NHL

Bartlett: Canadiens' depth comes through in first round

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John Bartlett
4/23/2014 9:09:12 PM
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While Max Pacioretty was celebrated for having scored the game-winning goal of the series, the Montreal Canadiens can actually attribute the work of their third and fourth lines as the key contributors for their first round sweep of the Tampa Bay Lightning.

There is no argument that the line of Pacioretty, David Desharnais and Thomas Vanek was one of the hottest in the NHL leading into the post-season, and they did combine for three goals and seven points, but it was the depth of all four lines that helped propel Montreal.

It started in Game 1, where the fourth line took control, led by playoff veteran Daniel Briere, and capped off with the overtime winner by Dale Weise. Along with Michael Bournival, the trio tallied two goals and five points in the series with a plus-4 rating. Solid numbers for a fourth line that features a centreman who now has 51 career playoff goals and 111 points in 112 games. Briere showed this series why his off-season signing to help bring playoff experience can be very beneficial to the Canadiens.

The checking line of Brandon Prust, Tomas Plekanec and Brendan Gallagher added their share of offence with the energetic Gallagher leading the Habs in playoff scoring with three goals and five points. His line had five goals and nine points.

Despite the balanced attack, the big story of the series was the resurgence of Rene Bourque and Lars Eller, two players who found themselves in 'chateau bow-wow' on more than one occasion this season, and their lack of production earned them some time in the press box as healthy scratches. Yet Bourque found the style of game that Michel Therrien has wanted from him all season long, and after finding success, built his confidence as the series wore on.

Last season, Eller was the Canadiens best forward heading into the playoffs with Ottawa, before he was knocked out of the series.

This time around, Eller had started to pick up his play over his final few games of the regular season, prior to missing a pair of games with the flu. He and Bourque have both used the post-season as a chance to hit the reset button on their seasons, and so far so good.

That line which includes captain Brian Gionta, who added a critical shorthanded goal in the series, led the Habs with six goals, 11 points and a plus-11 rating, showing they were responsible on both sides of the puck.

So often, playoff success is based on a balanced attack and the chance for a different hero each night. While this series saw big saves from Carey Price, some excellent plays and big minutes from PK Subban, a solid defensive job on Steven Stamkos done by the Habs blue line, especially Josh Gorges, the series win can really be attributed to depth.

Now the Canadiens will have a week or so off before facing either Boston or Detroit in the second round. Again, Michel Therrien will have a balancing act to work on; the balance between rest and preparation for your next opponent, while ensuring the Canadiens stay game sharp and not lose the momentum built from the first round.

Daniel Briere (Photo: Francois Lacasse/NHLI via Getty Images)

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(Photo: Francois Lacasse/NHLI via Getty Images)
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