TORONTO — Kiss the draft lottery goodbye, Canadiens fans. Your team is one of 16 advancing in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
The dream of Alexis Lafreniere in a bleu, blanc et rouge jersey evaporated on Friday—at least until some late-career trade becomes a possibility—with the Canadiens beating the Pittsburgh Penguins 2-0 in Game 4.
But he’s just one young player. Let’s think about what this means for the other ones who are already with this organization; a monumental upset achieved over a perennial contender has to be considered the most valuable experience kids like Jesperi Kotkaniemi and Nick Suzuki can gain.
These two 20-year-olds played pivotal roles in this series, combining for three goals and matching up against the two best centres of an era. They came out on top.
They had help. Shea Weber, Ben Chiarot, Jeff Petry and Brett Kulak put a blanket on this dynamic Penguins offence. A line of Paul Byron, Artturi Lehkonen and Phillip Danault was a bear for those skilled Pittsburgh forwards to contend with in Game 4, with Lehkonen punctuating their performance by scoring the wining goal with 4:11 remaining in the third period.
Carey Price started this party. The 32-year-old stole Game 1, he stopped 104 of 111 Penguins shots before stopping every one he faced in Game 4 and he vaulted himself back on top of the goaltending food chain.
But the kids came up huge. Suzuki shadowed Crosby all game, holding him to zero scoring chances at 5-on-5. Happy 33rd birthday, Sid.
Kotkaniemi was brilliant throughout.
The Canadiens may not have earned their chance to play in this tournament, but they definitely earned the right to move on.