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Remembering the Montreal Canadiens’ 2014 Playoff Run

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“What if…?”

It is without doubt one of the most mesmerizing questions ever requested, often when remembering an occasion that conjures up reminiscences of what occurred, or what may have occurred had one thing totally different occurred. In hockey, there are usually not sufficient fingers and toes to depend the variety of occasions that query has been requested.

What if the play was referred to as offside in opposition to the New York Islanders in Sport 6 of the 1980 Stanley Cup Last?

What if Kerry Fraser really referred to as Wayne Gretzky’s high-stick on Doug Gilmour?

What if Marc Crawford selected Gretzky within the shootout on the 1998 Nagano Olympics?

What if Carey Worth hadn’t been damage?

The Starting

The yr was 2013, and the Montreal Canadiens had simply come off an embarrassing first-round exit by the hands of the Ottawa Senators. Regardless that the Canadiens did not capitalize on a division crown, first-year common supervisor Marc Bergevin didn’t tinker together with his lineup, solely including Daniel Brière through free company. There was a cause he didn’t have to. Head coach Michel Therrien had helped lead the crew again to the highest of the standings in his first yr again in Montreal.

Up entrance, Alex Galchenyuk and Brendan Gallagher have been coming
off spectacular rookie seasons, whereas mainstays similar to Max Pacioretty, Tomas
Plekanec, and captain Brian Gionta have been persevering with to place up factors.

Bergevin was trying to take his crew to the highest in solely his second yr (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz)

On the blue line, Andrei Markov had turn out to be a really dependable asset in his personal zone and had an offensive contact, particularly on the facility play. Josh Gorges and Alexei Emelin had turn out to be a really succesful second pair, and P.Ok. Subban had simply received the Norris Trophy.

In fact, the crew nonetheless lived and died by the play of their goaltender, Carey Worth. Regardless of having one his worst seasons since coming into the league in 2007, he was nonetheless one of many prime goaltenders within the NHL.

Inauspicious Common Season

The Canadiens anticipated to have one other nice common season in 2013-14, nonetheless, they stumbled out of the gate, with a 10-9-2 file via the center of November. The crew didn’t appear to have the identical camaraderie however have been in a position to flip it round earlier than Christmas. But, they nonetheless appeared off in January and February.

Thomas Vanek and Mike Weaver have been acquired on the commerce deadline to assist bolster the lineup heading into the playoffs. Vanek scored 15 factors in his last 18 video games of the common season and the Canadiens have been in a position to rally to clinch the third spot within the Atlantic Division. This occurred as a result of Toronto Maple Leafs’ collapse and the play of Worth in internet.

The Worth is Proper

It was solely 4 years prior when Canadiens followers thought Worth was on his manner out, and Jaroslav Halak was going to be the following primary in Montreal. Within the 2013-14 season, Worth put up career-best numbers. He went 34-20-5, and posted a 2.32 goals-against common (GAA), together with a .927 save share (SV%), tied for third within the NHL. He completed fourth in Vezina voting behind the Tampa Bay Lightning’s Ben Bishop, Colorado Avalanche’s Semyon Varlamov, and the eventual winner, Boston Bruins netminder, Tuukka Rask.

Worth established himself as top-of-the-line within the recreation in 2014 (Photograph by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Photographs)

It was not simply Worth’s numbers that have been spectacular, it was how he seemed in internet. He had a foul finish to the 2013 Playoffs when Worth left Sport Four in opposition to the Senators with a groin harm. But, Worth got here again rejuvenated and about as assured as he seemed in 2011, the place he back-boned the Canadiens to Sport 7 in opposition to a closely favoured Bruins crew that went on to win the Stanley Cup. Heading into the playoffs, the Canadiens seemed as assured as their goaltender.

Spherical 1: Tampa Bay Lightning

The primary spherical was in opposition to the second-place Lightning, and between two of the very best netminders within the league between Bishop and Worth. Nonetheless, Bishop was injured within the last week of the common season in opposition to the Maple Leafs. Enter Anders Lindback because the Lightning’s starter, and Tampa Bay was in hassle from the get-go.

Brief and Candy

The Canadiens have been in a position to make it a straightforward four-game sweep in opposition to the Lightning. Regardless of having a shaky Sport 1, Worth stopped the following 73 of the Lightning’s 79 pictures. The blue line was in a position to maintain off Steven Stamkos who, regardless of scoring a pair of targets in Sport 1, was solely held to 2 assists the remainder of the collection.

It began with a Sport 1 win the place Dale Weise picked the top-corner on Lindback late within the first time beyond regulation. Weise, who was acquired in a commerce with Vancouver in February, solely scored six targets all season. He would show to be a giant piece for the Canadiens within the playoffs, each on the scoresheet and within the locker room.

