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Americans making the difference for Montreal

Image (1) Gionta-thumb-250x258-11618.jpg for post 1631

Montreal is a town rich in French and Canadian history, one that is also directly tied to their beloved hockey team. French-Canadian players are embraced as local heroes and team always has a distinct Quebec flavor among the players.

This is a town that is obsessed with its Canadiens and the region’s patriotic spirit is fueled by the success of their hockey team. After all, the Habs represent the next chance for the Stanley Cup to return to Canada -- although I have a feeling there are some Canadian hockey fans that wouldn’t mind seeing that drought stay alive another year.

One thing that is great about this team, this deeply historical and locally flavored hockey franchise, is how three American-born players are proving to be the difference this postseason.

It’s tough to say if Jaroslav Halak or Michael Cammalleri is the MVP of this team so far, but the trio of Scott Gomez, Brian Gionta and Hal Gill have been just as important to the Habs’ success against the Penguins and the Capitals

Gomez, who has just one goal but is leading the team in assists, has provided the edge on the forecheck and the hardworking example that the team hoped to get when they acquired him. While he has been under intense scrutiny and criticism this past season for not living up to his lofty contract, he’s turned it on in the playoffs and made a difference when it was needed most.

For Brian Gionta, the second-leading scorer for the Habs in the playoffs, he’s relocated his scoring touch at exactly the right time. He’s tied with Cammalleri for the team lead in power play scores and has proven just how valuable a veteran goal scorer can be in the postseason. More importantly, he knows what it takes to be successful in the playoffs after seven seasons with the New Jersey Devils.

Yet it’s Hal Gill, fresh off a Stanley Cup win last season with the Penguins, that’s perhaps made the biggest difference for the Habs. It’s not what he’s done on the scoreboard that’s been important, it’s been his leadership and play on defense. Gill has been instrumental in the shutdown of Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin, frustrating the world’s best players on their way to early playoff exits.

There’s no doubt that Montreal is proud of their local heroes but it’s these three Americans can be thanked for helping get the Habs to this point. In the Stanley Cup playoffs, however, national allegiances are put aside and only the logo on the front of the jersey matters.