The Montreal Canadiens find themselves one win away from another playoffs upset and a trip to the Stanley Cup Final. At this point the surprise, shock and awe amongst viewers and media should dissipate as the team continues to excel in the postseason. Face it, this club was built for the playoffs and it’s shown.
Our GM of the Year Marc Bergevin crafted a dynamic roster with proven postseason success that we talk about here in our “Keys to Another Canadiens Upset” article before the semifinals started. There is simply no denying how crucial the group has meant to this club in this run. Even if you go back to pre-Julien firing, our counterpart penned Bergevin as an early frontrunner for the award. While it may have gone to Lou Lamoriello – who is also deserving – Bergevin rules the North.
In the keys to the series, we outlined the areas the Canadiens needing to continue excelling with in order to pull off the upset. So far, they have hit on all areas.
Carey Price has outplayed Marc-Andre Fleury, now edging him in GAA and besting him in SV% at a significant jump since the series began. Maybe a critical error by Vegas head coach Pete DeBoer in flipping back to Fleury for game 5 not necessarily for the goalie reasons but team momentum it doesn’t matter because Price has stood on his head again. While a vast majority of the focus has been on Vegas’ top guys not producing notably Marc Stone and Max Pacioretty – where have we seen that in the postseason before? credit has to be given to the Canadiens defense and Price who has been a standout in goal all postseason.
The kids continue to produce with Jesperi Kotkaniemi joining elite company in the goal department. Nick Suzuki has been a dagger in the hearts of Vegas as he inches them closer to trade regret. Cole Caufield is a machine and has the entire package of an elite scorer out of the gate for the team.
On the playoff warriors, the package has been vital. Corey Perry is everywhere on the ice and while he isn’t lighting up the stat sheet he has made his presence known throughout the series. Tyler Toffoli continues to be a star for the club picking up 4 points through the first 5 games. Eric Staal continues to provide that depth edge in the bottom 6 and even Joel Edmundson who is aiding in eating up big minutes has found the stat sheet in the series. Add in Josh Anderson who has been everywhere, hitting everything that moves on the Vegas side finding the scoresheet and the engine is firing on all cylinders.
Lastly the special teams for Vegas has been nothing short of a joke. While the chances have been heavily weighed against the Canadiens, they’ve effectively crippled the offense. Vegas sits sub 10% on the powerplay and at this point would love to have the NFL option of declining. DeBoer and his staff can’t figure out a way to get the sharpshooters of the top 6 going and the powerplay which over-executes and overthinks the slightest puck movement has been completely thwarted by the aggressiveness of the Canadiens penalty kill.
At this point when looking at the overall performance of the series, it should really not be a surprise that the Canadiens sit where they do. They have for the majority of the time outside of games 1 and 4 outplayed Vegas. While they easily could have been down 3-1 going into game 5, they have taken advantage of every opportunity including those of sheer dumb luck. With that, the series is anything but over. Vegas right now may be sleeping at the wheel largely, but the slightest jolt may wake up the offensive firepower. For the Canadiens, they need to shut the door and slam it hard in game 6 by continuing to do all of the above. Then and maybe only then will more people outside of Canada start taking this team seriously.
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