May 4, 2014

Dobber Sports

2014-05-04

Saturday was just another day of Stanley Cup playoff action. In the past we’d be surprised, perhaps, by two more Stanley Cup playoff games featuring rivetting, mind-bending comebacks pulled off by the winning teams – but that’s just par for the course this postseason, it seems. 

 

Nows the time, the time is now; so let’s ramble on, and unpack Saturday night’s action.

 

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We’ll start with the matinee in Boston, Game 2 between the Canadiens and the Bruins.

 

On a purely subjective level, you’ve got to admire how the Canadiens are approaching this series from an “on-ice discipline” perspective – staying calm, turning the other cheek, counting on the power-play to make the Bruins pay for their punk-test nonsense. So far the Habs have executed that game plan perfectly, which is impressive since it’s a lot easier said than done. Its paid off in the form of a 9-to-5 advantage in power-play opportunities in Montreal’s favour so far in this series.

 

Boston’s third period offensive outburst on Saturday afternoon will surely ease some of their frustration, which got the better of the Bruins especially late in the second period on Saturday. But still, Montreal’s Mennonite approach to Boston’s after the whistle shenanigans seems to be annoying the Bruins. If the Habs can sustain this, and again that’s easier said than done, it could prove critical.

 

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Praise for Montreal’s overall demeanor aside, boy were they ever lucky to escape Boston with a win from one of the two games this weekend (even though the Habs were roughly five minutes from having a 2-0 series lead). The Bruins were clearly the better team in both Game 1 and 2, and controlled 59% of shot attempts in the initial two games of the series (taking into account all situations). If that keeps up, this series will be over in a hurry barring some immortal-type performances from Carey Price in net.

 

Of course, there’s reason to think that won’t keep up as the series shifts to Montreal. Boston has long been pretty reliant on the defensive play of Zdeno Chara, and why not – he’s a surefire first ballot hall of famer and the best defensive defenseman since Chris Pronger in his prime. In Games 1 and 2 of this series, Chara was on the ice for fully 83.3 percent of the even-strength ice-time logged by Montreal’s top forward line (using David Desharnais as the proxy).

 

Michel Therrien isn’t my favorite coach, but he’s competent enough that he should be able to use last change at home to get that number down closer to 60% in Games 3 and 4. That could matter an awful lot, particularly since the Desharnais, Pacioretty, Vanek line (again using Desharnais as the proxy) was buried to the tune of 16 shot attempts for, and 33 attempts against – or a 32.6 percent corsi for ratio – in the opening two games of this series. 

 

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It certainly looks like Bruins defender Dougie Hamilton might be the breakout young star of this postseason, that is if he can sustain the level he’s been performing at over the past few weeks. Obviously skating on Zdeno Chara’s right-side is among the best jobs in professional hockey (just ask Steve Kampfer), but that shouldn’t diminish what Hamilton has accomplished of late. His offensive skills, and puck-moving abilities are obvious; but his two-way play has come a long way – even if he’s very obviously not driving the bus defensively on a pairing with Chara.

 

Still, in addition to scoring a rally-keying goal in the third period on Saturday; Hamilton’s two-way play has been superb. In Games 1 and 2 of this series, the Bruins have outshot the Canadiens 24-8 with Hamilton on the ice at even-strength; an absurd ratio. If Hamilton continues to get a long leash from Bruins coaches – and I’d qualify this by pointing out that even though Hamilton’s most frequent defense partner of late is Chara, the young defender is still logging “third pairing” minutes in terms of the volume of his even-strength ice-time – he could be a very intriguing late round sleeper pick next season.

 

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A little bit of controversy erupted on Saturday when Canadiens defender P.K. Subban bailed out of a hit that was about to be thrown by Shawn Thornton. Thornton seemed to be injured on the pla