And so it ends. And as a fan of the Montreal Canadiens, this is one of the hardest things I have had to face since beginning my new role as a writer here at Rant Sports just a week ago: writing my daily piece through profound emotional sadness.
They gave the fans, and the city, a playoff run the likes of which had not been seen in four years. And they did it with class, and style, and an ever-constant belief in themselves which, in turn, translated to a profoundly exciting postseason in Montreal, and for Habs fans around the world.
Game 6 was a bonus. We all knew the team was on borrowed time. After Carey Price was injured in Game 1, and the game that followed, the team had to find its stride. And they did a beautiful job of it in Game 3, winning on the road, and Game 5, winning at home in an exhilarating goal-fest to stay alive for another chance.
But it was not to be. Worse, the New York Rangers gave their goalie a shutout. Insult, meet injury.
If you “watch” the game on Twitter (i.e. follow tweets while watching any hockey game, not just this one), you will see all the excuses, justifications, blame, laments, scapegoats, fall-guy accusations. You will see that the game was won by the referees. Or lost by the defenseman who lost his man. Or the vibe in the arena. Any number of reasons that make fans feel better to be on the losing side of things.
They’ll talk about the high-stick on Brian Gionta which resulted in — say what? — a penalty on Gionta for reacting to the stick in his face by throwing his hands up, and resulting in a goalie interference call as his stick hit Henrik Lundqvist. They’ll talk about Lundqvist playing the puck well out of the zone he is supposed to maintain, resulting in no call. They’ll talk about the team that just didn’t show up to support a stellar goalie.
They’ll play the hockey equivalent of Monday morning quarterback. In fact, they already are, from what I’m seeing on Twitter. But when the analysis is done, and the gloom is older, talk should turn to praising a team that gave its city and its fan what will, no doubt, be cliched once again as a Cinderella playoff run to extend a season well beyond the 82nd game.
They’ll also talk about the rise of Dustin Tokarski, who has already earned a spot in the hearts of fans, if not a spot on the roster next season. They’ll talk about the gumption this team displayed, even as a loss was pending, to keep it a one-goal game. They’ll talk about the future of the team. And then all talk will turn to the beginning of July, when the NHL holds its two-day draft, and hopes and futures are once again abuzz.
For the emotional fan, it is a hard loss. There was a magic even hardened sports-radio anchors began to discuss. There was a glimmer on the horizon when the series gap closed. There was a feeling of “this year is ours” that only increased every game, every good shift, every awesome save.
But rather than blame, or lament, or even commiserate — it’s unfair to the Montreal Canadiens not to be utterly proud of their season, their postseason, and their commitment. Even the toughest fan will look back on the 2013-2014 season and feel an emotional high connected to the team’s showing. Because every postseason round (and every game after a Game 4) is a gift to every hockey fan.
And the Canadiens rewarded fans with what might have been a longer-than-expected playoff run.
But all good things do have to come to an end – at least for one team in playoffs. And this team has reached the end of its season. Habs fans have plenty to be proud of – but it’s a heartbreaking way to end what seemed to have been The Year of Cup 25. And for tonight, fans will need to grieve every minute of this loss. The positives will shine through when the initial sadness fades.
After all, the future does look bright for these Habs.