Dale Weise (Marilyn Indahl-USA TODAY Sports activities)

Spherical 2: Boston Bruins

An previous foe met the Canadiens within the second spherical. The Boston Bruins and the Canadiens met within the playoffs for the 34th time of their storied rivalry. Boston had completed with the very best file within the NHL, profitable their 13th league title. The collection was going to be chippy, with gamers similar to Subban and Gallagher on one finish, and Brad Marchand and Shawn Thornton on the opposite, however nothing much less could be anticipated from a battle between the 2 golf equipment.

Subban Stepping Up

Sport 1 was a traditional Bruins and Canadiens matchup, with physicality, scoring, and time beyond regulation in addition. Neither crew may bury the winner till Subban’s blast within the second time beyond regulation gave the Canadiens the early collection lead. It was Subban’s second of the sport, scored from nearly the precise spot that he scored his first purpose of the sport within the first interval.

P.Ok. Subban (Eric Bolte-US PRESSWIRE)

Subban is, for lack of a greater time period, despised in Boston for his antics in addition to his talent. Regardless that he was a Norris winner, he had not been in a position to set up himself as a dominant playoff performer. This collection modified that.

Don’t Poke the Bear (or Weise)

Sport 2 was trying nice for the Canadiens, as they held a Three-1 lead within the third interval. The Bruins, nonetheless, mounted a comeback, scoring 4 unanswered targets to win. The sport is most notable for Milan Lucic’s chest-thumping after his empty-net purpose, which clearly received beneath the pores and skin of the Canadiens. Significantly Dale Weise.

Again in Montreal for Sport Three, the Canadiens began off nicely as soon as once more with a 2-Zero lead. Then, late within the second interval, Weise was sprung on a breakaway and beat Rask five-hole to place the Canadiens up by three. On his solution to the bench, Weise made positive the Bruins noticed him emphatically thumping his chest.

Sport Four noticed a goaltending clinic between Rask and Worth, the place the 2 made 33 and 34 saves, respectively. Nonetheless, Rask was in a position to win the twin with the assistance of Matt Fraser’s bang-in purpose in time beyond regulation to tie the collection as soon as once more.

Again in Boston for a pivotal Sport 5, feelings ran excessive. Particular groups paid off for the Bruins early within the second interval. Two power-play targets for the Bruins simply 32 seconds aside proved to be the distinction within the Bruins to the Four-2 win.

Nonetheless, Lucic wanted to stir the pot some extra. Late within the recreation Lucic, from behind the bench no much less, flexed his muscle tissues in the direction of Subban, mocking him after the couple of skirmishes the 2 had through the recreation. Weise was prepared to reply in Sport 6. After the buzzer sounded to finish the primary interval, Weise received into it with Lucic, and Weise was positive to indicate the Bruins ahead how large his muscle tissues have been.

Stealing the Collection

In that Sport 6, the Canadiens wanted an impressive efficiency from their goaltender and Worth obliged with a 26-save shutout on residence ice. Vanek’s two targets led the offense, and Subban’s purpose within the third blew the roof off the Bell Centre. In true Boston-Montreal vogue, they went to Sport 7.

Large moments in large video games at all times come from probably the most unlikely individuals, and of all individuals, it was Weise who stepped up once more for Montreal, scoring his second purpose of the collection to place the Canadiens up early. Pacioretty and Iginla traded targets within the second interval, organising a tense third interval.

Dale Weise, celebrating his purpose in Sport 7, was a key depth piece within the playoffs (Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports activities)

The Bruins had probability after probability however Worth was there every time, even with some assist from his purpose publish. It felt as if the Bruins weren’t going to interrupt via. Brière’s fluke purpose late within the third helped seal the Three-1 win.

Lucic and Weise met within the handshake line, and it was secure to say Lucic was not too happy with Weise’s antics within the collection. In line with a number of sources, Lucic instructed Weise “I’m going to [expletive] kill you subsequent yr.” (From ‘Don’t Fear, Twitter Knew What Milan Lucic Mentioned Throughout Publish-Collection Handshake’, HuffingtonPost – 5/16/14) This clearly outraged Canadiens’ followers and gamers alike, exhibiting that though the collection was over, the rivalry was solely rising.

Within the last two video games of the collection, Worth stopped 55 of the Bruins’ 56 pictures. He was nearly unbeatable. The Canadiens outlasted the Bear and have been heading to the Convention Last.

Spherical Three: New York Rangers

4 wins away from the Stanley Cup Last for the second time since 2010, Montreal met the New York Rangers, who completed second within the Metropolitan Division. Once more, the matchup was going to be between two protectors of the pipes, with Worth in opposition to Henrik Lundqvist.

“We’ve Misplaced Our Finest Participant”

Sport 1 began with each groups incomes nice probabilities, and Worth and Lundqvist each made excellent saves. Nonetheless, the Rangers have been in a position to get two within the first, carrying the lead into the second.

On the Three:15 mark of the second interval… disaster.

