Thursday April 29th, 2010

1. Jaroslav Halak, Montreal: This really goes without saying. The Montreal goalie, a 24-year-old rock between the pipes, stopped all but three shots in the last three games, including Wednesday's decisive 2-1 victory (RECAP | BOX SCORE). That amounted to 131 saves over 180 minutes. For a guy who entered this series having never won a playoff game in his career, Halak now has four of the most impressive victories of this postseason. After Game 2, Washington superstar Alex Ovechkin noted that he saw Halak's hand shaking as he took a swig from his water bottle after letting in an Eric Fehr goal. Bulletin board material, to be sure. But it turns out, there would be nothing shaky about Halak's performance for the rest of the series.

2. Josh Gorges/Hall Gill, Montreal: If Halak owned Washington in the third period (turning away 17 shots, many in fantastic fashion), the Canadiens' defense helped him plenty early on. By the end of the game, Montreal had blocked one fewer shot than they let through to their netminder. And leading the charge were the Canadiens' shutdown duo, which snuffed out Washington's electric attack like a hard, frigid wind. In 23:35 on the ice, the massive Gill blocked at least six shots, kept right in the way of Ovechkin and Co., and he even assisted on Dominic Moore's game-winning goal, Gill's first postseason point since last May. Gorges stayed close to Washington's dynamic scorers, robbing them of the space they so desperately sought all game long

3. Marc-Andre Bergeron, Montreal: Why award a guy that only spent 4:06 on the ice and only 1:13 of that time at even strength? Because his laser shot in the final minute of the first period changed the game. With that power play goal, it seemed that fear and doubt began to seep into the Washington Capitals' heads, and gave Montreal the peace of mind in knowing all they needed was to protect a lead. Playing from behind, the Capitals were not convincing many that they could come back for much of that second period, and that had a lot to do with that first goal.

3a. Brian Gionta, Montreal: But if you look individual performances, Gionta had a great deal to do with the big Game 7 win Wednesday night. He led forwards in ice time, did yeoman's work killing penalties, got some decent looks on Washington goalie Semyon Varlamov and motored through this series as Montreal's little-sung hero and leader.

SI Apps
We've Got Apps Too
Get expert analysis, unrivaled access, and the award-winning storytelling only SI can provide - from Peter King, Tom Verducci, Lee Jenkins, Seth Davis, and more - delivered straight to you, along with up-to-the-minute news and live scores.