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Five reasons why the Canadiens advanced

by Arpon Basu

Few people gave the Montreal Canadiens much of a chance to defeat the Boston Bruins in their Eastern Conference Second Round series, with good reason.

The Bruins were the best team in the NHL during the regular season. The Canadiens were not.

But the Canadiens have had the Bruins' number during the past two seasons, and though regular-season results don't necessarily translate to success in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, they did in this case.

Here are five reasons the Canadiens are headed to the Eastern Conference Final, where they will play the New York Rangers:

1. Price lowered the boom

Canadiens goaltender Carey Price simply was better than Bruins counterpart Tuukka Rask, and never more so than when it counted most.

Price's save percentage in Games 6 and 7 of the series, elimination games for Montreal, was .982. Rask's save percentage in those two games was .848.

If you include what Price did for Canada at the 2014 Sochi Olympics, he is 5-0 this season when facing elimination and has allowed two goals in those five games.

2. Subban rose to another level

As opposed to Price, defenseman P.K. Subban was held off the score sheet in the final two games of the series. But to say he didn't show up in those games would be horribly wrong. Subban was the most dominant skater in the series from start to finish, and it wasn't really close.

He scored four goals, assisted on three, and was given the most difficult matchups defensively from coach Michel Therrien.

But most importantly, Subban was able to dictate the pace. The Bruins were unable to establish much of a forecheck with Subban on the ice because of his elite ability to get the puck moving out of his zone while maintaining possession. Offensively, he was often able to enter the Bruins zone with the puck and effectively picked his spots.

3. Power play came to life

Another area where Subban impacted the series was the power play, which was dormant for weeks prior to the series but came alive against the Bruins. The Canadiens scored on the power play in five of the seven games and finished 8-for-25 after going 2-for-13 in a first-round sweep of the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Subban scored three of those goals and assisted on two, forcing the Bruins to pay extra attention to him at the point and thereby freeing space for teammates to work.

The effectiveness of Montreal's power play made it that much more important to the Bruins to stay out of the penalty box, which might have limited their level of aggression in the series.

4. Winning the depth battle

The Bruins have long been known as a team that can roll four lines with ease, but it was the Canadiens who had a decided edge in that department.

Montreal's fourth line of Brandon Prust, Daniel Briere and Dale Weise presented major problems to Boston's Merlot Line of Daniel Paille, Gregory Campbell and Shawn Thornton. Briere had a goal and three assists in the series despite sitting out Game 5 as a healthy scratch, and Weise scored twice.

The fourth line's influence was never bigger than in Game 7. The opening goal came as a result of Prust beating Johnny Boychuk in a race to the puck, then getting it to Briere, who put a perfect pass on the tape of Weise cutting backdoor at 2:18 of the first period. The goal allowed the Canadiens to play with the lead, something they have shown throughout the playoffs they can do very effectively.

Briere capped the win by scoring on the power play when his centering pass went off Zdeno Chara's skate into the net with 2:53 remaining.

The Merlot Line combined for one goal and was minus-7 in the series.

5. Composure

The Canadiens spoke freely after Game 7 of how they felt disrespected by the Bruins, a feeling that was galvanized in Game 5 when Milan Lucic flexed his muscles at Subban on the bench and Thornton sprayed him with water from the bench during play and laughed about it afterward.

The Canadiens took that anger and focused it in their play instead of seeking retribution. It paid off for them in the end.

From the moment Thornton squirted water in Subban's face until the end of the series, the Canadiens outscored the Bruins 7-1.

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