It's all blind luck

AL STRACHAN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 3:54 PM ET


 Is there an office in this nation that does not have a playoff pool?

 Is there a bar-room hockey discussion that does not involve someone announcing that a given team will win its series?

 Is there a poor benighted hockey writer somewhere who is not forced by his lords and masters to submit to the annual humiliation of making predictions?

 All these things are supposed to be indications of insight, but the only real insight is shown by those who freely admit that anything can happen.

 Look, for instance, at just one game -- Tuesday's Game 4 between the Montreal Canadiens and Boston Bruins.

 It ended with Boston winning at 29:27 of overtime, at which point, all the people who picked Boston smugly looked at their friends and said, "I told you so."

 But would Boston have won if:

 - Montreal coach Claude Julien had decided to flip his defencemen prior to the faceoff late in the third period in the Canadiens zone? He had Andrei Markov and Craig Rivet out there with Markov in front of the net and Rivet closer to the boards.

 Jim Dowd won the draw, but Rivet, a right-handed shot, had nowhere to go with it and the Bruins kept the puck in. With 30 seconds left on the clock, Mike Knuble scored to force overtime.

 Had Markov, who shoots left, been in Rivet's place, he easily could have rimmed the puck behind the net and out because the Bruins had no one on their right point.

 - Next year's offside rule was in place? Just prior to the tying goal, it appeared that the Canadiens would score an empty-netter. But the puck had entered the Montreal zone briefly before the Canadiens turned the play around. It was offside. Under the tag-up rule, which is to be reinstated next season, play continues.

 - Julien sends out Yanic Perreault to take the draw? There are valid reasons he didn't do so. Perreault is superb on faceoffs but poor defensively. Dowd is much more likely to get physically involved should the Bruins get possession.

 And Dowd won the draw. But perhaps Perreault would have won it more cleanly and the Canadiens would have had more time to clear it.

 - The Canadiens score on a 30-second five-on-three situation late in the third period? Not much illumination is needed for that one. At five-on-three, you should at least come close. The Canadiens didn't.

 - Julien dressed someone who might, in emergencies, step in? For the past three games, he has dressed Darren Langdon whose average ice time per game is 2:20. When Stephane Quintal was hurt five minutes into the second period, the Canadiens had to play with five defencemen until the game ended -- some 55 minutes later.

 - Alex Kovalev realizes that until the penalty has been called, there is no penalty? Instead, after being slashed by Travis Green, Kovalev quit playing and worse still, took defenceman Sheldon Souray out of the play, thereby allowing Glen Murray's game-winning breakaway goal.

 "I really don't know what to say," Souray said. "He left the puck there and there was no one behind him."

 Souray conceded that Kovalev had been hurt. "Maybe it should be a penalty," he said. "But do you stop playing? In double-overtime?"

 When Souray was asked if Kovalev's reaction wasn't a natural reaction to a slash of that nature, the silence was deafening. Souray clearly was choosing his words carefully.

 Finally, he said, "It's frustrating that it happened right now in a game that was so important."

 - Mike Ribeiro had not made such a production out of his injury on Sunday? Every referee in the league was sent a video memo on that matter on Monday. On some nights, Green's slash on Kovalev might have been called. But not in the game after Ribeiro's performance.

 But we all knew it would turn out this way, didn't we?


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