As a Habs fan first and foremost, I will admit to a certain bias. I mean, I think the team is the greatest franchise in the history of professional sports. I think each and every year, at the start of each and every season, that it can realistically (however not) be the year that the Habs win their first Stanley Cup since 1993. I believe that players that became great after they got traded from the Habs to other teams were only able to become great because they needed a change of scenery and that, no matter what, they never would have become great staying in Montreal. Finally, I believe that the Habs do have a chance to beat the Washington Capitals in the two teams' first-round series, which starts tomorrow.
All that being said, I also believe that I'm a fairly level-headed individual. So much so, that I am willing to admit that the Habs, while possessing a chance to beat the Caps, likely won't. And if they do, a lot (A LOT) of things have to go right, starting with getting the right bounces at the right time, and ending with Alexander Ovechkin, Alexander Semin, Nicklas Backstrom, and Mike Green each coming down with simultaneous cases of mononucleosis. It's possible, right?
In any case, the fact that I'm so level-headed also means that I'm able to see that the one area, in which Montreal may have an advantage, is in nets. Jose Theodore is a lot of things, but a reliable goalie is not one of them. Montreal goalie Jaroslav Halak? He's just plain better. Carey Price may be money (well, at least give him a few years), but Halak's magic. Anyone who denies the simple fact that Montreal doesn't have the edge in nets is inadvertently admitting to possessing a certain bias themselves. Anyone who takes offense to a statement of facts to that effect, that Halak is better than Theodore, is just choosing to be just plain immature and stubborn.
That is why the Capitals piss me off so much. Now, it is true that the media had a hand in blowing Canadiens's forward Tomas Plekanec's comments out of proportion to the point of trying to make a story out of something that wasn't (which is what they do on a daily basis, by the way, and I should know), but if the Capitals are truly mad at Plekanec and the Habs for what was said, i.e., the following:
"It's not as though we are facing [New Jersey Devil Martin] Brodeur or [Buffalo Sabre Ryan] Miller. They don't have a dominant goaltender. When you look at the goaltending matchup in this series it favours our team. I just believe that our goaltending is more solid than theirs. I'm not saying their goalies are bad. I'm just saying our goalies are better."
… if they are truly mad at Montreal, then I have to say Montreal's chances of winning this series went up a huge amount, because it shows that Washington needs to create their own bulletin-board material just to get up for the playoffs. If you need to create motivation for yourself for a general lack of desire to hoist the Cup, then you just won't do it.
I personally have no idea why the media chose to make this the leading story in Canada yesterday (it was splashed on TSN.ca's front page as if Plekanec had said something truly controversial), because, really, all Plekanec was doing was giving an honest answer to a question someone in the media asked him. And reporters wonder why players feel the need to continually feed them cookie-cutter answers. Could it be perhaps that if they give you what you're looking for you have a general tendency to throw them under the bus and make them look like villains for no apparent reason??? Maybe? Just maybe?
Let's look at what Plekanec said, sentence by sentence: "It's not as though we are facing Brodeur or Miller."
Wow… this guy is really asking for it. It's as if he has perfect 20/20 vision and can actually see that the player Montreal will be facing in nets is not Ryan Miller or Martin Brodeur. The nerve!
"They don't have a dominant goaltender."
Again, it's as if he's trying to piss Washington off, stating actual facts like that. What is he thinking? The dude can certainly trash talk with the best of them. It's like he's literally putting a microphone up to a garbage truck and yelling at the top of his lungs, his trash talk is that great.
"When you look at the goaltending matchup in this series it favours our team."
Well, I'm no expert, but it sounds to me like he's just trying to delude himself at this point, to essentially say that Washington has the edge in offense and maybe defense but refuse to admit that Theodore is the greatest goaltender in the history of the game.
"I just believe that our goaltending is more solid than theirs."
How dare he qualify it like that! How dare he!!! How dare he say that it's just his opinion! He has no right!!!
"I'm not saying their goalies are bad."
Oh, and now the diplomacy. Who does he think he is? Maybe Columbus Blue Jacket R.J. Umberger to not disrespect the Capitals like that and get his words all twisted and taken out of context for the sole purpose of providing the Caps with some much-needed, well, purpose, actually.
"I'm just saying our goalies are better."
Really? You mean Theodore, with a 2.81 goals against average and a .911 save percentage is not as good as Halak, with his 2.40 GAA and .924 save percentage? Mr. Plekanec, please, we all know that 2.81 is higher than 2.40. This isn't golf, you know.
In the end, I still don't think Montreal will win the series, but what I think doesn't matter, because everyone, including the media, which clearly wants Washington to win, as evidenced by its collective efforts to try and get the Caps all fired up, believes they won't either. The pressure on the Caps will push this series to seven games. Not that it will make all that much of a difference. Washington will still eventually lose to a "good defensive team", as Umberger said. Then, who are they going to get mad at?
New Jersey Devils over Philadelphia Flyers in five games
Buffalo Sabres over Boston Bruins in six games
Pittsburgh Penguins over Ottawa Senators in five games
San Jose Sharks over Colorado Avalanche in six games
Chicago Blackhawks over Nashville Predators in seven games
Los Angeles Kings over Vancouver Canucks in six games
Detroit Red Wings over Phoenix Coyotes in five games