ATD#8 Red Fisher Conference Final: Montreal Canadiens vs. New Jersey Devils

VanIslander
12-13-2007, 06:43 AM
The Red Fisher Conference:

Fourth Round Match-Up


Jim Robson Divisional Champion

Montreal Canadiens

Coach: Al Arbour
Captain: Denis Potvin
Alternates: Jean Ratelle, Yvan Cournoyer

Charlie Simmer - Newsy Lalonde - Yvan Cournoyer
Vic Hadfield - Jean Ratelle - Hooley Smith
Don Marcotte - Doug Jarvis - Pit Martin
Marcel Bonin - Troy Murray - Eddie Shack
Pierre Turgeon

Denis Potvin - Harry Howell
Marcel Pronovost - Rob Ramage
Bill Hajt - Bill Barilko
Lloyd Cook

Turk Broda
Roger Crozier
Rollie Melanson



vs.



Don Cherry Divisional Champion

New Jersey Devils

Coach: Dick Irvin Sr.
Captain: Mario Lemieux
Alternates: Kirk Muller, Scott Niedermayer

Bert Olmstead - Mario Lemieux - Jarome Iginla
Clark Gillies - Vladimir Petrov - Jack Darragh
Jack Walker - Mickey MacKay - Bob Nevin
Kirk Muller - Rick MacLeish - Gary Dornhoefer
Jack Marshall, Bernie Morris

Chris Pronger - Cy Wentworth
Scott Niedermayer - Jack Crawford
Ernie Johnson - Ken Morrow
Frank Patrick

Harry Lumley
Harry Holmes



----------

VanIslander
12-13-2007, 06:43 AM
Montreal Canadiens

PP1: Simmer - Lalonde - Cournoyer - Potvin - P. Martin
PP2: Hadfield - Ratelle - H. Smith - Pronovost - Ramage

PK1: Marcotte - Jarvis - Potvin - Howell
PK2: Ratelle - T.Murray - Hajt - Barilko

vs.

New Jersey Devils

PP1: Olmstead - M.Lemieux - Iginla - Niedermayer - Crawford
PP2: Gillies - Petrov - Darragh - Pronger - MacKay

PK1: Walker - MacKay - Johnson - Morrow
PK2: Muller - Nevin - Pronger - Wentworth

Sturminator
12-13-2007, 10:42 AM
This should be a terrific series. A few thoughts about the matchups:

- health questions: Lemieux and Simmer.

- Hooley Smith vs. Clark Gillies (if the 2nd lines play each other straight across) would be a war. In spite of their respective draft positions, I think Smith would get the better end of it, although I would probably match my 2nd line against New Jersey's 4th if I was HO because MacLeish isn't the defensive player that Petrov is and Jean Ratelle is a very important part of a Montreal offense that clearly can't match 1st line output with New Jersey. Of course, MacLeish is an underappreciated playoff performer and Ratelle wasn't Frank Nighbor in his own zone, so this matchup cuts a bit both ways.

- just a general comment, but I find it interesting that all four of the remaining teams invested above the median picks in coaching. Arbour went in the 12th round as the 4th coach taken (though I think he's the 2nd best all-time), while Day, Hart and Irvin went in a little run as the 9th, 10th and 11th coaches selected at the bottom of the 14th round. The Seals, of course, drafted a 2nd coach in the 21st round.

- Montreal's clearest advantages in the series are coaching (though I think Dick Irvin is a good coach, he's no Radar), in net, on the first unit penalty kill and on the first defensive pairing.

- New Jersey's advantages are the first unit power play, the first line and the second and third defensive pairings. I need to think and research a bit more before I draw conclusions about how well the 2nd units and bottom lines compare.

God Bless Canada
12-13-2007, 01:25 PM
For my money, the biggest edge for Montreal is in net. I don't know if we'll ever see a bigger advantage, this late in the draft, than Lumley vs. Broda. Considering how some GMs view goaltending, I'm surprised New Jersey made it this far. I think some GMs believe you need a top 10 or 12 all-time goalie to reach the conference final. Broda's the only goalie left who's in my top 10 or 12 ever. Lumley's good, good enough to be able to steal a couple games in an ATD format, but Broda's good enough to steal the series.

Broda is definitely the best goalie that New Jersey has faced so far. He's better than Gardiner, and significantly better than Thompson or Belfour.

Montreal also has the edge behind the bench, but I think it's pretty coach. You can make a case for Irvin in the top five of all-time (Arbour's there without a doubt), but IMO, it's pretty close from one to seven or eight).

