Stock Up, Stock Down for Montreal Canadiens Stars in 2014 NHL Playoffs
The Montreal Canadiens are now 6-1 in the 2014 NHL playoffs and hold a 2-1 series lead over the Boston Bruins in Round 2. The Habs will look to put their division rival up against the wall as Game 4 goes Thursday at the Bell Centre in Montreal.
The Canadiens have been playing some of their best hockey of the season since the playoffs began. If it wasn't for a 10-minute collapse in Game 2, they'd be undefeated.
Montreal has been getting solid play from its depth players throughout the playoffs, and that trend has continued against the Bruins. All lines are contributing in all facets of the game.
But how have Montreal's top players been faring in Round 2 as compared to the opening-round series against the Lightning?
Here is a stock up, stock down report for the Montreal Canadiens stars in the 2014 NHL playoffs.
Carey Price: Up
Going into this series, it was clear that Carey Price would need to be excellent in order for the Canadiens to pull off an upset.
So far, he has been just that. In three games, he sports an impressive .920 save percentage after facing 113 total shots.
Price spent most of Games 1 and 2 frustrating the Bruins as he made save after save. The Bruins finally solved him late in Game 2, but most of the goals came from fortunate bounces or heavy screens.
Montreal's defense did a great job of boxing out in front of the net in Game 3, making Price's job much easier. When he gets a clear view of a shot, he's going to stop it.
Price was great in Round 1, but he's been close to spectacular in Round 2. His stock is up, and he'll need to keep playing at the top of his game if the Habs hope to win two more games.
Max Pacioretty: Even
The frustration has got to be setting in for Max Pacioretty. The 39-goal scorer from the regular season has but one in seven playoff games, the series-clinching goal against Tampa Bay.
So far against the Bruins, he has just one point, a second assist on a power play in Game 2. But his lack of production isn't from a lack of effort.
After a somewhat quiet Game 1, in which Dale Weise took Thomas Vanek's spot on his line, Pacioretty has been playing better. He is skating again, which is what he needs to do in order to create chances against the big Bruins.
Pacioretty fired five shots at Tuukka Rask in Game 2 and then four more in Game 3. His nine from those games leads the team in shots on goal. It seems like it's only a matter of time before he gets his first of the series.
Not much has changed for Pacioretty in Round 2 as compared to Round 1. He's playing well, getting shots but failing to score. For that reason, his stock remains even.
Thomas Vanek: Slightly Up
Vanek was awful in Game 1. And the first period of Game 2 wasn't much better. He was beginning to look like the Vanek the hockey world saw in Sochi.
But then he started doing what he does best—scoring goals. His tip in of P.K. Subban's point shot at 18:09 of the second period of Game 2 seems to have turned his series around.
He went on to score another early in the third of Game 2, and then he made a beautiful slap pass to set up Tomas Plekanec's goal in Game 3. He now has three points in three games against the Bruins.
The top line's early struggles led coach Michel Therrien to switch things up, and it paid off early in Game 3. Vanek skated with Plekanec and Michael Bournival, and that will likely stay the same in Game 4.
Doing so has gotten Vanek on the ice when Zdeno Chara isn't, and that's something he needs to take advantage of for the rest of the series. He has a point per game so far, and the Habs need that pace to continue.
Vanek has gotten better as the series has gone on, so his stock is slightly up through three games of Round 2.
Andrei Markov: Even
Through three games against the Bruins, Andrei Markov has two points. Both points were the first assists on Subban's power-play goals in Game 1.
That's the positive part of his game so far in Round 2.
Markov has helped ignite a dormant power play. Montreal's play while up a man is the reason it won Game 1 and the reason it should have won Game 2.
It had just the one opportunity in Game 3, but there promises to be plenty more power-play chances as the series moves forward. The referees almost lost control of Game 3 by calling just two minor penalties in a very physical game, and you can bet that won't happen again.
Montreal will need to score again on the power play to win this series, and Markov will play a big role.
The negative to Markov's game in Round 2 is that he is minus-two and hasn't been very noticeable at even strength. This isn't to say he's playing poorly, just not up to the standard that Markov has created for himself.
Boston's forwards are much better than those of Tampa Bay. They are much more physical, and perhaps that is taking its toll on Markov.
Markov has been resilient late in his career, however, so don't count him out. He has better games left in him and will certainly be a factor for the rest of the series.
His up-and-down play in Round 2 keeps his stock even, but expect to see him improve in Game 4 and beyond.
P.K. Subban: Way Up
Subban is the most exciting player in the NHL playoffs right now.
A bold statement, certainly, but one with merit as Subban as elevated his game to a level it hasn't been before.
Through three games against the Bruins, he has three goals and three assists. One of those goals was an overtime winner. Another was a breakaway in which he made a Vezina-nominated goalie look like a fool.
His 11 points in seven playoff games (1.57 points per game) leads the entire 2014 NHL playoffs. All this from a defenseman.
On the back end, Subban is taking 33 shifts per game and averaging more than 27 minutes a night against Boston's top line. He is a minus-one against the Bruins, but that doesn't reflect how well he has played in his own zone.
He has done an excellent job of dealing with the Boston forecheck, getting the puck out while avoiding the brunt of most hits. His first passes have been ridiculously good and have led to countless Montreal chances.
Subban has managed to ignore the online racial attacks from certain Boston fans. Perhaps it has even been a motivator for him as he plays the best hockey of his life.
He has been a major problem for the Bruins, one which they have yet to figure out. His stock for Round 2 is way up, as he has been by far the best player on the ice for either team.
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