Final bows and no-win situations
Early speculation is that
Sakic is 38, a veteran of 19 seasons, and has been slowed by injuries. Speculation in Colorado was that
With the Rangers also facing a quick elimination (though they avoided it in Game 4) and pain-in-the-uh-spleen
Even if he does want to come back, the Pens might not want him. The players love his leadership on the ice and in the locker room, and management respects him as well, but the Pens have serious offseason signing issues and there may not be enough money to go around.
Had the Soviets won the Cold War, this would be the day we all woke up to a mandated holiday designed to salute missiles. But we're talking sports, not politics, so May Day 2008 is instead when we all woke up knowing that we were smarter than Montreal Canadiens coach
Or so we think.
History now tells us that Carbonneau made the "wrong" decision in benching inexperienced rookie goaltender
Halak was OK at best. He couldn't win the game by himself. One could argue that Halak, along with teammates who supported him the way
But I'll drop the politics for a moment and the bad one liners for the rest of the column to ask a simple question:
Did anyone know Carbonneau was wrong 20 minutes before game time?
Tell the truth!
I didn't think so.
Look, Carbonneau could have made the easy choice and stayed with Price. After all, most of the media pundits (yours truly excepted) told him it was the right thing to do. Many of the unemployed coaches sitting in broadcast booths across two countries did the same.
It was the politically correct thing to do. But Carbonneau had a different theory. He thought (and he's in a better position than any of his judges) that Price was looking like the goaltending equivalent of burnt toast. He'd lost two of his last three starts and deserved to lose the one he won. While we're reduced to guessing, Carbonneau would at least know whether Price had a problematic injury to his catching hand -- something we in media are just guessing on.
Simply put, Carbonneau had to make a call as to how best to succeed in what was pretty much a must-win game. He made his call. It not only took courage, it was the correct call.
After all, had Price played and lost, he and the Canadiens would be in the same position they're in now. Had Price won, well, the odds on that, given the way he'd played in recent outings, were about the same as playing Halak. Price gave you reason to doubt. Halak gave both the coach and the team reason to hope. When I have to choose between doubt and hope, I'll take hope every time.
This is the way it goes for NHL coaches. Football -- the North American kind -- doesn't have goaltenders. Neither does baseball, and if you have one in basketball he usually brings you an automatic penalty. Hockey's different.
Sure coaching makes a difference. So does having a few superstar performers, a handful of grinders and a mean-yet-mobile defense. But ask any coach who has ever had success or failure in the playoffs and it pretty much comes down to what you get from your goaltending.
That Murray mentioned the "choke" word only secured Detroit's sweep and his inevitable firing.
Think it was a flip of the coin that caused
Think Carbonneau doesn't know that? As a player, he twice saw Roy get hot and carry his team to a Cup: when Roy was a rookie in 1986 and after two straight to the archrival Quebec Nordiques in 1989 refocused and sent him on to an 11-game winning streak and playoff record for overtime wins (4) to grab a second. Carbonneau was on the winning side a third time when
Three rings, all due at least in part to great goaltending that came to the forefront when the teams needed it most. So don't think for a moment those thoughts weren't in Carbonneau's head when he turned to Halak. The call didn't work out as planned, but he took a chance on winning. You simply can't fault a coach for that.
I'm not saying the series is over. Montreal at home in an elimination game is as tough as it gets in the NHL, but your team is ahead because you can outscore the Canadiens at even strength and the way Biron is playing and your penalty killers have shut down the league's best regular season power play is making a difference.
This is a new NHL. Scoring matters. Look how many teams have blown one-goal leads in the third period this spring. The days of grabbing the first goal and dumping the puck out for upwards of 59 minutes are over. You can say Biron is your best player, but if you want to single out good people, nod your head toward general manager
It's no coincidence that Luce, driven out of Buffalo for inexplicable reasons, convinced Holmgren to go after Biron in a trade and
Luce, Benning (now with Boston) and
No surprise that your Flyers rebuilt as quickly as they did. No surprise that the Bruins and Avalanche have turned up some outstanding young talent, either.