I think New Jersey's biggest edge is physical play. Montreal's physical. Nobody knows that better than the dudes in Halifax, after that bitter seven-game war. But New Jersey likely has the second-toughest team in the draft, after the Raiders. I don't know if there's a softie in the Montreal line-up. They're big. They're tough. Lemeiux won't hit, but he uses his physical strength to his advantage. They'll crash the net. They'll forecheck, although I don't think anyone on Montreal's defence will be intimidated by New Jersey's forecheck. No Sandis Ozolinsch's here.

Jarvis vs. Lemieux will be a telling match-up. Jarvis wasn't big, but he was tough. Hockey's all-time ironman played hard through every one of those 964 consecutive games. If he's not the best defensive centre in the draft, he's in the top two or three. And he's one of hockey's all-time best in the face-off circle. He'll won't stop Lemieux, but he can contain Lemieux.

This one should be a beauty. Re-match from the final of ATD #6 - which was a heck of a series, too.

Evil Speaker
12-13-2007, 06:35 PM
Considering how some GMs view goaltending, I'm surprised New Jersey made it this far.

Who needs goaltending when you have the Devils kind of defense?

Sturminator
12-13-2007, 11:53 PM
Who needs goaltending when you have the Devils kind of defense?

Good point, although I'd say that past the top line New Jersey isn't going to score a ton of points (Rick MacLeish notwithstanding) so the Devils will need all the defense they can muster against a very good Habs team that will win the battle of second lines. Questions around Mario's physical status put added pressure on the team defense.

Nalyd Psycho
12-14-2007, 02:18 AM
New Jersey has never been chellenged by a goalie this playoff. When Tiny Thompson is the best goalie you face, you haven't been challenged. Broda is going to be a huge shock to NJ's system. In fact, I'd say Montreal should win game 1 because of Broda.

More in depth thought latter.

BM67
12-14-2007, 08:23 AM
Good point, although I'd say that past the top line New Jersey isn't going to score a ton of points (Rick MacLeish notwithstanding) so the Devils will need all the defense they can muster against a very good Habs team that will win the battle of second lines. Questions around Mario's physical status put added pressure on the team defense.

14 forwards drafted:
# of 20 goal scorers: 14
# of 30 goal scorers: 10 (3 of the 4 who didn't scored their 20 goals at a goal a game or better)
# of 50 goal scorers: 4
# of 80 goal scorers: 1

My 4th line has 13 thirty goal seasons. Montreal's 4th has 1, with 5 on their bottom 2 lines combined.

My 4th liners put up 16 point per game seasons, and 5 playoffs. Montreal's 3rd and 4th lines each put up 1 ppg season and 2 playoffs. My 3rd adds 12 and 5.

Scoring depth is not a problem.

God Bless Canada
12-14-2007, 12:31 PM
14 forwards drafted:
# of 20 goal scorers: 14
# of 30 goal scorers: 10 (3 of the 4 who didn't scored their 20 goals at a goal a game or better)
# of 50 goal scorers: 4
# of 80 goal scorers: 1

My 4th line has 13 thirty goal seasons. Montreal's 4th has 1, with 5 on their bottom 2 lines combined.

My 4th liners put up 16 point per game seasons, and 5 playoffs. Montreal's 3rd and 4th lines each put up 1 ppg season and 2 playoffs. My 3rd adds 12 and 5.

Scoring depth is not a problem.
Statistical smoke, anyone? Please tell me how these guys played, instead of reciting stats that can be found on hockeydb.com.

But I agree: you aren't going to see much offensive contribution from Montreal's third and fourth lines. None of Montreal's fourth liners had sustained offensive production in the post-season. New Jersey had the edge in this regard.

I said from the start that New Jersey has the best fourth line in the draft. It's really a 3B line instead of a fourth line. MacLeish and Muller are excellent two-way forwards; Dornhoefer is tough and talented (and MacLeish's old Philly linemate).

I'm assuming that BM is going to want to have Niedermayer out there against the Lalonde line as much as possible, to go speed against speed; and the grit of Pronger out there against Hadfield and Smith as much as possible.

Sturminator
12-14-2007, 02:53 PM
Statistical smoke, anyone?

Raw numbers are almost always statistical smoke.

I said from the start that New Jersey has the best fourth line in the draft. It's really a 3B line instead of a fourth line. MacLeish and Muller are excellent two-way forwards; Dornhoefer is tough and talented (and MacLeish's old Philly linemate).

