The 2014 playoffs saw quite a few surprises for the Habs up front, both on
the positive and negative sides. A couple of players who struggled
throughout the regular season rose to the occasion while others who were key
contributors for most of the year struggled in the postseason. Here are
our grades for Montreal’s forwards in these playoffs.
Lars Eller: A: After being mired in some lengthy slumps during the
year, Eller became one of the Habs’ go-to players in the postseason. One
of the biggest changes in his game was his consistency as he recorded at least
four points in each of the three series. His faceoff percentage was the
only blemish on an otherwise strong performance. Has Eller done enough to
show he’s a legitimate top six forward? I’m not sure yet but this is a
step in the right direction.
Rene Bourque: A-: Like Eller, Bourque’s regular season featured more
downs than ups, something that was improved upon in the playoffs. He was a
much more aggressive player offensively and was one of the few players who
regularly seemed to be in attack mode. Bourque’s defensive effort remained
a bit spotty while he wasn’t as consistent a threat as Eller which gives him the
slightly lower grade.
Alex Galchenyuk: A-: One of the advantages to coming in partway
through the playoffs is that unlike the opponents and teammates, that player is
well rested. Galchenyuk put that to his advantage in his limited
postseason action. He didn’t completely mesh with Plekanec and Gionta on
what was supposed to be a checking line but his presence also allowed for that
trio to generate some offensive chances. All in all, he played quite well.
Dale Weise: B+: Even though Weise played well during the regular
season, it was understandable if you thought he’d be a minor piece in the
playoffs. Fourth liners that don’t even see much time shorthanded don’t
typically have too big of an effect on games. That wasn’t the case here.
He didn’t play a ton but made the most of his limited shifts while two of his
goals were game winners. It looks as if he’s found a home with the Habs.
Brendan Gallagher: B: Gallagher’s style of play lends itself well to
the postseason and to probably no one’s surprise, he didn’t miss a beat when
they started. Unfortunately for the Habs, he slowed down as the games
progressed – particularly in the third round – and even getting bumped up to the
top line didn’t re-spark his productivity. That said, it certainly wasn’t
for a lack of effort or drive as both were on full display in the playoffs.
Max Pacioretty: B: After a dynamic regular season, he was counted on
to be a go-to player here and for the most part, he wasn’t despite leading the
team in shots on goal. However, four of his five goals game in potential
series-clinching games so he at least stepped up in the biggest games.
Losing Vanek off his line clearly didn’t help but Pacioretty’s at the point
where he should be able to shoulder more of the load on his own.
Daniel Briere: B: The numbers aren’t overly impressive but it’s worth
noting that when Briere was a point-per-game player in previous playoffs, he
played a lot more than ten minutes a game. It’s hard to expect much from
someone who stands next to no chance of moving off the fourth line regardless of
what they do. Briere didn’t put up many points but the ones he did collect
were at important times. It’s also noteworthy that his PPG average was
better in the playoffs (0.44) than during the season (0.36).
Tomas Plekanec: B-: Early on, it looked as if Plekanec was finally
about to prove for good that he doesn’t get going when the going gets tough.
Personally, I felt he shed that label a while but some others haven’t seen it
that way. Unfortunately for him, he struggled down the stretch and looked
worn down against the Rangers. Part of that is attributable to the fact he
played 103 games this year (playing big minutes for a forward) so I wouldn’t use
his late struggles as fodder to further prove his supposed postseason
David Desharnais: B-: Offensively, it’s safe to say that Desharnais
disappointed. As a #1 centre and powerplay player, averaging less than
half a point per game isn’t going to cut it. However, his defensive play
was a lot better than we saw during the season while he was the only centre to
have more faceoff wins than losses. Does that make up entirely for his
poor production? No, but it means his performance wasn’t a complete waste
as some suggest.
Michael Bournival: C: Expectations were low for Bournival who never
really had a defined role in these playoffs aside from getting thrown out there
once in a while with the goal of just playing mistake-free. In that sense,
it was a successful postseason as rarely did he make any miscues along the way.
For most players, doing just that alone isn’t enough but for Bournival who more
or less was the 12th/13th forward, sometimes simple is best.
Brian Gionta: C: Unfortunately for Gionta, he struggled considerably
on the offensive side of the game, scoring in only the postseason opener.
He was effective with Bourque and Eller on the third line but couldn’t
rediscover his offensive touch with Plekanec. He wasn’t as bad defensively
as some claim but he also struggled at times in that area as well. I think
there’s mutual interest in him returning but it will need to be in a bottom six
capacity moving forward.
Travis Moen: C: He didn’t seem to have the trust of the coaches but
I’m not sure why. Moen was quiet but effective against the Bruins and took
a regular turn on the penalty kill. That’s more or less what he was all
year long but for some reason the Habs didn’t use him as much as they should
Thomas Vanek: C-: On the one hand, he was brought in to produce and
until late in the New York series he was tied for the team lead in goals.
On the other hand, he rarely stood out in a positive way and earned his demotion
down the lineup. He didn’t do enough to destroy his value in free agency
but I suspect the Habs may not be as interested in bringing him back as they may
have been heading into the playoffs.
Brandon Prust: D: Michel Therrien clearly saw something in Prust to
keep putting him in the lineup. I have no idea what that was. At the
beginning, he clearly wasn’t 100% healthy and wasn’t playing with much of an
edge. Against Boston, he was largely ineffective while against New York,
he went over the edge…twice in four games. I see some parallels with
Ryan White from last year, a player who couldn’t get much of anything going
unless it was something bad entirely. White bounced back well this year,
can Prust do so next season?
The grades for the goaltenders and defencemen can be found