Skip to main content

Simple solution for Canadiens: 'Put it in the net'

by Arpon Basu

BROSSARD, Quebec -- It was sort of a joke, but in reality it said everything that needs to be said about the Montreal Canadiens.

Center David Desharnais was asked Sunday if the Canadiens need to make any adjustments heading into Game 6 of their Eastern Conference Second Round series against the Boston Bruins on Monday at Bell Centre (7:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, RDS), the type of question you hear on a daily basis in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

"Yeah," Desharnais quipped, "put it in the net when you have to."

Desharnais was in a good position to speak of that need to bury chances when they arise.

Not long after the Canadiens scored a power-play goal late in the second period of Game 5 on Saturday to cut their deficit to 3-1, Desharnais got behind the Bruins defense for a breakaway. He had an opportunity to score his first goal of the series and get Montreal within a goal heading into the third period.

Any hope the Canadiens had to come back in the game was sitting on Desharnais' stick. And as quickly as the chance materialized, it was gone.

Desharnais attempted to deke Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask and the puck rolled off his stick before he could get a shot on goal.

The play summed up how the Canadiens' top offensive players have done in this best-of-7 series that the Bruins lead 3-2.

Montreal has not scored an even-strength goal on Rask since 13:52 of the second period of Game 3, a drought of 147:27 that will stretch into Game 6 until the Canadiens find a way to break through a Bruins team that appears to have found its defensive identity in winning the past two games.

David Desharnais
David Desharnais
Center - MTL
GOALS: 1 | ASST: 2 | PTS: 3
SOG: 16 | +/-: 0
"We're playing against a very good team; if you look at the stats it's one of the best teams at 5-on-5," Desharnais said. "It's tough, but we have to find a way. If we get some power plays we need to take advantage of that and create some momentum to score 5-on-5."

Excluding an empty-net goal scored in Game 3, Montreal has scored six goals at even strength in the five games. Three of those have been scored by forwards, none by Desharnais, Max Pacioretty or Thomas Vanek.

Prior to a 4-2 loss in Game 5, coach Michel Therrien sent a clear message to his top offensive players by saying they needed to adjust to the intensity of the playoffs. If it was a motivational tactic, it didn't work.

So when Therrien was again provided an opportunity Sunday to call out his top players, he passed.

"Leadership comes from everyone, it doesn't come from one player," Therrien said when asked if he hopes Vanek will be an offensive leader in Game 6. "I ask any player that puts on the uniform, every player that shows up to a game, they have to show leadership.

"Whether it's your first season or you've been in the League for 18 years, in my eyes you need to act like a leader."

Vanek also chose to focus on the team and not himself after getting one shot on goal over the past two games.

"This series, I think it really comes down to depth," Vanek said. "We need everyone, and I'm part of that group. So obviously we've got to raise our game, starting from myself as well."

Vanek is correct in saying that depth has been the difference in the series because as ineffective as Montreal's top offensive players have been, Boston is in the exact same boat. Its top line of Jarome Iginla, David Krejci and Milan Lucic has two even-strength goals, one into an empty net.

"It's been a tight series, a tight-checking series," Canadiens captain Brian Gionta said. "Their top guys are going through the same thing. It's one of those things that's a playoff matchup.

"I'm confident with our guys we have, they're playing well and they'll come through.

After watching the Bruins win the past two games by playing stifling defense and limiting the offensive opportunities for the Canadiens, it would be difficult to say the momentum is swinging in Montreal's favor.

But Desharnais surprisingly said he feels the Canadiens are beginning to wear down the Bruins, not the other way around.

"The longer the series goes the more we feel they're slowing down a little bit," he said. "It's tough on them, we're pressuring them. It's getting tougher and tougher, but we're getting our chances."

The line of Desharnais and Pacioretty with Brendan Gallagher was able to get away from Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara in Game 4 in Montreal with Therrien holding the last change, an advantage he will have again Monday. But during Game 5 in Boston, Chara was sent out to face the Desharnais line on a systematic basis by Bruins coach Claude Julien.

Desharnais does not appear to be overly concerned with facing Chara, even if Therrien will have the ability to dictate that matchup in Game 6.

"He's an excellent defenseman; it's definitely not easy to play against him," Desharnais said. "I think [Saturday] we found a way to get him tired a bit more and to pressure him.

"When you do that, he's just another defenseman."

View More

The NHL uses cookies, web beacons, and other similar technologies. By using NHL websites or other online services, you consent to the practices described in our Privacy Policy and Terms of Service, including our Cookie Policy.