May 17, 2014; Montreal, Quebec, CAN; New York Rangers defenseman Ryan McDonagh (27) reacts with teammate Brad Richards (19) after scoring a goal against the Montreal Canadiens during the third period in game one of the Eastern Conference Finals of the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs at the Bell Centre. Mandatory Credit: Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports

Montreal Canadiens Continue To Be Haunted By The Ghost Of Scott Gomez

Widely regarded as one of the worst trades in the history of hockey, the Montreal Canadiens acquisition of Scott Gomez has reached a new low this week. On June 30th, 2009, the Habs made a deal with the New York Rangers that brought Gomez along with Tom Pyatt and Mike Busto to Montreal in exchange for Ryan McDonagh, Chris Higgins, Pavel Valentenko and Doug Janik.

Several of the players involved barely scratched the surface of the NHL, but the trade basically boiled down to Gomez for McDonagh. Gomez failed miserably to live up to expectations and his seven million plus dollar cap hit with Montreal, and was eventually bought out of his contract after playing three seasons with the Habs.

May 17, 2014; Montreal, Quebec, CAN; Montreal Canadiens right wing Brian Gionta (21) misses a chance to score a goal against New York Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist (30) and defenseman Ryan McDonagh (27) and center Brian Boyle (22) during the second period in game one of the Eastern Conference Finals of the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Bell Centre. Mandatory Credit: Jean-Yves Ahern-USA TODAY Sports

McDonagh on the other hand, has blossomed into an excellent defender and is a key reason the Rangers currently have a 2-0 lead over the Habs in the Eastern Conference Final.

The American defenseman was a first round pick of Montreal, 12th overall in the 2007 NHL Draft, so it should come as no surprise that he has grown into a exceptional player at the NHL level. What is a surprise, is the fact he is leading the Rangers in points in the first playoff meeting with the Habs since 1996.

McDonagh had no points in the Rangers first ten playoff games, after missing the last five regular season games with a shoulder injury. He finally found the score sheet in Game 4 against the Penguins in the second round series, and added a pair of points in Game 5.

McDonagh then exploded for four points in Game 1 against the team that drafted him, and added a goal and assist in the Rangers Game 2 victory. It is not just that he is scoring points, but the timing of his points have been daggers in the back of a hopeful Montreal team.

In Game 1, he had an assist on Mats Zuccarello’s goal that made it 2-0 Rangers early in the first period, and then helped set up Chris Kreider for a late second period goal that restored the blue shirts two goal advantage, making it 3-1. His early third period power play goal took the life right out of the Canadiens when he made the score 5-1 and put the game out of reach.

Apr 1, 2014; Vancouver, British Columbia, CAN; New York Rangers forward Daniel Carcillo (13) celebrates his goal with defenseman Ryan McDonagh (27) against Vancouver Canucks goaltender Eddie Lack (31) (not pictured) during the first period at Rogers Arena. Mandatory Credit: Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports

In Game 2 Montreal scored the game’s first goal 6:14 into the contest but McDonagh tied it just 17 seconds later on a seeing eye point shot. He then helped set up a Martin St Louis goal that put the Rangers ahead 3-1 in the second period and would be enough for them to hang on to the win.

Gomez was much less than was expected and McDonagh is turning out to be much more than the Rangers could have expected when they made the trade five years ago. He added new heights to his offensive game, doubling his previous goal total by scoring 14, and also reaching a career high in assists and points with 29 and 43.

The more you watch McDonagh the more you shake your head at the possibility that was once pairing of him and P.K. Subban who was taken in the second round of the same 2009 draft. There is really no point in regaling in the what ifs of the hockey world, but some are just too difficult to ignore.

It is a trade that has been discussed countless times in five years, and never has it been looked at in Montreal’s favor. There was already no doubt about who won the trade, but McDonagh just kicked a lot more sand in the Habs face in the past two games.

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