First off - Craig Rivet. Cherry and everyone else has been piling on, saying Rivet should not have put his stick in front of Stillman's shot, that it was an egregious error, that he shall never be forgiven etc. From 60' out, I think Rivet made the right play. Almost every time, he would have deflected the shot away from the net. If he doesn't challenge Stillman, he opens up the possibility of a fake shot or a shot with a big rebound. Or even a goal.
The rest of the series - There were three things that changed the course: the loss of Koivu, the Cam Ward coming out party, and Carolina's adjustments, particularly on special teams.
The Koivu story has been done to death, so I won't bore you further.
Bob MacKenzie describes Ward as a Cinderella story. There is no question he outplayed Huet, this season's previous Cinderella story. While Ward was as cool as a penguin's ass, Huet at times looked like a deer in the headlights, caught staring straight ahead while the puck bounced dangerously around his periphery. Ward was not a one-man show, but all other things being equal (and other things were remarkably equal in the last few games) the hotter goalie can make a big difference. Huet played great, Ward played greater.
Finally, Laviolette made some significant adjustments on the PP/PK. Cullen's goal in game 5 really stands out, when the 'Canes tried a higher formation (umbrella?). In game 6, the Habs adjusted for it. Unfortunately, I didn't see a similar adaptation by the Habs on their PP. Two Carolina PKers were very aggressive on points, and it worked like a charm. The Habs should have tried something like the 'Canes' umbrella with 3 shooters high. In the end, the Habs were still trying to catch up to the opponents' special teams.
Playoff Overtime - This creates a dilemma on weeknights. If you plan your beer consumption carefully, you can time it so you're finished when the game is over. Overtime introduces some uncertainty. Out here on the East coast, games can finish pretty late. By having another pint, you're committing to being up for another hour for a full beer rental cycle. It's not usually a problem, but if the game ends abruptly you're missing out on shuteye that could be crucial for the next evening's games. And you're wasting a beer. I hesitate to use the word "wasting" because a consumed pint is never wasted... it just could be more fully enjoyed with a game on the telly.
Congrats to the Carolina Hurricanes, and best of luck with the Devils. Please check out the wicked awesome 'Canes bloggers as they continue their playoff run:
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