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Thursday, May 15, 2014

Series Recap: Bye Bye Bruins; Habs Advance

Greetings Habs Addicts!!

Wow, it has been a long time since the city had a buzz like this going on during the NHL playoffs!

Montreal beat the Bruins 3-1 last night in Boston to secure a berth in the Eastern Conference final against another Original Six team, the New York Rangers.

In my Habs Addict series preview - The Habs Are Shipping Up To Boston - I broke down the season series, looked at each team by position and indicated who I felt would be the winner. Yes, I admit I have a biased opinion on the result, but here is the my final paragraph and prediction from that article:

Photo Credit: Nationalpost.com
Prediction: Boston and Montreal physically beat each other up, score some fantastic goals and keep the fans on the edge of their seats all series long. A hot goaltender can win a series. Carey Price is that goaltender as Montreal wins the series 4-3 in another hard-fought, best of seven series. One for the ages is upon us. Enjoy it!
That statement could not have described the series more accurately.

This was a very physical series. The Bruins were targeting the Montreal defenders with body checks each and every time they could. Overall, the Bruins landed 269 hits on Canadiens players while the Habs returned the physical action with 247 of their own. On average the big, bad Bruins had 38.4 hits per game while the smaller, speedier Habs nearly matched them with a 35.2 average over the seven game series. The Bruins were bigger, but they were slower. Zdeno Chara was challenged often by David Desharnais and Brendan Gallagher, both of whom showed tremendous grit and character this series. Gallagher was his true antagonizing self all series long. Dale Weise and Brandon Prust laid the body on Bruins every shift they played. On the Boston side, Milan Lucic was flexing his muscles - literally at times - battling with PK Subban all series long. Both players attacked each other physically, but Subban did more damage on the scoreboard. Brad Marchand was a non-factor offensively, but was often seen taking cheap shots at Habs players both during the action and after the whistle had blown.

The difference came down to a hot goaltender stealing the series. For all the talk about Peter Budaj having Boston's number, Carey Price has been extremely successful in his career against the Bruins. Tuukka Rask has not had any sustained success against Montreal. This carried over into the playoffs. Carey Price set the tone for the series in Game 1 when he made 48 saves during the Habs double-overtime win. Price was absolutely outstanding, making difficult save after difficult save. For the series, Price sported a 2.04 goals against average and a dazzling .936 save percentage. Boston rarely beat Price unless the puck was deflected or shot from the point through heavy traffic. Going into game seven, the Bruins had also hit ten goal posts. But the posts are a goalie's best friend, after all. Tuukka Rask was far from terrible, but when you watch game seven, Price was calm and composed as he always is while Rask was noticeably shaky at times, often battling himself to control the puck. Price also addressed the team in the locker room between the second and third period, telling them to 'remain in the moment, forget the past and focus on the now'. They responded.

After the game during the hand shake line - hockey's ceremonial show of sportsmanship - Milan Lucic exemplified the class we expect out of the Boston Bruins: He visibly stopped Dale Weise and said something to the effect of "I'm going to f**king kill you next year". Apparently he also said sometime similar to Alexei Emelin. Lucic and Emelin have a history between each other. Weise mentioned the incident to reporters after the game but declined to go into specifics. Lucic responded to Weise talking to reporters as Weise being a baby; "What's said on the ice, stays on the ice."

Clearly, Milan Lucic is an idiot. If you are going to stop someone on a televised broadcast and threaten them, you should expect someone in the media will be able find someone who can read lips and translate what you said. On TSN during the intermission of the Los Angeles Kings vs Anaheim Ducks game, Aaron Ward had harsh words for Lucic about his post-game behaviour. When a former team-mate calls you out, you should know what you did was stupid and immature. Way to stay classy, Milan.
Photo credit: Sportsnet.ca

(Note: If you want a good laugh, #WhatLucicToldWeise was trending on Twitter shortly after the game ended. There were some great tweets out there)

For those who only loosely followed this series, here is a brief recap of all seven games played.

Game 1: Montreal 4, BOSTON 3 (2OT) 
Boston had home ice advantage to start the series. Carey Price makes 48 saves and single-handedly kept an out-played Montreal team in the game. P.K Subban had two powerplay goals - carbon copies of each other as both occurred with Matt Bartkowski in the penalty box and both were set up by Andrei Markov - including the double-overtime winner. Habs blew both a 2-0 and a 3-2 lead in the third period. Rene Bourque and Francis Bouillon also scored for Montreal.

Game 2: BOSTON 5, Montreal 3 
Montreal blew a 3-1 lead with ten minutes to go in the third period, allowing 4 Boston goals including an empty-net capper as Boston drew even in the series 1-1. Thomas Vanek deflected in two Subban point shots for his first two goals of the series, both on the power play. Mike Weaver also scored for Montreal. Francis Bouillon had two Boston goals deflect off him and into the net. Boston out-hit Montreal for a second game in a row.

