Habs Goalie: Price (W)
Opposition Goalie: Lindback, Gudlevskis (L)
Habs goalscorers: Briere, Eller, Gallagher, Pacioretty
Opposition goalscorers: Palat, Hedman, Johnson
Once again a one-goal game that offered it share of important and beautiful plays. In this instance, there really is only one choice, the play that put Tampa out of their misery for the summer. The powerplay that lulled the Lightning into thinking breaks from even-strength onslaught is nice finally came to full life. Markov had only just missed a chance of his own and was now switched with Vanek. Subban feeds the puck to his left and this time a shot. Nothing too special except enough to get through. Pacioretty having charged in nets his 4oth of the season and extends his chance to notch even more.
Rene BourqueAnother outstanding effort from Rene Bourque in Game 4. If this was just a Tampa thing, we are about to find out. But don't soon forget all that he contributed to make this series win possible, and in the end so quick and easy. He and his linemates became the de facto number one line, dominating for offense and defense, and giving Cooper the uneasy choice of taking his defensive best away from the previous top line.
Brendan Gallagher - Game PuckEvery time Brendan Gallagher gets on the ice, I notice what he does. No one wanted to win this game more than Brendan, and that is astounding, given Tampa was a team full of players on the verge of a cliff. He was winning just about every battle there was to win out there, and creating offense from nothing as usual. The thing that seems to give all defenders so much trouble is his recovery from being defended completely out of plays, only to come back stronger the second and third times. If there were any poetry at all to this, his goal would have been the game winner, as it was his spirit that carried the team through the rough patches on the night. As it is, his smile won't suffer from being put there by Pacioretty.
Brian GiontaIn such a short series, it's hard to hand the recognition around. I believe Gionta is due a fair portion of it. Let's face it, if it is his line firing hottest, he is playing a big role as the veteran and the brains to the attack. One theme of the series as a whole was Montreal's astounding stick checking, we have not seen this many successes on poke checks in a long while. Gionta was always there for these. Tonight, his slick neutral zone stick sent Eller in for a free shot and goal on Lindback. Besides this, Gionta has a Habs team humming as well as the captain did as part of the 2010 committee. Something he has done in that room is playing its part.
Alexei EmelinHitting, blocking and generally annoying Stamkos were a good part of this game, and Emelin excels at each. On a day that Anton Belov defects to the KHL because he dislikes a North American coach, we can only be happy that our KHL-trained Dman has stuck around for all this. While he still makes his fair share of little miscues (see shorthanded goal), the overall contribution he makes to the win effort outweighs. I think Emelin will be counted on even more as things go further this spring, and his special brand of hard-hitting pestering will be the bane of some other poor forward's playoffs.
Mike WeaverI think people made a little much of the Mike Weaver acquisition before the playoffs. Although he had put together a few nice point streaks, he was still going to be a 6th defenceman. Earlier in the series, his play was evening out this regular season success with the overdue miscues. A calmer Mike Weaver stepped on the ice tonight and delivered well within his means. Her might have had an assist, but for a Bournival touch, and he ended a plus three. We've spoken much about the forward depth killing Tampa, but as they started to believe their last chance rested in exploitation of Bouillon and Weaver they were completely rebuffed. Credit to Mike and his partner, who could equally have been chosen here tonight.
Carey PriceHe ended up allowing one goal on a real shot in this one, and it was looking pretty costly for a while. Wrongly maligned for good luck after last game, it was actually unjust that he should be made to concede on a full displacement into the net and a bank shot from the back boards. He was to know Tampa would try it all. Yet in the end, all his saves stand up for the series win in this one and there were a few, particularly at 3-1 and 3-2 as it happens. We don't know how the Habs would have done with more time to play with or even a deficit, so Carey's role in this victory was every bit as important as the aforementioned skaters.
Boxscores with bite
Well, there you have it, our team into the second round. Maybe I'll be able to say more after a little dissection, but right now this feels like the team where 20 guys showed up beat the one where substantial numbers never even sent a playoff RSVP.
This wasn't just a triumph for depth, this was a triumph for a team design that included all-time playoff scoring leaders on 4th line roles and shifty team captains with outcasts. All credit to the players who executed the plan they were given. All credit too to the Montreal coaches who clearly did their homework ahead of the first puck drop last week, something that cannot be so easily said of Tampa's crew. Finally, to Marc Bergevin who has been doubted much a long the way. His additions in particular seem to make more sense after four playoff games than perhaps any other time. We mentioned Vanek, Briere, Weaver and Weise in pieces this week, but don't disregard the importance of Francois Bouillon here and the possible importance of Douglas Murray down the line.
What is next for the Habs depends on what comes from the Boston and Detroit series. Either team would be a considerable step over the Bishop-less Lightning. A consideration for defending a team in depth similar to their own and with savvy Cup winners peppered throughout. What's more, no one thinks the physical game will be so easy again until September. The rest will be welcome and the chance to prepare for the opponent key. If Galchenyuk can regain health, he'd be one more headache for the next coach in opposition. Price always gives a good starting point, Markov and Subban with their partners bolster his case, and if the scorers can channel their enthusiasm from the week, then their team can make a series of it with anyone.
And let's savour a series win that is rare than it used to be. A sweep no less.