MONTREAL – A quick statistical look at the Canadiens’ comprehensive first-round win over the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Last time, we predicted big things from Lars Eller, Brian Gionta and Daniel Briere; all three players were integral parts of their team’s success in the past week. Eller paced the team offensively with five points in four games, Gionta showed off his two-way excellence while playing over 18 minutes per game, and Briere gave the Habs’ the spark it was looking for in two one-goal games. Now, let us examine the superlative work of some of their teammates.
There was something historic about Rene Bourque’s efforts in the first round of the playoffs against Tampa Bay. Despite taking few of his shifts on the powerplay, the left-winger led his team in scoring chances generated, averaging five and a half shots per game through four games. This tied a Habs franchise record established by Richard Zednik in 2002. The Slovak had been in a midst of a breakout playoff performance (eight points and 22 shots) before being injured by Kyle McLaren in Game Four of a first-round series against the Boston Bruins.
What’s more, at age 32, Bourque also becomes the oldest forward to hit the net with such frequency in a playoff series. The only other forwards in modern NHL history to average five shots or more in the playoffs past the age of 30 include Marian Hossa (2014, 5.25 SPG), Brian Rolston (2008, 5.17 SPG), Mike Gartner (1992, 5.08 SPG) and Bourque’s current linemate Brian Gionta (2011, 5.00 SPG).
In the early stages of Game One, Tampa Bay’s Nikita Kucherov opened the scoring with his first career playoff goal. However, that lead lasted all of 19 seconds before Tomas Plekanec tied the game at one. The Lightning did briefly regain the initiative in the second period thanks to Steven Stamkos, but the rest of the series would turn out to be all-Montreal on the scoreboard. In the 258 minutes contested, Tampa was ahead in the score for a total of three minutes and 34 seconds, all of them in Game One.
In 2013-14, the Canadiens have compiled an excellent record when leading their opponents. During the regular season, the team went 35-0-3 when it carried a lead into the second intermission and won over 82 percent of games when scoring first.
Holding down the fort
Despite averaging just 15 minutes of ice time per game between them, Montreal’s third defense pairing of Francis Bouillon and Mike Weaver did yeoman’s work against Tampa Bay. The gritty blueliners used their physicality and skating skills to consistently move the play up the ice while giving Michel Therrien’s top two defense pairings much-needed relief from their tough assignments.
Not only were Weaver and Bouillon on the ice for just one Tampa even-strength goal against throughout the series, but they also managed to generate six Montreal goals during the same span of time. Meanwhile, Tampa coach Jon Cooper used seven defensemen in games two through four; his bottom-three composed of Sami Salo, Mark Barberio and Andrej Sustr did not account for any offense and were a combined minus-seven.
Jack Han is a writer for canadiens.com
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