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The Good, Bad, and Ugly - Playoff Edition: Round Two, Game Five
By Mitch Melnick
TSN 690 and MitchMelnick.com

The Good, Bad, and Ugly - Playoff Edition: Round Two, Game Five
The Boston Bruins celebrate after scoring a goal against the Montreal Canadiens in game five of their second round series.
PHOTO CREDIT - NHL.com

Montreal - May 11, 2014 - That was an old fashioned "Mama, I crapped my pants" performance by the Habs against a Boston team that seems to be hitting its stride. Led by human battering ball Milan Lucic (7 hits) the Bruins have slowly pounded the will out of all but a small number of Montreal players. Those that were still moving have either been too elusive, have dogged determination and will or - in the case of Michael Bournival - hadn't been introduced to Lucic until the 3rd period.

Boston got off the mat Thursday night in Montreal. They had too many key players due to either put the puck in the net or raise the level of their game. Their power play against Montreal in the post season was actually 0 for 5 years. A lot of it came together for them in this one. They're still missing production from their number one line but Lucic and Krecji do so much else to help them win. Unlike, say, the Habs top offensive players.

The Canadiens were going to need another super human effort from Carey Price to stay in it. But even he might be out of minor miracles. That's not to say he doesn't have another game one performance left but you wonder if even that will be enough. The Bruins seem to be steamrolling their way to another Conference Final.

The Habs will be energized by their crowd in game six on Monday. They'll need to get a lead. But even if they do the Bruins will have time to do their thing. They are a confident, cocky, in your face group that knows how to win.

Maybe some Habs can learn a thing or two.

THE GOOD

• P.K. Subban. Seemed to be on an island for much of the night. Almost single handedly willed the Canadiens back into the game. While many of his teammates seemed disinterested in engaging anybody in black and gold there was Subban going toe to toe with Lucic while putting on an inspiring, gutsy performance that spoke volumes.

• Brendan Gallagher. No surprise that Gallagher hasn't thrown in the towel. For the second consecutive game in Boston, Gallagher found himself pushing back while Brad Marchand leaned on him prior to the opening face off. He was also flung into the boards by the suddenly tough Matt Bartkowski but managed to get up in time to crowd Tuukka Rask and deflect Andrei Markov's shot to get the Canadiens on the board. Gallagher now with 6 goals in 14 career playoff games.

• Andrei Markov. Set up both Montreal goals on the power play. He's playing well at both ends of the ice.

THE BAD

• Tomas Plekanec. WTF happened to him? Considering the circumstance it just might be the worst game he's ever played. The Habs looked good to start the game. But 13:00 in Plekanec inexplicably iced the puck with nobody around him. He then lost the face off to Carl Soderberg and failed to pick him up - the second time he's made a fatal mistake after losing a draw in this series - while Soderberg easily beat Mike Weaver to the puck and fired a strong shot to Price's stick side. The Habs were still very much in the game late in the first when Plekanec misfired on an open Boston net and then - as he was pushed to the ice - decided to cross check Rask. He was in the penalty box early in the second period when the Bruins finally snapped a long power play draught after Dougie Hamilton made a smart pass in the slot to Reilly Smith who was able to ricochet the shot through Price's pads to give Boston a two goal lead. Twenty six seconds later he was back in the penalty box when he got his stick up on Johnny Boychuk as Boychuk was about to deliver an open ice hit. Plekanec looked like an idiot as he sat in the box with his right leg resting (on a chair?). Naturally the Bruins scored again. And the game was essentially over. It didn't get much better in the third period for him as he blindly got rid of the puck on a couple of occasions. But at least it didn't get worse. Plekanec also had another bad night in the face off circle at 43%. He played like a guy who's head was not in the game. Strange time for it.

• PK Unit. They had been perfect. Maybe it was just a matter of time before Mike Weaver's bubble burst. Weaver and Josh Gorges were on for both power play goals against (Maybe Douglas Murray should have been out there). It's also more difficult to kill off penalties when your best penalty killer is the guy sitting in the box (with just one skate on the floor).