Chris Kreider discovered a free puck within the impartial zone, and chipped it handed Emelin and went in on purpose. Whereas being chased down by Emelin, Kreider misplaced his stability and went careening into Worth, who was holding his knee and never getting up.

The play that modified the destiny of the Canadiens in 2014. (Photograph credit score: Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports activities)

When Kreider fell, he slid into Worth’s leg. His proper skate received caught on the appropriate publish, inflicting his knee to hyperextend. Worth tried to battle it and proceed on, however he was not the identical. The harm had been accomplished.

So as to add insult to harm, Kreider scored on a breakaway, beneath Worth’s proper leg, to offer the Rangers a Three-1 lead.

After the loss, the crew introduced that Worth was accomplished for the playoffs with an undisclosed lower-body harm, although everybody knew it was his MCL. Therrien stated it greatest when speaking to the media, “We’ve misplaced our greatest participant.” (from ‘Montreal Canadiens’ goalie Carey Worth out of Japanese Last with harm’, The Star – 5/19/14)

Tokarski Tries to Save the Day

The Canadiens determined to go together with Dustin Tokarski in Sport 2 as a substitute of backup Peter Budaj. Tokarski had strong numbers on a sub-par Hamilton Bulldogs crew, going 20-16-Three, with a 2.38 GAA and .919 SV% within the AHL. He performed nicely in Sport 2, permitting two targets. But, he was clearly outmatched by Lundqvist, who stole the present, making 40 stops within the win.

Regardless of being down 2-Zero, the Canadiens tried to come back again and their rookie goaltender put in an impressive effort in Sport Three at Madison Sq. Backyard. Tokarski stopped 35 of 37 pictures and helped hold the Canadiens within the recreation, forcing time beyond regulation, when Galchenyuk’s first purpose of the postseason got here early within the first time beyond regulation.

Time beyond regulation was reached as soon as once more in Sport Four, and Tokarski as soon as once more went save for save with Lundqvist. Nonetheless, Martin St. Louis’ was in a position to snipe Tokarski to place the Canadiens on the brink.

Nails within the Coffin

The Canadiens got here out with a powerful effort in Sport 5, chasing Lundqvist after 5 targets en path to a 7-Four win to remain alive.

Regardless of the offensive onslaught in Sport 5, the Habs fell flat in Sport 6, solely mustering up 18 pictures. It was a irritating affair, the place they solely had 5 pictures within the third interval, and the Rangers eradicated the Canadiens by a rating of 1-Zero.

Lundqvist, making this large save in Sport 6, was one of many large items that damage the Canadiens (Adam Starvation-USA TODAY Sports activities)

Regardless that filling Worth’s footwear isn’t any small process, Tokarski did the whole lot he may, solely giving up 13 targets in his 5 video games, solely two greater than Lundqvist did over that stretch.

Reflection

To recollect how shut they got here is disheartening. The Canadiens dominated the Lightning, labored over the very best crew within the league in Boston, and, with a rookie goaltender, held their very own in opposition to the Rangers. The gamers who performed large roles can be remembered for a very long time. Brière, who solely scored 25 factors within the common season, performed impressed hockey within the postseason. Vanek has been arguably the Canadiens’ greatest deadline acquisition of the Bergevin-era, and Pacioretty planted the seeds to changing into a pacesetter. Subban proved he was a bonafide famous person, and regardless of the harm, Worth additional established himself as an all-world goaltender.

Followers nonetheless marvel, in an ideal world, what may have occurred? The Rangers misplaced to the Los Angeles Kings in 5 video games, however a Carey Worth vs. Jonathan Fast matchup would have been insane. Nonetheless, because the saying goes, “if ifs and buts have been sweet and nuts…” Worth wouldn’t have been damage, they’d have moved handed the Rangers and earned the prospect to hold a 25th Stanley Cup banner from the Bell Centre rafters.

Aftermath

Worth got here again the following season trying higher than ever. He posted career-best numbers in all classes and have become the primary goaltender to win the Jennings, Lester B. Pearson (now often called the Ted Lindsay Award), Vezina, and Hart Trophies in the identical season. Nonetheless, the Canadiens have been bounced within the second spherical by the Lightning, who had Bishop in internet.

In 2015-16, Worth re-aggravated his knee harm and missed nearly all of the season. The crew started to disintegrate after that, lacking the playoffs for the primary time since 2012. That offseason, Subban was traded to the Nashville Predators for Shea Weber, and the Canadiens returned to the playoffs simply to be knocked out by the Rangers once more, in six video games.

Brendan Gallagher, together with Weise and Worth, are the one three gamers remaining from the 2014 playoff run. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

The Canadiens haven’t been again to the postseason since. Worth’s accidents, mismanagement from Bergevin and lack of manufacturing has despatched the crew right into a quasi rebuild. Issues appear to be trying up for the now youthful Montreal crew, however it might nonetheless be a while earlier than they seize the magic that occurred again within the spring of 2014.

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