The Montreal Canadiens are going to the Eastern Conference Final and the Los Angeles Kings force a Game Seven; Scott Cullen has notes on Daniel Briere, Dale Weise, Nathan Beaulieu, Carey Price, Trevor Lewis, Jake Muzzin, Ryan Getzlaf and more.
HABS HEADED TO CONFERENCE FINAL
The Montreal Canadiens scored early in Game Seven, built a lead and protected it well on their way to a 3-1 series-clinching win over the Boston Bruins.
While this game or series isn't necessarily a referendum on the value of fourth lines, the Canadiens certainly benefitted from production lower down their forward depth chart. In Game Seven, the scoring was opened by Dale Weise, who has been a nice surprise for the Canadiens, contributing three goals and five points in 11 playoff games.
The last goal of the game came from Daniel Briere, and while it was a power play goal, Briere did centre the fourth line (with Weise and Brandon Prust) and his two-point effort in Game Seven left Briere with six points in 10 playoff games. With two points in Game Seven, Briere moves past Sidney Crosby for fifth place among active playoff scorers. No Canadiens forwards have averaged less time on ice in this postseason than Briere and Wiese, but their contributions can't be ignored.
Canadiens RW Brendan Gallagher had two assists in Game Seven, giving him nine points in the postseason, tied with Lars Eller for most points among Montreal forwards.
Another depth player that made a useful contribution for Montreal was rookie D Nathan Beaulieu, the rookie who replaced Douglas Murray in the lineup and while he hasn't played much, he's been effective. In Games Six and Seven, Beaulieu had two assists and was on for 63.8% of the 5-on-5 shot attempts when he was on the ice. Michel Therrien thinks Murray is hard to play against? Beaulieu's harder.
The supporting cast was valuable for the Habs, but so too was their franchise goaltender. Carey Price stopped 219 of 234 shots he faced in the series (.936 SV%), outdueling his Boston counterpart, Tuukka Rask, who stopped 177 of 196 shots (.903 SV%). It's not as though Rask let in glaring bad goals -- Briere's goal in Game Seven was banked in off Zdeno Chara's skate -- but Price stopped more pucks and, in a series this close, that made the difference.
While RW Jarome Iginla scored Boston's only goal, that didn't erase the trouble that Boston's first line experienced in the postseason. David Krejci, who far-and-away, had more playoff points than anyone in the past three postseasons, finished this year's playoffs with no goals and four assists in a dozen games.
LW Milan Lucic had points in the first three games of the series against Montreal, but was held off the scoresheet in the last four games, registering two shots on goal, total, in the final three games.
Iginla did lead the Bruins with five goals in the playoffs, but seven points in a dozen playoff games is hardly earth-shattering production.
Such is the nature of an upset in the playoffs, though. The lower-seeded Canadiens got better goaltending, some unexpected production from players on the low-end of the depth chart and that was enough to overcome a Bruins team that held a consistent territorial edge throughout the seven games.
This may result in some changes for the Bruins, but not likely anything drastic. They had the best record in the league this season and, while improvements are needed, they will be contenders again next year.
As for the Canadiens, they are in their second Eastern Conference Final since 1993, when they last won the Stanley Cup. That season, the Canadiens had a fortunate path once the New York Islanders eliminated the Cup-favourite Pittsburgh Penguins. This time, the Habs bounced the top seed and take on a New York Rangers team that may be favoured, but not by much, making for what should be a competitive series.
KINGS AND DUCKS GOING SEVEN
With their season the line, the Los Angeles Kings locked down against the Anaheim Ducks, taking a 2-1 decision in Game Six to force a seventh game in the Freeway Series.
While the final shot count in the game barely favoured the Kings, 23-22, they dominated at score close, with nearly two-thirds of the 5-on-5 shot attempts and not one Kings player was on the ice for less than 50% of the 5-on-5 shot attempts.
The winning goal in Game Six was scored by Kings RW Trevor Lewis. Soft as it may have been (a wrist shot from the top of the circles), Lewis now has four goals in 13 playoff games after scoring six goals in 73 regular season games. In the past four games, Lewis has been on the ice for 65.4% of the shot attempts when he's on the ice at 5-on-5. More contribution from unexpected sources.
Los Angeles' first goal came from D Jake Muzzin, his third of the playoffs and Game Six was the second straight game in which he played more than 25 minutes in regulation. In the past three games, Muzzin has been on the ice for 74 of 108 (68.5%) of shot attempts at 5-on-5.
It wasn't all unheralded performers getting the job done for the Kings, though. C Anze Kopitar had an assist, to give him a playoff-leading 17 points.
On the other side, Game Six was the first game in the series in which Ducks C Ryan Getzlaf didn't register a point; it was also the first time in the playoffs that Getzlaf didn't register a shot on goal. That probably means some credit is due to the Kings' defence tandem that matched up against Getzlaf, so, take a bow, Jeff Schultz and Slava Voynov. Schultz, who spent the entire season in the AHL, isn't exactly driving play, but has been on the ice for more than 55% of the shot attempts at 5-on-5 in five games since being inserted into the lineup.
Lewis' questionable goal aside, it's not as though the Kings found a great secret to beating Ducks G John Gibson, who has still stopped 86 of 92 shots (.935 SV%) in three games against the Kings but, with the Kings' season on the line, two goals was enough to force Game Seven.
Scott Cullen can be reached at Scott.Cullen@bellmedia.ca and followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/tsnscottcullen. For more, check out TSN Fantasy on Facebook.