Montreal Canadiens' Blueprint to a Deep Run in 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs

Brandon DuBreuilContributor IIIApril 17, 2014

Montreal Canadiens' Blueprint to a Deep Run in 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs

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    P.K. Subban and Dale Weise celebrate.
    P.K. Subban and Dale Weise celebrate.Scott Audette/Getty Images

    The Montreal Canadiens' hopes of a deep run in the 2014 Stanley Cup playoffs got off to a good start as they defeated the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 1. 

    It is just one game, of course, but the Habs successfully took home-ice advantage away from the Lightning and did so in dominant fashion. Sure, the game went to overtime, but Montreal outplayed Tampa Bay in nearly every facet of the game.

    The Canadiens will need more efforts like the one they put forth in Game 1 if they hope to continue their winning ways this spring. There were also areas to improve on and dealing with those issues will also be key to Montreal's success. 

    So how can Montreal make a deep run in this year's postseason? Read on to find out. 

    Here's the Montreal Canadiens' blueprint to a deep run in the 2014 Stanley Cup playoffs. 

Strong Goaltending

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    Carey Price
    Carey PriceUSA TODAY Sports

    For as good as Carey Price has been in 2013-14, he still has an iffy playoff resume. Performing this postseason is the final step in silencing his doubters. 

    In 31 career playoff games, Price has a 10-17 record, a 2.91 goals-against average and a .903 save percentage. He just hasn't been very good in the postseason. 

    His Game 1 performance will go down in the stat books as a shaky start. He did get the win but allowed four goals on just 25 shots. He did get better as the game went on, however, and made some key saves in overtime. 

    Price will want to be better moving forward and will have to be if the Habs hope to go deep into the playoffs. Montreal isn't a team that is going to outshoot its opponents by 19 shots each game, as it did in Game 1. 

    If the Canadiens get deep into the playoffs, there will be games where Price will asked to make 40 saves. He will need to steal games. But he is certainly capable of doing so.

    Strong goaltending is a key to Montreal's success in the 2013-14 playoffs. 

Production from All 4 Lines

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    Dale Weise (left) celebrates his overtime goal.
    Dale Weise (left) celebrates his overtime goal.Mike Carlson/Getty Images

    The Stanley Cup playoffs are a grind. The physical toll the players take is much greater than during the regular season. Having four solid lines is key to a long playoff run. 

    If Game 1 was any indication, Montreal has a deep group of forwards who can all contribute. 

    The top line of David Desharnais, Max Pacioretty and Thomas Vanek was excellent again, as it has been for the past few weeks. They accounted for 17 shots on goal, with Vanek scoring on a beautiful feed from Desharnais.

    Tomas Plekanec centered Brandon Prust and Brendan Gallagher on the second line. While Prust looked a little rusty after a 12-game layoff, Plekanec was Montreal's best player, and Gallagher was his usual, annoying self.

    Lars Eller also made his return after missing three games with the flu and looked great, scoring once and adding a short-handed assist. His line with Brian Gionta (1G, 1A) and Rene Bourque gave the top line competition for best line of the game. 

    The fourth line had Daniel Briere centering Dale Weise and Michael Bournival, and all they did was score the overtime winner. The fact that the fourth line was even on the ice during overtime shows how well they played. Briere was all over the ice, easily his best game as a Hab. 

    Michel Therrien is a constant line juggler, but these lines will surely stay intact for Game 2. All four lines played excellent hockey and were the reason Montreal won the first game.

    Any team that wants to move deep into the playoffs will need production from all its forwards, and Montreal certainly got that in Game 1. They'll need it to continue if they hope to keep winning. 

Power-Play Goals

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    P.K. Subban
    P.K. SubbanUSA TODAY Sports

    Add yet another game to the power-play goalless streak. 

    After going 0-for-2 with the man advantage in Game 1, the Montreal Canadiens have reached nine straight games without a power-play goal. They are 0-for-25 over that span. 

    What's worse is that the power play isn't really generating any chances. 

    The only time the Canadiens seem to get offensive pressure is off of a faceoff win. Even then, the puck is kept to the corner or shot weakly at the net from a pressured defenseman before being cleared. 

    Once in their own end, the Canadiens are hopeless. Their breakout is completely out of sync, and they can't get the puck through the neutral zone while maintaining possession. 

    The power play is a mess. 

    The Habs had a glorious opportunity to end Game 1 in regulation thanks to an Alex Killorn high-sticking penalty but completely failed to capitalize. This would be a much bigger deal if Tampa Bay had managed to steal the first game in the extra session. 

    The Canadiens, like every other team in the postseason, will not make a deep playoff run if their power play cannot score. They need to get goals with the man advantage and need to get them soon. 

Limit the Turnovers

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    Montreal gave the puck away too much in Game 1.
    Montreal gave the puck away too much in Game 1.Mike Carlson/Getty Images

    The Montreal Canadiens did a lot of things right in Game 1, but there are always ways to improve. Not giving the puck away so often would be a good place to start. 

    Carey Price was beaten four times on 25 shots, but his teammates could have done a better job in helping him out. 

    P.K. Subban had a chance to clear a bouncing puck before Tampa scored its first goal. Brandon Prust's ugly turnover in the third led to the Lightning's third. 

    There were countless other times in Game 1 where Montreal had a chance to clear the zone and didn't. Those giveaways led to scoring chances more often than not.

    Turnovers are a part of hockey, but limiting them is what leads to success. Montreal turned the puck over too many times in Game 1 and will need to cut down of them if they hope to win more playoff games. 

Puck Possession

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    Tomas Plekanec controls the puck.
    Tomas Plekanec controls the puck.Scott Audette/Getty Images

    During the 2013-14 regular season, the Montreal Canadiens were in the bottom third of the league when it came to puck possession, ranking 22rd in Fenwick-for percentage and 26th in Corsi-for percentage. 

    As these are the best means by which to measure puck possession, it's obvious that the Canadiens don't have the puck all that often. 

    And yet they finished the season in third place in the Atlantic Division with 100 points and made the playoffs. They managed to win games while being a poor puck-possession team.

    Imagine what they could do if they had the puck more often?

    Well, more games might look like Game 1 did. 

    There were only three games played, but the Canadiens were the best puck-possession team of the six squads that played on April 16. They finished the game with an impressive five-on-five Corsi-for percentage of 59 percent, according to ExtraSkater.com

    To put that number into perspective, the top puck-possession team in the regular season, the Los Angeles Kings, finished the year with a Corsi-for of 57.3 percent. 

    It's not realistic to think that the Canadiens can continue throughout the playoffs, or this series even, with a Corsi-for of just under 60 percent. It's unlikely any team in the playoffs will finish with a Corsi-for of 59 percent or higher. 

    But improving on their regular-season number of 47.2 percent will be important. The Canadiens could be in for a successful postseason if they can get their Corsi-for percentage above 50. 

    Having the puck on your stick makes hockey a simple game. You get to shoot more, and the opponent shoots less. That usually leads to more goals and then more wins. 

    Puck possession is a key to winning hockey games. Improving on their regular-season Corsi-for percentage will play an important role in Montreal's 2014 Stanley Cup playoff run.