Neither Muller nor Dornhoefer ever sniffed a top-10 scoring finish, though MacLeish is a very strong offensive 4th liner (who also played a decent 2-way game) and a guy I've praised in that role for some time. I agree that New Jersey's 4th line is better than Montreal's, though that is mostly because of MacLeish. Muller and Dornhoefer, although better scorers than Montreal's 4th line wings, aren't really anything that great by ATD standards, even for 4th liners. Perhaps we will revisit the topic of which team has the best 4th line if New Jersey and Oakland are lucky enough to advance to the finals. At any rate, now is not the time.

BM67
12-14-2007, 04:41 PM
Statistical smoke, anyone? Please tell me how these guys played, instead of reciting stats that can be found on hockeydb.com.

I have already done that.

Coach: Dick Irvin Sr. (http://hfboards.com/showpost.php?p=10771211&postcount=708)

Forwards:
Bert Olmstead (http://hfboards.com/showpost.php?p=10568322&postcount=450) - Mario Lemieux (http://hfboards.com/showpost.php?p=10395433&postcount=4) (C) - Jarome Iginla (http://hfboards.com/showpost.php?p=10566030&postcount=425)
Clark Gillies (http://hfboards.com/showpost.php?p=10569324&postcount=459) - Vladimir Petrov (http://hfboards.com/showpost.php?p=10575493&postcount=526) - Jack Darragh (http://hfboards.com/showpost.php?p=10636662&postcount=969)
Jack Walker (http://hfboards.com/showpost.php?p=10665699&postcount=58) - Mickey MacKay (http://hfboards.com/showpost.php?p=10665659&postcount=57) - Bob Nevin (http://hfboards.com/showpost.php?p=10771134&postcount=706)
Kirk Muller (http://hfboards.com/showpost.php?p=10691106&postcount=215) (A) - Rick MacLeish (http://hfboards.com/showpost.php?p=10692954&postcount=221) - Gary Dornhoefer (http://hfboards.com/showpost.php?p=10875231&postcount=381)
Jack Marshall (http://hfboards.com/showpost.php?p=10940205&postcount=583) - Bernie Morris (http://hfboards.com/showpost.php?p=10963111&postcount=652)

Defense:
Chris Pronger (http://hfboards.com/showpost.php?p=10472830&postcount=508) - Cy Wentworth (http://hfboards.com/showpost.php?p=10711682&postcount=366)
Scott Niedermayer (http://hfboards.com/showpost.php?p=10472830&postcount=508) (A) - Jack Crawford (http://hfboards.com/showpost.php?p=10711405&postcount=364)
Ernie Johnson (http://hfboards.com/showpost.php?p=10632372&postcount=909) - Ken Morrow (http://hfboards.com/showpost.php?p=10636213&postcount=966)
Frank Patrick (http://hfboards.com/showpost.php?p=10875321&postcount=382)

Goaltenders:
Harry Lumley (http://hfboards.com/showpost.php?p=10687538&postcount=164)
Harry "Hap" Holmes (http://hfboards.com/showpost.php?p=10819755&postcount=79)

BM67
12-14-2007, 06:07 PM
Neither Muller nor Dornhoefer ever sniffed a top-10 scoring finish, though MacLeish is a very strong offensive 4th liner (who also played a decent 2-way game) and a guy I've praised in that role for some time. I agree that New Jersey's 4th line is better than Montreal's, though that is mostly because of MacLeish. Muller and Dornhoefer, although better scorers than Montreal's 4th line wings, aren't really anything that great by ATD standards, even for 4th liners. Perhaps we will revisit the topic of which team has the best 4th line if New Jersey and Oakland are lucky enough to advance to the finals. At any rate, now is not the time.

Why claim NJ has a lack of scoring depth because Muller and Dornhoefer didn't get a sniff of a top-10 scoring finish, when outside of Pit Martin's assist totals for two years, nobody on Montreal's bottom two lines did either? They are the only forwards on my team that haven't been top-10 in scoring, and Muller did finish 14th in 87-88.

VanIslander
12-14-2007, 06:10 PM
.. outside of Pit Martin's assist totals for two years, nobody on Montreal's bottom two lines did either?
And Martin is being played out of position. I am disappointed by that.

pappyline
12-14-2007, 06:36 PM
And Martin is being played out of position. I am disappointed by that.
I don't recall Martin as anything but a centre. Could be wrong though.