• Max Pacioretty. It was good to see him take responsibility after the morning skate. But he didn't deliver. Other than one strong rush when he got around his nemesis Zdeno Chara and took the puck hard to the net it was not a good night for the Habs left winger. Most of his shots were from well out. His best scoring chance was during an early Montreal power play when he had time and room to bury a rebound - but missed the net. Might have one game left to salvage his future in Montreal.

• Thomas Vanek. One shot on goal in the last two games. Maybe Boychuk - in a late game attempt to knock Vanek into New Hampshire - woke him up.

• David Desharnais. Wondering what happened to Sami Salo & Eric Brewer.

• Brian Gionta. Awful night. For the first time in weeks he looked like an old player.

• Lars Eller. If you were looking for symbolism you got it six minutes into the third period when Eller and Gionta - on the same shift separated by about 20 seconds - both fell down with nobody around them and gave the puck away. Spooked.

• Rene Bourque. Had the flu and missed the morning skate for "therapy" so he might be sick. Or injured. Or that other guy is back. No shots on goal.

• Alexei Emelin. A lot shakier than his partner. Classic hit by Lucic late in the game sent him flying. Guarantee he'll go right back at Lucic first chance he gets in game 6.

• Brandon Prust. Did he play? What was the point?

• Michel Therrien. He said Prust for Daniel Briere was to get more "energy" on the 4th line. That line had one real good shift - and that's all - before the Habs started chasing the game. And when they chase the game they could use Briere instead of Prust. But really, the way they played it wouldn't have mattered if the ghost of Boom Boom Geoffrion had appeared. Much to the disgust of many, Douglas Murray stayed in while Francis Bouillon stayed out. So what he did line up wise obviously didn't work. What he said post game - "We need more composure" was a clear dig at Plekanec. But also to his struggling offensive players who are tighter than spandex.

• Matt Fraser. Nothing wrong with him, of course. Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli deserves credit for being pro-active in his search for more offense. Fraser's presence seemed to jump start Soderberg and Loui Eriksson. That so-called 3rd line is the best in the series right now. But let's flip this around. If the Canadiens had been trailing and brought up a guy from the AHL who won a game in overtime - how do you suppose he'd be treated by the Bruins at least midway through his next game?

• Shawn Thornton. So this is how it's going to end for Thornton. As a clown sitting at the end of the bench spraying water on opposing players. And laughing about it. Very funny. Almost as amusing as Claude "I didn't see it" Julien. ("I know Andrew Ferrence. He wouldn't do that" - Julien in 2011 after his defenseman - since exiled to Edmonton - flipped the bird to Bell Centre fans)

