Five Keys to the Game: Habs-Lightning #4
Don’t get too excited, but…: Everyone knows that a best-of-seven series isn’t over after just three games. Still, some teams boast a far more powerful killer instinct than others when it comes to sending their opponents packing, and the Canadiens are certainly part of that group. In the 30 times the Habs have led a playoff series by a 3-0 count, they’ve put an end to the series in four games 21 times, in five games on seven occasions, and in six games just two times..
Don’t get too excited, but… take 2: As indicated above, four victories are needed by any one team to win a playoff series. There’s no disputing that. But, sweeping a best-of-seven series usually is a strong indicator that we’ll all be enjoying swimming weather before the Canadiens’ season comes to an end. Since 1946, 15 Habs playoff runs have included at least one series sweep. That being said, you probably have a good idea where we’re headed with the next piece of information. Of those 15 playoff runs, 11 ended with epic Stanley Cup parades along Ste-Catherine Street, three came to a close with defeats in the Stanley Cup Finals, and only one ended with a loss in the Conference Finals in 1987.
Call me, Rene: Whether you compare him to John Druce (1990), Chris Kontos (1989) or John LeClair (1993), or manage to mix him up with Raymond Bourque, Rene Bourque is most definitely in his comfort zone in the postseason. After picking up three points in five games last spring, Bourque now boasts three goals in his first three playoff games in 2014, including the eighth fastest goal in playoff history to start a game. With a goal-per-game average in the playoffs of 0.63 in a Canadiens uniform, Bourque is part of an elite group of six players who’ve posted goal-per-game averages above 0.60 (all of whom played more than seven games), including four members of the Hockey Hall of Fame – Maurice Richard, Joe Malone, Odie Cleghorn and Newsy Lalonde – along with 2010 standout, Michael Cammalleri. You’d be hard-pressed to find better company than that!
Mr. Unstoppable: P.K. Subban logged plenty of ice time in Game 3 against the Lightning, spending 28:03 showcasing his skill time and time again to those in attendance at the Bell Centre. It was the 24th time in the rearguard’s career he’d seen at least that much ice time in a single game. When Subban spends nearly half a game on the ice, he has three goals and 14 points, including the highlight-reel assist he singlehandedly created to set up Brendan Gallagher for the Canadiens’ second goal on Sunday night. He also boasts a plus-8 differential under similar circumstances. Needless to say, the Lightning will see their fair share of the reigning Norris Trophy winner on Tuesday night.
Iron Curtain: After dominating the regular season in blocked shots, the Canadiens are once again sitting atop the NHL in that category in the postseason. Buoyed by Alexei Emelin and Andrei Markov, who are tied for second in the league with 11 blocks apiece, the Habs have managed to stifle the Tampa attack before it even has a chance to make its way to Price, holding the Lightning to just 27 shots per game, which is the fourth-lowest total among all NHL teams so far in the playoffs.