MXD
12-15-2007, 09:32 AM
I think NJ has the better team, while I think the Canadiens have the best 1st pairing, and that could mean A LOT in this one -- Mario doesn't really like being hit, and Potvin loves to hit.

Lumley will see less action than Broda in this one (and I'd even give a slight advantage to NJ defense corps overall, even considering the gap between both teams 1st pairing)... In the end, if Broda significantly outplays Lumley, Montreal will claim the round. But he really have to significantly outplay him, as there are some non-threats spread throughout Montreal Top-6. Lumley might see 20 shots a game, more often than not, and many of them will be from Denis Potvin, as I think NJ's D can do a good job at disrupting plays in their zone. There isn't a weak player on NJ's squad, and while Cy Wentworth is by no mean a good 1st pairing guy, he will never hurt you, wherever he is in any depth chart.

There's one thing I dislike however, and maybe I'm splitting hairs on this... But Vladimir Petrov... I mean... Fine, his line is really, really well-built. However, I would never rely on Petrov against any kind of stiff competition. Gillies and Darragh helps him somehow, but I really can't think of him as a factor against stiff competition. I may put a little too much weight on his '72 SS performance, but he was unimpressive by all accounts. I like Gillies and Darragh, but they ain't Kharlamov and Mikhailov at all. This said, NJ's 1st line came through since the beginning of the draft, and will probably continue to do so in this one, so it's not like Petrov like as to produce. Can Petrov play wing?

Hockey Outsider
12-15-2007, 03:12 PM
Petrov had to take on a more defensive role to (unsuccessfully) try to contain Esposito in the Summit Series. He was better offensively than his performance at the SS indicates... though, at the same time, he would have to trade off his defensive play for the extra offense.

BM67
12-15-2007, 06:03 PM
I wouldn't want to rate any player based on one brief series alone, but consider that he put up 7 points, with 2 SHGs, in this "disappointing performance". He also had 7 points in the 74 series.

Consider that he holds the single tournament records for the World Championships in goals, assists and points.

Consider that in the 14 years he, Kharlamov and Mikhailov played together for CSKA: Kharlamov scored more goals than Petrov 4 times, had more assists once (while tying him once), and more points 4 times; Mikhailov scored more goals 10 times, had more assists once (the same year Kharlamov had more assists), and more points 4 times. He had over 100 more assists than both Kharlamov and Mikhailov during this time.

He certainly wasn't as flashy as his teammates, but he just as certainly got the job done.

vancityluongo
12-15-2007, 07:29 PM
I think this'll be a amazing match-up. I can't go into detail like everyone else has done, but I'll say that both teams definitely deserve to come this far, and it'll definitely be close. Best of luck to both clubs.

Also, I was just wondering when we need to get our votes in?? I haven't seen anything yet...

Sturminator
12-15-2007, 11:59 PM
Why claim NJ has a lack of scoring depth because Muller and Dornhoefer didn't get a sniff of a top-10 scoring finish, when outside of Pit Martin's assist totals for two years, nobody on Montreal's bottom two lines did either? They are the only forwards on my team that haven't been top-10 in scoring, and Muller did finish 14th in 87-88.

Neither team has a whole lot of scoring on the bottom lines besides Rick MacLeish. I think it pretty much goes without saying that Montreal's 3rd and 4th line players are there pretty much just for their checking. I'll say it clearly so there's no confusion: I think New Jersey wins in secondary scoring (in this case, meaning past the second line) because of MacLeish and because Moose Johnson is a better offensive defenseman than either of Hajt or Barilko.

BM67
12-16-2007, 07:23 AM
Yeah, wouldn't expect Mickey MacKay (7th leading scorer 1909-1926, 14th 1909-1940) to provide any scoring.

BM67
12-16-2007, 09:28 PM
Just in case anyone needs to know, the Devils have home ice.

Hockey Outsider
12-16-2007, 11:40 PM
MacKay's best years came in the PCHA when the league was averaging 8-10 goals per game (significantly more than Gretzky's era). The period until 1926 had years with scoring as low as 4.6 GPG. Scoring was under 5.0 GPG almost every year from 1927-1940 (lower than the dead puck era of the 1990s).

MacKay he finished 6th in scoring, on average, during his seven years in the PCHA. However, the league only had 24 full-time players on average. He never led his team in scoring once in the PCHA.

