Pat Hickey: Five key factors to Canadiens’ sweep over Lightning

 

 
 
 
 
Canadiens goalie Carey Price is surrounded by his teammates after the Habs clinched a series sweep over the Lightning on Tuesday night at the Bell Centre.
 

Canadiens goalie Carey Price is surrounded by his teammates after the Habs clinched a series sweep over the Lightning on Tuesday night at the Bell Centre.

Photograph by: Pierre Obendrauf, Montreal Gazette

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Canadiens coach Michel Therrien thought his team had the upper hand on the Tampa Bay Lightning, but said that even in his wildest dreams he didn’t envision a four-game sweep in their first-round playoff series.

The Lightning won three of four regular-season games between the teams, but the Canadiens turned things around in the post-season as they became the first team to reach the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs with a 4-3 win over the Lightning Tuesday night in Game 4 at the Bell Centre. As the Canadiens await the winner of the Boston-Detroit series, there’s time to look at the factors that went into the sweep.

1. The Plan: The knock against Therrien is that he’s a defensive coach who never met a 1-0 game he didn’t love. He has been accused of stifling creative players, but the only players being stifled by Therrien’s system during this series were wearing Tampa Bay uniforms. Steven Stamkos was frustrated after scoring twice in Game 1 and the Canadiens proved you can play defence and still score goals. After struggling offensively through most of the regular season, the Canadiens averaged four goals a game against Tampa.

2. Depth: There was a lot of talk about depth during the regular season, but this was a one-line team for most of the year. That changed in the playoffs. Rene Bourque became the player the Canadiens thought they were getting from Calgary when they traded Mike Cammalleri. Brendan Gallagher showed the advantages of living on the edge. Daniel Brière displayed his playoff magic. Lars Eller found his confidence. And Max Pacioretty picked the right time to break out of a slump with his first-ever playoff goal to seal the sweep. Ten different players scored goals and 16 of the Canadiens’ 18 skaters collected at least one point during the series.

3. The goaltender: We’re not talking about Carey Price, who looked nervous in Game 1, outstanding in Games 2 and 3 and adequate in Game 4. We’re talking about the Lightning’s Ben Bishop, who missed the entire series with a dislocated elbow. The 6-foot-7 goalie dominated the Canadiens during the regular season, winning three of the four games while posting a 0.94 goals-against average. Anders Lindback played well in the Lightning’s final three regular-season games, but was clearly not ready for prime time.

4. Experience: Lindback wasn’t alone. While the Canadiens had a slight edge over the Lightning in terms of total playoff games, the difference was that Tampa Bay had a dozen players who had never dressed for a single National Hockey League playoff game before this series. Tampa Bay coach Jon Cooper — an NHL playoff novice himself — tried to downplay this factor by pointing out most of his players had extensive post-season experience in the American Hockey League. In the end, the lack of experience hurt the Lightning, but this is a team that could be dangerous a few years down the line.

5. The bounces: Most of them went the Canadiens way, whether it was the officials’ decision to disallow a potential go-ahead goal for the Lightning in Game 3, a questionable offside call that negated a Stamkos breakaway, or Pacioretty’s series-winning goal that dribbled through Kristers Gudlevskis’s pads. The CBC’s Ron MacLean put a conspiratorial spin on the officiating by saying Quebec referees shouldn’t work games involving the Canadiens, but it’s interesting to note the penalty that led to Pacioretty’s power-play goal — an obvious tripping call on Cédric Paquette — was called by Chris Lee, and everyone knows Chris Lee hates the Canadiens.

phickey@montrealgazette.com

Twitter: zababes1

 
 
 
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Canadiens goalie Carey Price is surrounded by his teammates after the Habs clinched a series sweep over the Lightning on Tuesday night at the Bell Centre.
 

Canadiens goalie Carey Price is surrounded by his teammates after the Habs clinched a series sweep over the Lightning on Tuesday night at the Bell Centre.

Photograph by: Pierre Obendrauf, Montreal Gazette

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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