Keep Your Hands Off the Habs, Please!

Habs send the SCF back to Tampa for Game 5 Wednesday. Duncan Kieth on the move? Penguins in need of a goalie. Where is Jay Pandolfo caching next?

I don't want to hear one single rip of criticism about the Canadiens and their fabulous foray into Stanley's Final round.

Not one. 

By now our ears have been ring like church bells over the (defending) champion Tampa Bay Lightning.

Enough already.

It has been firmly established that Andrei Vasilevskiy is the Earth's super goalie. 

We know that Victor Hedman is better than Adam Fox; not to mention every other defenseman in our universe. 

Not to mention the kudos heaped on captain Steven (As Nice A Guy As You'll Find) Stamkos, Nikita (I'm Underrated, So What?) Kucherov and Braden (Get The) Point. 

All very, very, very deserved.

But we're drowning in Bolts-boosting. 

We need a brief pause for station identification -- and having said that -- move on to the day's primary points. To wit:

1. THE MAGNIFICENT HABS: At this point in time, Montreal's miraculous ascent to hockey's near-peak should never be forgotten. Never. General manager Marc Bergevin's boys created so many thrills starting with the daring destruction of the Maple Losers that they're worth a book, if not a movie.

2. CAREY PAID THE PRICE: Okay, he's taken some bar-down shots to his solar plexus not to mention his rep. Big deal. No way Les Habitants would have been gotten past Toronto had it not been for Carey's competitiveness and goaltending excellence. By the Final he could have been accused of shell shock or Puck-itis. Ergo: Don't for a second forget his heroics.

3. NEW HEROES: Cole Caufield jetted from Wisconsin and could have finished spring in the AHL. Bergevin felt he was ready and were we ever lucky to watch this kid dent the twine. Seeing the likes of Nick Suzuki and Tyler Tuffoli make magic tells me that the Habs future is better than incandescent. Toss in some applause for Josh Anderson -- remember the deal, Anderson for Max Domi -- and his two-goal game last night, including the OT game-winner!

4. OLD HEROES: No image symbolized the Montrealers perseverance and grim determination than Brendan Gallagher's bloodied mug. He and his mates are giving their all; and -- when all's said and done -- that's all right with me.

What matters most is what happened last night in Habtown which really is a lesson in life. FINAL SCORE: 3-2, Montreal in overtime.

1. IT AIN'T OVER 'TIL IT'S OVER: That the Canadiens won a game that just about every one thought as Tampa's is the starting point.

2. TENACITY, OPPORTUNISM AND GOOD FORTUNE' ; Those are my buddy, Gus Vic's words to describe the keys to Montreal's performance.

3. FRESH FACES MAKE A DIFFERENCE: Alex Romanov hadn't played since June 14. His power play goal at 8:48 of the third period energized his mates who now had a 2-1 lead -- and hope.

4. LADY LUCK: A four-minute Tampa Bay power play late in the third and into OT usually results in a guaranteed goal. For the Habs, luck was a Lady last night.

Is a miracle in the works? 

Let's not get crazy, especially with the series returning to Florida tomorrow night.

Then again, when you consider what Marc Bergevin's outfit has accomplished so far, I would not rule anything out. 

If you disagree with me, fine; just read the following and then tell me you still believe these Habs are out of it. I don't:


THE JIVE: Kenny Holland needs all the defense he can get, especially if his Oilers expect to surmount a first round exit. Keith, who paid his dues in Chicago, wants to go west of Illinois. A basc geography course tells us that Alberta and British Columbia are pretty west, if you don't want to get Pacific wet. I believe Keith will wind up in Edmonton but Vancouver's a pretty neat town as well.  


THE JIVE: Tyler Johnson is the kind of scrappy left wing you just have to love. Lightning g.m. Julien BriseBois loved him so much that he put Spokane's gift to major league hockey on waivers. Fortunately for the Bolts nobody bothered to say "Aye," and Tyler remained tied to the fourth rung of right wings. Come the Cup Final and the Little Guy delivered so well that coach Jon Cooper waxed eloquent about Tyler. "He's the ultimate team player," said Coop. "Tyler is selfless, and nobody has adapted better to our changes. He never lost faith and we never lost faith in him." (Nice!)


THE JIVE: Nobody knows netminders better than the Penguins general manager. Hexy was a good one -- except on the Islanders -- and realizes that his Flightless Birds will go nowhere fast in a hurry with Tristan Jarry in the crease. Which means the ton of possibilities in the Used Goalie Market will tempt Ronnie no end. Not that he needs my advice but I'd recommend a healthy Jaroslav Halak. Of course, Marc-Andre Fleury would be a no-brainer should Vegas figure that this is the best time to end The Flower Show.


THE JIVE: As a player, Rapid Ray was an interviewer's dream come true. Available, intelligent, affable and all other good things, Ferraro now has honed his broadcasting career to sharpness as never before. He joins the intensely staffed ESPN team and automatically gives The Boys From Bristol an analyst who's better than anyone at Turner can possible match. Call this a TKO of TNT.


THE JIVE: Arizona g.m. Bill Armstrong has shunned the big money coaching madness and, instead, hired the relatively unknown Andre Tourgny as the Yotes new bench boss. Except that Able Andre has a long history of success on the Junior level and earned the right to try his luck in the Bigs. As The Toronto Sun's Steve Simmons aptly notes, many a fine Junior coach has failed in the NHL. Among the losers were Craig Hartsburg, Terry Simpson, Bill Laforge and Brian Kilrea. In all fairness, Simpson and Kilrea followed Al Arbour, arguably the best coach all-time, with the Islanders. Kilrea was the bigger disappointment. Simpson, on the other hand, orchestrated the Isles in the Easter Epic, four OT classic over Washington when Pat LaFontaine scored the winner. Who knows? Tourgny just could be the guy for Arizona.


THE JIVE: Over his long playing career -- mostly with the Devils -- Jay Pandolfo was the quintessential defensive forward. And arguably the best at his craft without anyone paying much attention. With New Jersey, Pando combined with John Madden -- starting with the 1999-2000 season -- to form one of the very best penalty-killing combos the NHL has -- or had -- ever seen. Ironically, a high scorer at BU, Jay altered his game to the defensive end to meet New Jersey's needs. After hanging up his playing skates, the New Englander joined the Bruins staff where he performed admirably until now. His new gig is as Assistant Head Coach at BU working with his college teammate, head coach Albie O'Connell. Personally, I always felt that Jay was the salt-of-the-earth kind of guy you'd always want as a leader. (Good move for Pando and BU.)"