Hockey Outsider
12-17-2007, 01:05 AM
Containing Lemieux
Obviously Lemieux is the best player in this series and containing his line will be critical. There are five reasons why the Canadiens can contain him:

1) Denis Potvin and Harry Howell will on the ice against Lemieux at all times. Potvin’s relentless hipchecks will take a heavy physical toll on Lemieux (who must already be fatigued from playing against Chelios and Seibert). Potvin is one of the few defensemen with the speed necessary to keep up with Lemieux, and he has the upper body strength necessary to drive Lemieux out of harm’s way. Howell, while less aggressive than Potvin, was very strong and has the power and skating ability to cover Lemieux at all times. Remember. Potvin shut down Gretzky in his prime in the 1984 Cup finals, and, playing with Howell, he can do the same to Lemieux.
2) Lemieux has not yet faced an elite defensive centre or an elite checking line. However, Doug Jarvis spent his career covering the NHL’s best centres and will get considerable ice time against Lemieux. He was the #1 defensive centre on (arguably) hockey’s greatest dynasty. Jarvis (holder of the all-time iron man record) also faced off against Esposito and Clarke in the POs, so he’s proven he can shut down large, strong opponents. Jarvis, though a bit on the small side, was very energetic, stayed out of the penalty box, and is one of the few defensive centres that can match Lemieux’s speed. Don Marcotte’s feisty, physical play is an effective matchup against Iginla (who is prone to drop the gloves when frustrated) and Martin’s disciplined positional play is a good matchup against Olmstead’s relatively disciplined play.
3) Superior goaltending. No disrespect to the Devils’ opponents, but Turk Broda is the best goalie they’ve faced by a wide margin (Belfour, Rayner, Thompson). More on goaltending below.
4) Superior coaching. Al Arbour was instrumental in upsetting Lemieux’s Penguins in 1993. See more about coaching below.
5) Fatigue. The Canadiens have played 13 games thus far, while the Devils have already played three rounds. Lemieux has already faced heavy pressure from tough, aggressive defenders like Chelios, Seibert and Suter. Unless we assume Lemieux has perfect health (which is unrealistic because it doesn’t reflect his actual career), there should be a drop in his level of play.

Goaltending
It’s debatable whether Broda or Benedict is the best goalie remaining. Regardless, Lumley is the weakest starting goalie by a wide margin. In the first round, I argued that Lumley is probably equivalent to Belfour, and I was criticized for being too generous to Lumley. An old post by BM67 showed that Broda had the all-time best improvement in GAA during the playoffs and the 4th-best improvement in win percentage during the playoffs. Given that Broda was already a better starting goalie than Lumley during the regular season, the difference in their level of play is magnified further.

Coaching
Al Arbour is the consensus #2 or #3 coach of all-time. There are a few reasons why he is particularly well-suited to this matchup. Al Arbour was instrumental in upsetting Lemieux’s Penguins in 19993. His Islanders were heavy underdogs. His defensive line (McInnis, Fitzgerald, Green, Krupp and Kasparitus) were clearly inferior in talent but made up for it with energy, aggressiveness and tenacity. Arbour knows how to use his most physical, feisty players to contain Lemieux—and he’ll have a much better chance with Potvin, Jarvis, etc., rather than Krupp and Fitzgerald. Additionally, Arbour paced his players by never wearing them out during the regular season. Conversely, there are stories of Dick Irvin forcing his team to do days of rigorous skating drills for being an average of 2 lbs overweight (http://www.geocities.com/colosseum/3815/si021356.htm). Perhaps one of the reasons he has a 4-12 record in Cup finals is that he worked them too hard in the regular season. I have no doubt that Irvin can get a team deep in the playoffs, but I’m concerned about whether his players have enough left in them to compete at a high level during the last few rounds. Most disturbingly, Irvin lost in the Stanley Cup finals to eleven different coaches, including going 0-4 against his toughest competition (Ivan, Day, Gorman).

2nd Line
Hooley Smith is clearly superior to Darragh except in skating ability. Hadfield and Gillies are similar players, but Hadfield scored at a better pace in the playoffs and had the better peak between the two (despite playing with weaker linemates in a lower-scoring era). It’s hard to compare Ratelle and Petrov—both were among the best scorers, and best forwards, in their respective leagues. Petrov was the better goal-scorer and Ratelle was the better playmaker and better defensive player.

In conclusion—the Canadiens’ advantages (superior goaltending, a top defense pair, an elite checking line and Al Arbour) can be used to shut down the Lemieux line. From there, our excellent second line, which proved the difference in the last round against Halifax, and our superior goaltending, will provide enough a difference to win a close series.

