some nail-biting moments, and both teams going all out, the Habs remained on top and came out with the win.
Mike Condon was at his all-time best; he kept the game at almost a shutout until Washington busted that, but it remained a 4-1 game until 8 minutes left in the game, when Washington scored their second, and a power-play goal at 17:07 for their 3rd.
The whole team stepped up. With assists were Dale Weise, Max Pacioretty, Andrei Markov (who got 2), Lars Eller, Mark Barberio, and Paul Byron. The rest of the team was instrumental in supporting Condon and feeding their teammates, and it was a strong game, and well-deserved win for them all.
I’ve offered my opinion on why the team should not tank this season; I stand by that.
Tonight, the Canadiens demonstrated that this is not a team that is giving up. Playoffs aren’t ruled out, though every loss brings the post-season further out of reach. However, taking on the league-leading Capitals, not only beating them, but chasing their top goalie, playing a dominant game of puck-possessing focus, with a 34-SOG evening – that is not the look of a team trying to tank.
In fact, it is very reminiscent of the team we saw at the beginning of this bizarre, unpredictable season. A team with multiple goals, easily scored and demonstrative skating skills as well as shots, a team that won more than they lost, and that fought for every shot.
There will be those who don’t want to see this team climb back up, perhaps to finish middle-of-the-pack and end on a mediocre note. But there are those who just enjoy watching the games as they unfold, and – with the knowledge that we must accept the things we cannot change – take every period for what it is, with hopes that another victory will be celebrated.
It’s been a very odd time on social media. It seems that no matter what the Habs do, there are fans who are not happy. I suppose that is the fickle nature of Habs fans in general, but with the season on the line, and a choice between wanting to get into playoffs or getting a high draft pick to start next season on the right note, we have to remember a few facts:
The season started this year on a “right note”. A historic run, a stellar two months at the top of the league, multiple-goal games, and every player excelling.
It then took a sharp downward turn, and that has led to the talk of a tank.
But let’s remember the 2010 playoffs: the Habs were in 8th place in their division, squeaking into a playoff position.
They took on the first-place Capitals – and won in 7 games.
They then took on the 4th-place Pittsburgh Penguins, and won that series in 7 games.
It was a fairy-tale playoff run, coming to an end in Game 5 against a strong Philadelphia Flyers, but the Habs had given their all, and had never been slated to make the post-season, much less get past Washington.
Wednesday evening, they took on the blazing-hot Caps, who are sitting in first place. While the Canadiens are in 13th place at the moment, they demonstrated a do-or-die prowess that, if it continues, can take them to a repeat of 2010.
Anything is possible. Giving up – for many of us – is just not an option.
And from the looks of this team, Wednesday night, giving up is not in the minds of any Montreal Canadiens player. They’re playing to win.
Next game is back at the Bell Centre Saturday, February 27th, when arch-rivals, the Toronto Maple Leafs, visit Montreal. The Habs will be looking to sweep their season series against the Leafs; if they play the way they did against Washington, that is a good bet to make.
Puck drops at 7:00 p.m.