Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Habs Use Depth to Sweep Lightning

By Josh Thomas

Coming into the playoffs there weren't very many fans realistically predicting a sweep for Montreal. 
Every time the Habs and Lightning met in the regular season it was a close game, all but one were decided by a single goal. Couple this with the fact that the Canadiens first line was the only one scoring consistently down the stretch and it seemed like the Habs were in for a 7 game war. 

So what happened? How were the Canadiens able to make it to the second round just seven days after the playoffs opened? Depth. 

The fourth line provided the overtime winner in game one, the third line dominated game two thanks in large part to the resurgence of Rene Bourque. In game three it was the second line's turn to step up. Finally in game 4 with a chance to close out the series the Habs got scoring from every one of their 4 lines. 
Here's how it broke down over four games:
Max Pacioretty (1)
David Desharnais (1)
Thomas Vanek (1) 
Brandon Prust (0)
Tomas Plekanec (2)
Brendan Gallagher (3) Total:5
Rene Bourque (3)
Lars Eller (2)
Brian Gionta (1) 
Dale Weise (1)
Danny Briere (1)
Michael Bournival (0)
This is a balance the Habs have lacked at times during the season. This is a balance that is refreshing to Habs fans. To Michel Therrien's credit, he has done well throughout the series maintaining that balance by rolling all four lines consistently.

While the Habs don't yet know who their second round opponent is, they can be sure that whether it be Boston or Detroit they'll need to keep the entire team firing on all cylinders. 

Boston thrives on depth scoring. They run four lines every game and try to pound you into the ground. To survive a series against them, four lines have to perform or else they will wear out the Habs' top line. The Bruins had five 20 goal scorers during the regular season: Bergeron, Iginla, Lucic, Marchand, Smith. David Krejci was close with 19.

As for Detroit they boast a plethora of skill up and down their bench and are one of the best coached teams in the NHL, with a system that every player can thrive under. Their downfall is they are still dealing with injuries such as captain Henrik Zetterberg (Update: Zetterberg returned to the lineup in Game 4 of their first round series) and it is questionable whether start centre Pavel Datsyuk is 100% healthy. The Red Wings also have a ton of rookies and young players with limited playoff experience.

The key to their sweep of the Lightning was their offensive depth and they will need to continue to get production from everybody in the lineup if they want to be successful against strong teams like Boston or Detroit. If third liners Rene Borque and Lars Eller can keep playing the way they have been and the fourth line led by Mr. Playoffs (Daniel Briere) can keep contributing then the Habs might be a bigger threat to the east than many expected and could potentially challenge for the Stanley Cup.

Edited by: Dante Aralihalli

WATCH: We Will Rock You- Habs finish off Lightning

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