BM67
12-17-2007, 08:01 AM
MacKay's best years came in the PCHA when the league was averaging 8-10 goals per game (significantly more than Gretzky's era). The period until 1926 had years with scoring as low as 4.6 GPG. Scoring was under 5.0 GPG almost every year from 1927-1940 (lower than the dead puck era of the 1990s).

MacKay he finished 6th in scoring, on average, during his seven years in the PCHA. However, the league only had 24 full-time players on average. He never led his team in scoring once in the PCHA.

During MacKay's career the PCHA and WCHL/WHL had only two seasons of over 8 goals a game according to the Hockey Compendium. It wasn't until 23-24 that NHL scoring dropped below that of the western leagues, and of course when MacKay got to the NHL it was the lowest scoring period in league history. The fairly low level of scoring in the 30s is more than offset by the increase in assists awarded and length of schedule.

MacKay was his teams leading scorer in 22-23 and 24-25. He trailed Cyclone Taylor by 1 point in 1914-15 for the league scoring title, leading the league in goals as a rookie.

PCHA points rank
14-15 2nd
15-16 T10th
16-17 6th
17-18 6th
18-19 T6th
19-20 Didn't play (thank you Cully Wilson)
20-21 10th
21-22 2nd
22-23 2nd
23-24 3rd

(Frank Foyston, a guy drafted for his offense, finished ahead of him only 3 times.)

In 24-25 MacKay was the WCHL's leading scorer, and dropped out of the top-10 for the first time in 25-26.

He joined the NHL and tied for 13th in points in 26-27 & 27-28, in a 10 team league.

Sturminator
12-17-2007, 11:15 AM
During MacKay's career the PCHA and WCHL/WHL had only two seasons of over 8 goals a game according to the Hockey Compendium. It wasn't until 23-24 that NHL scoring dropped below that of the western leagues, and of course when MacKay got to the NHL it was the lowest scoring period in league history. The fairly low level of scoring in the 30s is more than offset by the increase in assists awarded and length of schedule.

MacKay was his teams leading scorer in 22-23 and 24-25. He trailed Cyclone Taylor by 1 point in 1914-15 for the league scoring title, leading the league in goals as a rookie.

PCHA points rank
14-15 2nd
15-16 T10th
16-17 6th
17-18 6th
18-19 T6th
19-20 Didn't play (thank you Cully Wilson)
20-21 10th
21-22 2nd
22-23 2nd
23-24 3rd

(Frank Foyston, a guy drafted for his offense, finished ahead of him only 3 times.)

In 24-25 MacKay was the WCHL's leading scorer, and dropped out of the top-10 for the first time in 25-26.

He joined the NHL and tied for 13th in points in 26-27 & 27-28, in a 10 team league.

Hmm...allright, fair enough. It seems that the most illuminating discussions often spring from little disagreements about players. I'm willing to accept that MacKay is a pretty good scorer from the 3rd line, as well as being a very solid defensive player.

BM67
12-17-2007, 08:46 PM
Containing Lemieux
Obviously Lemieux is the best player in this series and containing his line will be critical. There are five reasons why the Canadiens can contain him:

1) Denis Potvin and Harry Howell will on the ice against Lemieux at all times. Potvin’s relentless hipchecks will take a heavy physical toll on Lemieux (who must already be fatigued from playing against Chelios and Seibert). Potvin is one of the few defensemen with the speed necessary to keep up with Lemieux, and he has the upper body strength necessary to drive Lemieux out of harm’s way. Howell, while less aggressive than Potvin, was very strong and has the power and skating ability to cover Lemieux at all times. Remember. Potvin shut down Gretzky in his prime in the 1984 Cup finals, and, playing with Howell, he can do the same to Lemieux.
2) Lemieux has not yet faced an elite defensive centre or an elite checking line. However, Doug Jarvis spent his career covering the NHL’s best centres and will get considerable ice time against Lemieux. He was the #1 defensive centre on (arguably) hockey’s greatest dynasty. Jarvis (holder of the all-time iron man record) also faced off against Esposito and Clarke in the POs, so he’s proven he can shut down large, strong opponents. Jarvis, though a bit on the small side, was very energetic, stayed out of the penalty box, and is one of the few defensive centres that can match Lemieux’s speed. Don Marcotte’s feisty, physical play is an effective matchup against Iginla (who is prone to drop the gloves when frustrated) and Martin’s disciplined positional play is a good matchup against Olmstead’s relatively disciplined play.
3) Superior goaltending. No disrespect to the Devils’ opponents, but Turk Broda is the best goalie they’ve faced by a wide margin (Belfour, Rayner, Thompson). More on goaltending below.
4) Superior coaching. Al Arbour was instrumental in upsetting Lemieux’s Penguins in 1993. See more about coaching below.
5) Fatigue. The Canadiens have played 13 games thus far, while the Devils have already played three rounds. Lemieux has already faced heavy pressure from tough, aggressive defenders like Chelios, Seibert and Suter. Unless we assume Lemieux has perfect health (which is unrealistic because it doesn’t reflect his actual career), there should be a drop in his level of play.

