What mattered, and what didn't in Boston & Montreal's great playoff battle
Whenever there’s an intense playoff series between two passionate teams and fanbases, there’s a lot of noise. In Boston/Montreal there was faux-outrage about people being spritzed with water bottles (that anyone got fined for that baffles me), there’s he-said-he-said, and even more “he hit me first.” It’s incredible that grown men and women slip to this level of crazy, but sports do have a tendency to reveal true human nature, which dictates that we’re mostly idiots, myself included.
As someone with no rooting interest in Boston/Montreal outside a foam-finger wagging passion for the slow descent into a Lord of the Flies-like atmosphere (I won), I thought I’d separate what made a difference f’real in the series, and what was just people babbling at lamps.
Mattered: Boston’s plan to score by committee failed
In the off-season the Bruins traded Tyler Seguin, who finished fourth in NHL scoring this year. It was not, at all, a trade that left them empty-handed, and it actually probably improved them depth-wise (Loui Eriksson and Reilly Smith can be valuable contributors, and Matt Fraser dressed four times in playoffs). Problem is, they didn’t need depth. They needed a Seguin. If this really was a year they were “going for it” (it was), they put a lot of pressure on the team to “score by committee” and the committee failed.
David Krejci wasn’t his usual playoff self, Brad Marchand might have been better off not playing, and the moderate contributions from guys like Bergeron, Lucic and Iginla just didn’t provide enough offense. More on this below.
Didn’t matter: The pissing contest, on-ice and off
Do you really believe the Canadiens tried harder because Milan Lucic flexed at P.K. Subban, or because Shawn Thornton spritzed him with water? Do you believe that the Habs won because they were the more moral, upstanding group? Do you believe that some Habs fans throwing garbage on a player makes them all garbage, or that some internet racists make all Bruins fans racist?
Oh wow. Okay well, you’re beyond repair, this conversation is over.
Mattered: Carey Price is good at hockey
If the Bruins had trouble scoring by committee, a lot of the credit can go to Carey Price. His even strength save percentage is up to .935 for playoffs. He only allowed one goal against in two games with the Canadiens down 3-2 in the series.
Didn’t matter: Milan Lucic telling Dale Weise he’s going to "kill him next year" in the handshake line
The fact that Lucic carried himself like a d-bag further emphasizes that, at times, Milan Lucic carries himself like a d-bag. He threatened a guy? Over hockey? Fetch my fainting couch.
Mattered: Zdeno Chara has lost a half-step
Chara played 23:40, the most of any Bruins d-man, but in a playoff Game 7, that says a lot about his effectiveness. Among teams left in playoffs you’ve got Duncan Keith eating 28 minutes a night, Doughty is over 27, Subban is near 27...that’s what you expect from your cornerstone, your rock. He’s the Bruins difference-maker. If he’s off the ice for 36:20, that puts a lot more pressure on their four rookie/sophomore defensemen.
Didn’t matter: The refs
I feel like Skyler in Breaking Bad: shut up Shut UP SHUT UP SHUT UP. The referees did a nice job in the Bruins/Habs series, especially considering the scrutiny they were under.
Mattered: Top to bottom, players stepped up for Montreal
From Max Pacioretty to Dale Weise, from P.K. Subban to Mike Weaver, from Carey Price to Brandon Prust, everyone played well within their role (save for maybe Doug Murray). Part of that is being healthy, part of it is feeling confident, and part of that is getting some luck. It all came together for them, and they’re very deserving of their series victory over a great Bruins team. They’re going to be a handful for the Rangers in the Eastern Conference Final.
Didn’t matter: The media
I shouldn’t dignify the online mess that was Bruins/Habs, so I’ll make it brief: thank heavens it’s over. One guy wrote a mean thing about another team, this guy needs to #stayclassy, and meanwhile I'm checking the nearest window of our fourth floor office to see if it can be unlocked. None of that stuff mattered.
Overall: That was one hell of a hockey series
It really was fun watching how size vs. speed played out. I don’t believe that the Montreal Canadiens are a better team than the Boston Bruins, but I do believe they kept their focus better, played to their strengths more, and better capitalized on their chances.