Habs Goalie: Price (W)
Opposition Goalie: Rask (L)
Habs goalscorers: Plekanec, Subban, Weise, Eller
Opposition goalscorers: Bergeron, Iginla
Watch if you will Dale Weise's eyes on the breakout that led to his goal. As soon as he sees the blocked puck he is off to the races. Boston hasn't even reacted to the broken play at all and he is behind them all. The Weaver block and the Briere pass are both wonderful, but the predatory move was a thing of beauty. He scored, and it now means that Bruins defenders reviewing tape will be on edge about all blocked shots from now on (and there are a lot). The more those rookies are given to think about in a game, the better. The game-winning goal is a psychological blow that could echo into the future.
Tomas PlekanecTomas Plekanec received a gift before Tuesday's game: Thomas Vanek. And less Prust. What it did for Plek's was to turn his line back into a primary source of offense for the team. It worked. Plekanec was the beneficiary of a thoughtful pass from Vanek for his goal in the first. This play, the result of hard forecheck and errors lit the Habs fire after a breif time spent enduring Bruins attacks. Our best all-around forward was nearly on for the kill shot as well, when his new linemate easily beat Rask but not the iron. Besides this, Plekanec was good on defense too, often drawing the more dangerous trio of Bergeron-Marchand-Smith and handling them as well as could be expected. In the merry-go-round of Habs threats, this move by Therrien, and Plekanec's response, has created another headache for Julien.
Lars EllerWow. What on earth happens to this player in the dull days of January. The contrast is inexplicable. Though Eller still favours his stickhandling on balance, through his energy he is now making his line a nightly threat. Not all the Canadiens are that fast, you know, but Eller and his line give the group a good name. Speed of the calibre he possesses always causes headaches, and especially on a quick counter. He has become masterful since the playoffs started at the lightning quick play. In Game 3, he sprung for two goal-making plays: the very canny pass to PK Subban and the singlehanded empty-net nerve calmer. He was one of three Canadiens to outweigh the Bruins in attempt battles, but one almost wishes he'd get more attempts on the goaltender. His only shot was from a few inches in front of a gaping cage.
Dale WeiseToo much is made about Boston's fourth line, mainly by their own horns. To the surprise of the Black and Gold, it is Dale Weise who is again making the biggest impact from the depth role. In this one, he made the critical play that led to Eller's Subban pass and he showed his instincts well with the play of the game goal. It's a nice effort from the short-shifting, line-surfing player. Even so, I hesitated to put him in the dome, as his defense in this one was pretty horrid. 6 dangerous shots against in 10 minutes of ice is too many, no matter who you play. He rode a bit of luck to a good outcome. But be careful not to misunderstand me, there was skill in his offensive contributions.
PK Subban - Game PuckWhat is this now? 11 points in the playoffs for the nomination-less defender? Well, we know what counts and will gladly take success now over a Norris and a shameful exit to the Ottawa Senators. Michel Therrien calls PK Subban a gamer at every mention. This is true, but I think he could risk a bit more hyperbole. He is not a mere gamer in the way that Mike Keane was, he is a superstar who happens to have an extra gear. Things happen when Subban is on the ice because he takes responsibility for making it so. While, I would give him little credit for his first point, all laurels for the breakaway goal taken with great panache on the goalie who will win the Vezina this year. Subban also had positives across the board: chances, shots, good hits, nice blocks. His penalty was no penalty and his nudge on the net was no penalty-shot (not on a peripheral play for the Bruins). His 5 givewaways raise a bit of a flag, but then again, what isn't a giveaway for the Montreal scorekeeper?
Andrei MarkovEver so quietly in the background, Markov is doing his solid work. He has no ES points in the playoffs, but he's been influential nonetheless at even strength as the captain of the top defensive pairing. Even in this game, it was Emelin, his partner piling up the numbers. But this is their method, and one that has become quite effective: Emelin, the vanguard; Markov the sweeper. Against some very tough assignments Markov did no less than limit his adversaries to 3 dangerous shots among the 18 attempts. Forcing waste is a key to shutting down lines with so much energy and Markov has been doing a fine job of this since he first saw the Stamkos line a few weeks ago.
Carey PriceThere isn't a stat held in the NHL website that shows doggedness from the start. In the past, one might have slighted Carey Price for taking too long to get a groove -- being perhaps too relaxed from puck drop for his own good. This has been corrected. A quality he has demonstrated all season is a competitive edge from the very first second of a game. Yes, he can be caught just like anyone else. But it is clearly less commonplace due to considerable attention on his part and his new coach's. The dangerous barrage from the Bruins at the start of the game could have introduced a different outcome. Instead, he outlasted this and allowed his team to establish the enviable position of playing from a lead. What's more, he held his nerve at the end this time and didn't ask his teammates to win another in OT. Big result for Carey as he impresses those Ben Bishop voters every night now.
The Lightning play was back for a while in this one. I allude to the play from last series, but it's also a useful descriptor for it's nature.
I'm not sure one could credit a coach's adjustment here. Rather I think it's in the DNA of the team. It seems one might at least credit Marc Bergevin, however, as we watched 3 of his recent acquisitions turn blocked shot into goal in 4 seconds flat.
Getting the win in this game is so very valuable. It puts the pressure squarely back on the Bruins and provides the Canadiens a view of the finish line. The work is by no means nearly done. Yet, it's better to be Montreal today than it is to be Anaheim, New York or Minnesota, who also face 2013 Conference finalists and 2014 President's trophy hopefuls, but from trailing position.
Besides the result, the manner the win was taken was important. For the third time in three games, the Bruins were asked to make a third period comeback. For the first time, they weren't equal to the task. Both the 2nd intermission lead, and the fact it held send tremors to the other dressing room. As good as the Bruins may be coming from behind (as I explained here), this is still a taxing exercise on their bodies and minds. What doesn't kill you makes you stronger and all that, but in the playoffs, what tires you isn't helpful. While the Canadiens would have been hard pressed to exhaust the Bruins physically with the imbalance of size in important positions, the psychological fatigue they have imposed is just as good.
Nonetheless, the Bruins are still the team that everyone so respected before Game 1. The reason they earn that respect is for their proven resilience in gaining results over this season and going back to successes of previous years. Expect the team to adjust. One does wonder how they might, however. A team simply can't guard against every play of the Dale Weise nature without paying from another pocket. If unrelenting pressure has been their calling card, and the game they know, will a switch now be explored?
Rather than reacting, why not keep on the press? Therrien through the mixer to the lineup for Game 3, with good effect. Now emphasize the point. Vanek could be played more now freed, to force that unenviable choice of Vanek or Pacioretty without Chara. Eller deployed to best effect will help ensure his threat goes on. I would also encourage a continued emphasis on working through the Boston point guards, who more than anyone have confounded the release of pressure. And keep this unit together and on task as minutes and numbers do wild things. This Canadiens team has won because of a combined commitment, and one wouldn't want a solitary ego getting upset because of low minutes or a bad stats line. Staying the course takes hard work from coaches, just as adjustment does.