Goaltending
It’s debatable whether Broda or Benedict is the best goalie remaining. Regardless, Lumley is the weakest starting goalie by a wide margin. In the first round, I argued that Lumley is probably equivalent to Belfour, and I was criticized for being too generous to Lumley. An old post by BM67 showed that Broda had the all-time best improvement in GAA during the playoffs and the 4th-best improvement in win percentage during the playoffs. Given that Broda was already a better starting goalie than Lumley during the regular season, the difference in their level of play is magnified further.

Coaching
Al Arbour is the consensus #2 or #3 coach of all-time. There are a few reasons why he is particularly well-suited to this matchup. Al Arbour was instrumental in upsetting Lemieux’s Penguins in 19993. His Islanders were heavy underdogs. His defensive line (McInnis, Fitzgerald, Green, Krupp and Kasparitus) were clearly inferior in talent but made up for it with energy, aggressiveness and tenacity. Arbour knows how to use his most physical, feisty players to contain Lemieux—and he’ll have a much better chance with Potvin, Jarvis, etc., rather than Krupp and Fitzgerald. Additionally, Arbour paced his players by never wearing them out during the regular season. Conversely, there are stories of Dick Irvin forcing his team to do days of rigorous skating drills for being an average of 2 lbs overweight (http://www.geocities.com/colosseum/3815/si021356.htm (http://www.geocities.com/colosseum/3815/si021356.htm)). Perhaps one of the reasons he has a 4-12 record in Cup finals is that he worked them too hard in the regular season. I have no doubt that Irvin can get a team deep in the playoffs, but I’m concerned about whether his players have enough left in them to compete at a high level during the last few rounds. Most disturbingly, Irvin lost in the Stanley Cup finals to eleven different coaches, including going 0-4 against his toughest competition (Ivan, Day, Gorman).

2nd Line
Hooley Smith is clearly superior to Darragh except in skating ability. Hadfield and Gillies are similar players, but Hadfield scored at a better pace in the playoffs and had the better peak between the two (despite playing with weaker linemates in a lower-scoring era). It’s hard to compare Ratelle and Petrov—both were among the best scorers, and best forwards, in their respective leagues. Petrov was the better goal-scorer and Ratelle was the better playmaker and better defensive player.

In conclusion—the Canadiens’ advantages (superior goaltending, a top defense pair, an elite checking line and Al Arbour) can be used to shut down the Lemieux line. From there, our excellent second line, which proved the difference in the last round against Halifax, and our superior goaltending, will provide enough a difference to win a close series.

Fine you have contained Mario by putting Jarvis, Potvin and Howell on him. That leaves only two guys to cover my other 4 skaters.

Fatigue? I won my last series in 6 games, while you went to OT in game 7. Who's going to be fresher?

Broda clearly better than Lumley in the regular season? Based on what? Lumley beat out an in his prime Terry Sawchuk for two 1st team all-star spots, and retired as the all-time leader in wins, despite playing a good chunk of time with Boston and Chicago. Better in the playoffs? Sure, but it was Lumley that beat Toronto and Broda in the 50 playoffs to end the Toronto dynasty at 3 straight Cups.

Coaching: 2 lbs overweight? Arbour never skated his team hard after a 4 game losing streak?

Not to knock Arbour too much. He coached the Isles to 5 finals, and the upset of Pittburgh in 93, but he coached for 22 years. Is that it? His 42-50 record in his other 16 years isn't that impressive.

Irvin lost 12 Stanley Cup Finals, and that doesn't look very good, but... Just getting Chicago to the Finals was an accomplishment, taking that Final to a full 5 games is excellent... He lost 6 Finals with Toronto, but he did it with a Kid Line that couldn't stay healthy, and 3 different goalies... In Montreal, he ran into two dynasties in Toronto and Detroit...

