Posted on May 1, 2008 11:46 AM | Permalink
PHILADELPHIA - Now what?
Canadiens coach Guy Carbonneau has painted himself into a dilemma with his decision to start Jaroslav Halak in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference semifinal against the Philadelphia Flyers.
Halak played well, and when you consider the circumstances under which he was making his first career playoff start, he was exceptional.
The game was played in about as hostile an environment as you will ever see with 19,872 orange-clad Flyers fans hurling obscenities in his direction at the Wachovia Center, and the Canadiens were in desperate need of a victory to knot up the series at two games apiece.
Halak made his coach look like the Jack Adams Award nominee he is right off the bat, stopping Jeff Carter on a clean short-handed breakaway about six minutes into the game, and he made a few more nice stops while his teammates were being stymied at the other by Martin Biron.
Good, but not good enough
But he couldn’t weather the storm forever, allowing R.J. Umberger to score a bit of a softy on the power play at 7:47 of the second with a wrist shot that got between Halak’s right arm and his body.
“He was good, obviously not good enough,” Carbonneau said after the game. “He was in a tough situation.”
He has two days and a morning to decide who will start in his net in a game that could mark the end of the Canadiens season Saturday at the Bell Centre.
Many people were burned by thinking this before, but it’s hard to imagine Carbonneau not coming back with Carey Price in Game 5.
Halak definitely didn’t lose Game 4 for the Canadiens - their cross-eyed shooters handled that - but Halak didn’t win it for them either.
Who will start Game 5?
Price had never been in such a pressure-packed environment before Game 7 of the first round against the Boston Bruins, but that game proved to a certain degree how the young 20-year-old can respond to a big game situation.
Halak is an unknown commodity in that sense, because he has never played in a win-or-you’re-out NHL playoff game, so Price has the edge in experience by one game.
Considering that game was a 5-0 shutout victory - after he had surrendered 10 goals in his previous two games - it should tip the balance in Price’s favour Saturday night.
Whatever Carbonneau’s decision winds up being, he would be best served announcing it early and killing this brewing goalie controversy before it starts.
His strategy of wrapping his goalie choice in a shroud of mystery prior to Game 4 may have been good on the road. But at home, with the full gamut of the voracious Montreal media on hand, the question of who will play in goal will become a distraction the Canadiens simply don’t need.
Briere refuses invitation
Daniel Briere was handed a chance of making headlines across Quebec after his game-winner in Game 4, but he took a pass.
Briere’s goal with 3:38 remaining was his third game-winner out of seven Flyers playoff victories, and he said he wanted to make amends for being on the ice for both Canadiens goals within a 39 second span that allowed Montreal to tie the game in the third.
He was told by a reporter after the game that he had just proved his decision last summer was the right one, and Briere - obviously confused - just frowned and looked at the reporter curiously.
The reporter then explained the comment, invoking Briere’s justification last summer when he spurned the Canadiens’ offer to sign as a free agent with the Flyers that he felt Philadelphia was a better team than Montreal.
Once Briere understood the gist of the question, he rolled his eyes.
“I’m not going there,” he said. “It’s not even worth it to go there.”