Canadiens vs Bruins Game 7 recap: Poke the bear

Francois Laplante/FreestylePhoto

Off to the Conference Finals they go, with a bear pelt in tow.


How sweet it is.

Photo credit: Extra Skater (all situations)

Montreal needed another complete team effort if they hoped to advance to the Eastern Conference finals. That's exactly what they did.

What went right?


Nathan Beaulieu's mobility was once again on display, and the young man finished the game with the best numbers among all defensemen (+36.7% CF relative). As a direct result of playing with Beaulieu, Mike Weaver's advanced stats have recovered from game 4 and game 5.

The recently benched Daniel Briere not only contributed with a goal, but he led all forwards with a stunning +42.4% CF rel.   Dale Weise kept his impressive playoff run going, and managed to open the scoring within the first few minutes of the game.

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Boston took the bait

However one of the most important aspects of this game, which will never show up on extraskater.com, is that the Habs finally managed to make the Bruins crack. Like a Matt Cooke cheap-shot, it was bound to happen.

It was evident early on that the Bruins were concentrating on winning the irrelevant physical battle, whilst seemingly forgetting that they were in an elimination game. It was a perfect situation for the Habs, who continuously turned the other cheek when the Bruins attempted to goon it up.

"We got them off their game a bit, and it might sound like something stupid to someone who’s not in this series, but it goes a long way," said Max Pacioretty.
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In a sense, the Bruins beat themselves by losing focus, but let's be clear, that was the Canadiens' game plan from the get-go.  They wanted to 'poke the bear'. It's the easiest way to beat Boston. Weise, Gallagher, Subban and the rest of the team did a fantastic job pissing off the Bruins, without crossing the line on too many occasions. Weise played a marvelous series, and is quickly establishing himself as a fan favourite.

Aging behemoth

The other major factor in this series was the endurance of Zdeno Chara. He simply couldn't keep up with Montreal's relentless speed.

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Chara is a fantastic hockey player, probably the best shutdown defenseman in the league, however he's clearly slowing down. In the final two games of the series the Bruins captain was terrible compared to his usual dominant self.  He's 37 and it's clear that his best years are behind him, although there's definitely some life left in that old war horse.

Price factor

The gold medalist stopped 55 of the final 56 shots he saw in last two games, which is a decent number if you consider that Torey Krug had apparently figured out how to score on Carey.  (I'll take silly things a Bruins player said for $200 Alex.)

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Jokes aside, the Bruins did demonstrate how to beat Carey. Don't let him see the puck. The vast majority of Boston's goals during the series were either deflections or seeing-eye pucks while Price was screened. Essentially he's in god-mode at the moment, which bodes well for Montreal going forward.

The antics & Lucic is nuts

There was chest thumping after an empty net goal, water squirting, muscle-flexing, testicle-squishing, post-whistle punches and more, everything you'd expect from a Montreal-Boston series.

Fortunately there was no biting, but there's always next year.

Daniel Briere claims that the antics helped motivate the team, although to be perfectly honest I'm confused as to why they needed extra motivation to begin with. Regardless, it worked.

The only thing that really bothered me was Lucic's tough guy show during the handshake.

So, what did he do? Well, he told Weise that he was going to kill him next year. He said the same to the non-English speaking Emelin.

I was bothered by the fact that I would expect anything more from him. Listen, he's an idiot. We all know this by now, so why do we get outraged every time he plays the part? Milan Lucic being a sore loser is about as surprising as the Oilers picking a forward first overall in the NHL draft.

He's that one guy we all knew from our childhood that was too dumb to properly articulate his feelings and resorted to empty threats and temper tantrums.  He's basically an angry version of Hodor.

The only thing that matters is that this weekend Weise and Emelin will be starting their quest for the Eastern Conference championship, and Lucic will be busy asking golf attendants if they know who he is, bro.

I almost feel bad for Iginla, as it was clear during the handshake that he was embarrassed by Lucic's playground behaviour.

I would like to make one thing clear about all the hoopla surrounding the Bruins. Their fourth line is TERRIBLE. Absolutely brutal. Montreal exploited them all series and they were a huge factor in the Bruins losing. The amount of praise they receive for playing shitty hockey is laughable, and frankly an insult to good hockey players that help their team win, like Iginla or Bergeron.

The other point worth mentioning, is that unlike last year Michel Therrien kept his cool during this series. The difference between 2012 playoff Therrien and 2013 playoff Therrien is quite shocking, as he seems to be making a lot of the small adjustments that analysts had been harping about all year.

With this series win he's most likely going to receive an extension, and you would be hard pressed to argue against it. Like it or not, he's earned it.

Subban
"I can't wait for the crowd, the noise, the energy in the building. I can't wait to take that all away from them."

This might go down as one of the best quotes in hockey history. Subban not only guaranteed a victory in his own way, but by doing so took all the attention away from the rest of the team and placed it on his shoulders. He asked for it, and he delivered.

Subban was clearly targeted all series, as he was the most hit defenseman on either team, but the 25-year-old didn't lose his cool. Instead he channeled his energy into being a dominant force in the rink, one that did a fantastic job shutting down the Bruins best forwards. He also handled all the off-ice bullshit with class and dignity that would make accomplished diplomats proud.

There's no doubt in my mind that this young man should start next season with a letter stitched to the front of his jersey.

Our forwards were better

Pacioretty and Vanek may have struggled in this series, but let's be fair and point out that both Marcand and Krejci were shutout, and Lucic was only visible when he was acting like a third grader.

Montreal's forwards were better, and they also did a better job in scoring by committee, which is usually the trademark of the Boston Bruins.

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What's next?

The New York Rangers stand in the way of Montreal for a berth into the Stanley Cup Finals. As it stands, it's a great draw. Not to take anything away from the Rangers but they're leaps and bounds below the Bruins in terms of being a complete team.

The main focus will be centered on the Carey Price vs Henrik Lundqvist battle, a rematch of the Sochi gold medal game.

There will also be a plethora of Ryan McDonagh related pain, since 'The Trade' will undoubtedly be mentioned thousands of times by the CBC and NBC crews.

On that note, I would like to extend my condolences to the Hockey Night in Canada crew. The loss last night must have been devastating for them, as we all know that it sucks to see our favourite team get eliminated.

I look forward to their unwavering support for the Rangers during the next series.

One thing is for sure, these playoffs have already been incredibly memorable, and Montreal has earned their way into the Final Four by beating the best team in the league. I don't really care about respect, or class, or any other those superfluous issues. What matters is that Montreal is eight wins away from a 25th Stanley Cup.

As per usual, I'll leave it to P.K. Subban to see us out, since no one does it better.

"I feel sorry for any team that’s got to come into our building and our city," said Subban. "It’s going to be spectacular. I can’t even explain it. You’ve just got to be there, man. So get your tickets."

(thanks to Steph for making all these great gifs during the series. You can give her a follow on twitter here.)

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