Game 3: MONTREAL 4, Boston 2
The series moved to Montreal. Douglas Murray was inserted into the line-up over Francis Bouillon to provide physical presence. Travis Moen replaced a banged up Brandon Prust for this one. Thomas Plekanec opened the scoring while Subban had a goal and assist as Montreal jumped to 3-0 lead. Dale Weise and Lars Eller (empty net) also scored for Montreal. Carey Price was sensational again making 26 saves.

Game 4: Boston 1, MONTREAL 0 (OT)
Call up Matt Fraser scored a fluke goal in overtime as Tuukka Rask was finally flawless against the Canadiens. Douglas Murray and Mike Weaver started the overtime and Murray was horribly out of position on the winning goal. Rask and Price duelled throughout the game, making 33 and 35 saves, respectively. Brandon Prust returned to the line-up in place of Travis Moen. Boston ties the series 2-2.

Game 5: BOSTON 4, Montreal 2
The Bruins finally displayed the game that earned them the President's Trophy as the top team in the NHL this year. Physically dominated the Habs by out-hitting them 39-29. Douglas Murray was exposed as too slow and could not clear the puck out of the defensive zone. Bruins jumped ahead to a 4-1 lead until P.K. Subban wired one home with 2 minutes left in the game. Again on the power play and again with Matt Bartkowski in the penalty box. Third time this series. Subban was squirted in the face with water by the Bruins Shawn Thornton late in the game. While no penalty was assessed, Thornton was fined by the NHL. Brendan Gallagher had the other Montreal goal. Daniel Briere was a healthy scratch for Montreal, replaced by Travis Moen. Boston leads the series 3-2.

Game 6: MONTREAL 4, Boston 0
The Canadiens returned to Montreal with their playoff lives on the line and responded with the best game they played this entire season. Complete and utter dominance of the Bruins. Nathan Beaulieu was a surprise addition to the line-up in place of Douglas Murray and made his professional hockey playoff debut paired with Mike Weaver. Beaulieu picked up an assist on Max Pacioretty's first goal of the series in the second period. Lars Eller opened the scoring in the first period and Thomas Vanek scored a pair of goals to ice the game. Daniel Briere returned to the line-up for Montreal. Carey Price stopped 26 shots - including many difficult ones - for the shutout. Series is now tied 3-3.

Game 7: Montreal 3, BOSTON 1
The deciding game in the series was played in Boston. Dale Weise opened the scoring just 2:18 into the game. Montreal dominated the action in the first period, relying on speed to go along with a punishing physical game. Max Pacioretty scored the series-winning goal for the second time in these playoffs midway through the second period. Daniel Briere iced the game late in the third period with a power play goal and Nathan Beaulieu had another assist, giving him 2 assists in just under 18 minutes of ice time in the playoffs. Total. Carey Price was sensational, making 29 saves while Tuukka Rask was visibly shaky and stopped only 15 of 18 shots faced. Alexei Emelin was a physical force with 7 hits on the blue line for Montreal.

There is no better feeling than defeating the Boston Bruins in a playoff series. The Bruins are bruising physical team. Players like Brad Marchand and Milan Lucic play the game with an often dirty edge. Shawn Thornton is a goon, plain and simple. Zdeno Chara is nasty. Claude Julien is easily the most unlikeable coach in the NHL. The Bruins are the Habs biggest rivals, with all due respect to the losers in blue and white up there in Toronto. Winning this series playing the Habs style of speed game gives them great confidence heading into the next round against the surprising New York Rangers (Series Preview will be available on Friday). Montreal is playing a complete game right now, with a hot goalie, solid defense and production from all four forward lines. Getting fourth line production is what helps win Stanley Cups. Ask Los Angeles. Ask Boston. Ask Chicago. Dale Weise, Daniel Briere, Michael Bournival and Brandon Prust are providing both the intangibles and the points.

Enjoy this victory, Montreal fans. Savour every moment of it. Because we just witnessed one for the ages.

 ---
Nick Malofy is a transplanted Montrealer, currently living in evil LeafLand. He is a contributor here at HabsAddict.com and give him a follow, as he can often be found rambling on Twitter.

3 comments:

You have no idea how this feels for me. All the bruins are pouting we won because of the referees. My opinion of Bruin fans are sore losers and full of excuses. Thank You Habs for a job well done. I hope some of the players read these post it means the world to me beating the big bad bully boys!! Lucheat is a cry baby grow up!! PK Subban is a class act along with the rest of the Habs I am proud to be a Habs fan

New York is playing for Marty St Louis right now, Habs better match their Intensity or will lose this series.

New York is playing for Marty St Louis right now, Habs better match their Intensity or will lose this series.

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