While the Canadiens 2-1 win in Game 7 last night is probably not as big of a shock as everyone is making it out to be, it's still a pretty stunning development for a team that is still finding itself, still learning about each other, still working out some kinks.
Still becoming a team.
But even a work in progress was enough to beat the Capitals, because the Canadiens formed a more committed, more determined collective than the seemingly random grouping of individual talents here in Washington.
Hal Gill, perhaps the runner-up in the series MVP balotting (I don't think I need to mention who would win that award, if it existed), put it best in a very subdued, very business-like Canadiens dressing room last night.
“We knew if we just played our system, we had better team play than them," Gill said. "I think that’s what got it for us.”
But now, the challenge is a far different one. The Penguins have very strong team play, as opposed to their rivals from Washington. So the big challenge will be for Jacques Martin and his coaching staff to come up with a new plan for this new opponent, one that I feel will be a far tougher out than the Caps.
Speaking of Martin, I was hard on him after Montreal's loss in Game 4, and I think it was deserved at the time. But as I wrote in my column for CBC.ca last night, Martin deserves a boat load of credit for making adjustments to both his game plan and bench management mid-stream, something I and many others thought he was incapable of.
But really, the most pressure still falls on the slender shoulders of Jaroslav Halak, who was the obvious focus of my story for The Canadian Press last night. He shouldn't need to be quite as spectacular as he was in the final three games against Washington, but he'll have to be pretty close to it for the Habs to have a chance to knock off the defending Cup champs from Pittsburgh.
That is where I'm heading today, and I'm looking forward to a few days in the steel city. I didn't pack enough clothes for the extended trip, but the way this team is coming together at the right time, I should have known better.
See you in Pittsburgh, and congrats to my fellow Montrealers for resisting the urge to loot and pillage.