THE UGLY

• Douglas Murray. Incredible. There's Murray on the ice on the game's opening goal. And the anti - Murray brigade goes "Aha!". When in reality the goal was all on Plekanec. It's a familiar pattern. (See loss in game 4. It was all Murray even though Eller & Weaver were just as guilty) In 35 years of covering hockey in this town I've never seen anything like this. Normally smart, perceptive people lose complete focus when he's on the ice. It's like they get worked up into a blind rage and can't see anything other than a very slow moving number 6 in red. They must believe that the presence of Douglas Murray is actually costing them a chance to see the Canadiens win the Stanley Cup. So much discussion and angst devoted to a 6th or 7th defenseman. Murray is a depth guy earning 1.5 million dollars. The punchless offensive trio of Desharnais - Vanek - Pacioretty earn a combined 13.75 million. They've managed to score two goals (both by Vanek) in the series. Yet it still comes back to Murray. Anybody who watched the last two games and thinks Murray is actually responsible for the losses might want to consider re-educating themselves on how professional teams win and lose games. I realize it's mostly the analytics crowd, who believe they've got everything figured out. I like numbers too. But somehow too many in this crowd believe they have discovered hockey's version of OPS or WAR. But in reality all they're really preaching is a very small sampling of a player's overall value not in a one on one (batter vs pitcher) match up but as part of an always in motion five man unit. I suspect that five years from now the in depth information available on players/teams will make much of today's findings seem as antiquated as MS-DOS. I don't think Douglas Murray is a good player. I don't need numbers to know it. But he's a role player. Putting together a team of 25 players is like working a jigsaw puzzle. It sure is beautiful when the pieces fit. There is an element to the Bruins game that Montreal has virtually no answer to. Except for Emelin and Murray. Douglas Murray - and likely Bouillon - are here until Jarred Tinordi and Nathan Beaulieu are ready to be everyday NHL players. Marc Bergevin believes in slowly developing defensemen. I get it. I certainly don't think I'm more capable of running the franchise than he is. I thought after game two the Habs should consider using Tinordi instead of Bouillon or Murray. They didn't. So we move on. Or some of us do. Jim Corsi was on the air with me a couple of weeks ago. Yes the guy who invented the stat (originally to determine the stress factor on goalies). What he said about it is worth noting and remembering: "It should be used to illuminate. Not define (a player)." The problem with so much of the preaching by the stats crowd is it leaves no room for nuance. And even less for debate. I purposely placed Murray in the "Good" category following game four. He did his job - before the goal by Fraser. Even though the Habs faced many more shot attempts with Murray on the ice than they generated (as an aside - most NHL teams tend to get hemmed in when their third defense pair is on the ice. The goal is to survive the shift to get back to the first pair. Of all those shot attempts with Murray on the ice - how many are blocked? How many does he block by himself? How many are forced wide because he's in the way? How many of those shots are kept to the outside? Anybody have these numbers?) but he was on the ice and lost the man who scored the winning goal. But because he is hated by so many fans and bloggers and media types (I work with a couple) and he's such an obvious target I decided to go fishing. And somebody quickly took the bait:

@HunterZThompson Habs were outshot 10-1 when Murray was on the ice last night. Shot attempts were 20-4. GA was inevitable.
— Robert Rice (@RobertB_Rice) May 9, 2014

@RobertB_Rice @gohabsgo999 No fan of piling on.6th/7th dmen&4th liners such obvious easy targets. But if it makes u feel better flail away.
— Mitch Melnick (@HunterZThompson) May 9, 2014

@HunterZThompson Than don't praise them when they were terrible. That statline reads like he spent all night on the PK. @gohabsgo999
— Robert Rice (@RobertB_Rice) May 9, 2014

@RobertB_Rice @gohabsgo999 I'll do what i want, thanks.
— Mitch Melnick (@HunterZThompson) May 9, 2014

@RobertB_Rice @gohabsgo999 How good of you to grant me that right.
— Mitch Melnick (@HunterZThompson) May 9, 2014

Robert is a strong, passionate fan. But also a good example of why so many of us have a less than complimentary view of the stats crowd. And then there are the professionals:

I guess Bergevin and Therrien didn't watch the Pens Bruins playoff series last year because Murray was a turnstile. Same thing this year.
— BrianWilde (@BWildeCTV) May 11, 2014

@BWildeCTV geez...Murray is just one spoke in the wheel.
— Ed Shields (@405ogilvyave) May 11, 2014

@405ogilvyave Anyone defending Murray knows zero about hockey.
— BrianWilde (@BWildeCTV) May 11, 2014

So yes I defend Douglas Murray. Against the snark that permeates so much of the discussion. It's a condescending, dismissive attitude - along with often times a short fuse - and virtually no humour - that has me on the outside of the hockey "stat revolution".

And I like it here.

Follow Me on TwitterMitch Melnick is the host of Melnick in the Afternoon on TSN 690 - Montreal's Sports Authority. Mitch also has his own website at MitchMelnick.com where you can find his blog, music links, upcoming events, neat photos and more. Listen Live to Melnick - weekdays from 3:00 - 7:00 pm. If you have questions or wish to contact Mitch, you can email him at mitch.melnick@bellmedia.ca







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