MONTREAL – You can count the number of NHL postseason games Dale Weise has played on two hands, but that hasn’t stopped him from bringing a wealth of playoff experience with him to Montreal.
He’s only been with the team since early February, but it hasn’t taken Weise long to slide seamlessly into the Canadiens’ postseason mix. Brought in to provide additional sandpaper – with an underrated scoring touch – to the lineup just before the Olympic break, the 25-year-old winger immediately made the Habs a deeper team.
After sweeping the Lightning in Round 1 with goals from 10 different players, Weise is about to see the second round of the NHL Playoffs for the first time in his career, but he’s already learned how valuable scoring-by-committee can be come springtime.
“Playing against LA two years ago, I saw it firsthand. They had great goaltending. They played sound defensively. Their star players were blocking shots, and just doing the simple things,” explained Weise, who played two games against the eventual Cup winners as a member of the Canucks in 2012. “I think depth is key. You’ve got to have four lines that can play and I think you’ve got to be rolling six D. Playoffs are so physical and they take so much out of you that if you want to be successful going to the Stanley Cup, you’ve got to have a deep lineup. Once the playoffs get going, things really tighten down and you’re not going to get as many goals from your top two lines. I think your bottom six have to contribute offensively.”
Weise wasted little time chipping in on the offensive side of the puck, wiring the overtime winner past Anders Lindback in Game 1. Even-keel even after scoring his first NHL postseason goal to give the Habs a 1-0 series lead on road ice, the Winnipeg native recognizes the importance of not getting ahead of oneself at playoff time.
“The first year I was in the playoffs, we were the President’s Trophy winners in Vancouver. Coming into the playoffs, we were the top seed and we were set to go up against L.A. and there were high expectations from the year before because the Canucks had gone to the Stanley Cup Finals,” recalled Weise, whose team suffered a surprisingly early exit that year, losing 4-1 to the Kings in the opening round.
“I think everybody thought it was going to be kind of a similar run. We talked all year about training our bodies for a long playoff run. Then we were down 3-0 in the series before we knew it,” added the gritty winger, who now has two points in four playoff games as a Hab. “From that experience, I learned that you’ve got to be in the moment because no matter what you did before or during the year, nothing matters but that one game.”
A lifelong Habs fan, Weise watched with particular interest in 2010 as his eighth-seeded childhood team went on a Cinderella run to the Eastern Conference finals. Having moved from the outside-looking-in to a key cog in the team’s current drive for 25, he sees some similarities between the 2010 Habs and this year’s group.
“I was in the Rangers system, but just watching that, I thought it was awesome,” shared Weise, who was drafted 111th overall by New York in 2008. “Coming in, nobody expected Montreal to go as far as they did. You couldn’t help but be impressed by what they accomplished.”
In addition to the 13 goals they got from 2010 NHL Playoff scoring leader Michael Cammalleri, the Canadiens also enjoyed timely secondary scoring, with Travis Moen, Dominic Moore, Tom Pyatt and Maxim Lapierre all chipping in with game-winning markers that year.
“During that run for Montreal, they were so defensive. Everybody was buying in, their skill guys were blocking shots and just doing whatever it takes to win,” he explained. “I think that’s so key in the playoffs. I see a lot of that in our group now. And just to have a goalie like Carey Price, you know you have a chance to win every night. If you play well in front of him and limit opportunities, he’s going to do the rest. That gives guys a lot of confidence in the playoffs.”
With a playoff pedigree that includes five goals and seven points in 11 career AHL postseason games, Weise has always found a way to kick things up a notch when spring rolls around.
“I don’t know if anything changes in your game, I just think every game is so exciting and every moment could be a series-changer,” explained Weise, who is tied with Alexei Emelin for third on the team with 10 hits while playing just over 10 minutes a night so far this postseason. “Everything is cranked up a notch and every game matters. This is what every Canadian kid grows up dreaming about.”
Shauna Denis is a writer for canadiens.com. With files from Matt Cudzinowski.
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