Not to freak anyone out or anything, but the scenario is playing out in such a similar fashion that it needs to be mentioned.
Sorry if this causes some of you to break out in hives or start convulsing on the floor, but if bad memories tend to have that effect on you, stop reading now.
I want to go back to the spring of 2007, the first time Jaroslav Halak was being touted as a saviour in Montreal. It was March 8, the Canadiens had just lost their fourth straight game, and it was Halak that was on the losing end of a 6-2 score to the division-leading Atlanta Thrashers.
The loss left the Habs with a record of 33-30-6, 11th in the Eastern Conference, but only one point behind the 8th place New York Rangers.
David Aebischer got the nod the next two games and won them over St. Louis and the Islanders, before losing 6-3 in Pittsburgh on March 16. Despite winning two out of three, the Habs were still in 11th, and now two points back of the 8th place Islanders.
In came Mr. Halak, who proceeded to win the next five straight and seven of the next eight. A 2-0 win over Boston on April 3 allowed Montreal to maintain its tenuous hold on the eighth seed, one point up on Toronto with two games left for both teams.
When both the Leafs and Habs lost their next game, Montreal needed a single point in Toronto on Hockey Night in Canada to sew up a playoff spot. I don't think I need to go into the details of what happened next, but here's the video for those who need their memory jogged.
The scenario is somewhat different now only in that the Leafs are out of it, and have been for a very, very long time. Almost from the very first day of the season, in fact. But with Toronto's brutal 5-1 loss to the Rangers tonight, the Habs still only need one point to make the playoffs, and it could be the Leafs standing in their way Saturday night if they don't get it done in Carolina on Thursday.
Not sure why I decided to remind everyone of this very dark hour in recent Canadiens history. Maybe it's to say that people learn from history, and there are still some players on the current edition of the team who were there in Toronto that night. Tomas Plekanec. Andrei Markov. Maxim Lapierre. Andrei Kostitsyn. And Halak.
Oh yes, Halak. The one who was replaced by Guy Carbonneau with Cristobal Huet, who allowed all six goals on 35 shots. Halak watched that game, and I can't remember if it was as the backup or from the press box. But either way, he watched as all his hard work was undone by someone else.
That had to hurt.
Perhaps that's why Halak was announced today as the team's Masterton Trophy nominee, despite the fact he's only 24 years old and hasn't had to persevere through much more than your average goalie does at that age (can you tell I voted for Glen Metropolit, who made it out of poverty and a rough neighbourhood through childhood and played all over the world before finding a steady gig in the NHL? But I digress).
Still, tomorrow night in Carolina is an opportunity for those five guys, and especially Halak (who I assume will get the start), to not allow that situation to repeat itself. They just need to go out and...