2nd Lines: Smith clearly better than Darragh? Darragh was 2nd in assists in 19-20, and led the league in 20-21, and he has 2 retro "Conn Smythes". While Hooley has 1 goal and 0 assists in the two playoffs were he played for a Cup winner... Gillies might not beat Hadfield on the stat sheet, but that's about it. Gillies had more playoff GWGs in one series than Hadfield had in his career, and that was before the Isle's dynasty... Don't let Petrov's assist totals fool you, the Soviets didn't award 2nd assists, or give them when players scored off rebounds. If you could ever track down a top-10 assists list for the Soviet League in the 70s, I'm pretty sure Petrov would top it for at least half the years.

Even if you have all the edges you say you have, I have far superior offense from my 3rd and 4th lines, better defensive depth, and a far more disciplined team, which will lead to a big special teams advantage, as well as the home ice advantage.

BM67
12-17-2007, 09:40 PM
Here's a look at the drop from best to 5th best for the 3rd and 4th lines combined.

Goals - Assists - Points Regular Season/Playoffs
M1 - 172/36 - 237/41 - 397/72
M2 - 143/19 - 210/26 - 339/43
M3 - 136/14 - 195/20 - 319/36
M4 - 121/8 - 175/13 - 295/22
M5 - 112/8 - 159/11 - 273/19
N1 - 201/48 - 226/37 - 425/81
N2 - 191/33 - 212/30 - 382/60
N3 - 169/24 - 194/23 - 338/43
N4 - 157/21 - 178/20 - 323/38
N5 - 136/12 - 168/13 - 301/28

As percentage of best
M2 - 0.831/0.528 - 0.886/0.634 - 0.854/0.597
M3 - 0.791/0.389 - 0.823/0.488 - 0.804/0.5
M4 - 0.703/0.222 - 0.738/0.317 - 0.743/0.306
M5 - 0.651/0.222 - 0.671/0.268 - 0.688/0.264
N2 - 0.95/0.688 - 0.938/0.811 - 0.899/0.741
N3 - 0.841/0.5 - 0.858/0.622 - 0.795/0.531
N4 - 0.781/0.438 - 0.788/0.541 - 0.76/0.469
N5 - 0.677/0.25 - 0.743/0.351 - 0.708/0.346

Hockey Outsider
12-18-2007, 02:02 AM
Broda clearly better than Lumley in the regular season? Based on what? Lumley beat out an in his prime Terry Sawchuk for two 1st team all-star spots, and retired as the all-time leader in wins, despite playing a good chunk of time with Boston and Chicago. Better in the playoffs? Sure, but it was Lumley that beat Toronto and Broda in the 50 playoffs to end the Toronto dynasty at 3 straight Cups.

Broda beat Lumley in the Stanley Cup finals in 1948 and 1949, so I'll take 2 of 3.

In 1948, Broda had a 1.80 GAA in the finals versus 4.20 for Lumley (who gave up 7 goals in the deciding game five). In 1949, Broda had a 1.25 GAA in the Cup finals versus 3.00 for Lumley.

Even in the one year Lumley beat Broda in the playoffs, Broda was outstanding (3 shutouts in that round, and he actually gave up fewer goals than Lumley anyway).

Broda has a slight edge in all-star selections (3-2) despite losing three prime years to WWII. His competition was no less impressive (Durnan and Brimsek).

Not to knock Arbour too much. He coached the Isles to 5 finals, and the upset of Pittburgh in 93, but he coached for 22 years. Is that it? His 42-50 record in his other 16 years isn't that impressive.

Even if you exclude his six best years, Arbour (and Potvin) still took an expansion team to the conference finals in 1975 (their 4th year of operation) and did it again in 1977 (before Bossy was in the NHL and before Trottier was a star).

It doesn't make sense to ignore a coach (or player's) best six years. Take away Lemieux's best six years and he doesn't even have an Art Ross trophy. Take away Lafleur's best six years and he's not even a Hall of Famer.

Irvin lost 12 Stanley Cup Finals, and that doesn't look very good, but... Just getting Chicago to the Finals was an accomplishment, taking that Final to a full 5 games is excellent... He lost 6 Finals with Toronto, but he did it with a Kid Line that couldn't stay healthy, and 3 different goalies... In Montreal, he ran into two dynasties in Toronto and Detroit...

I realize Irvin faced some good competition, but he consistently allowed his all-star rosters to underachieve. During his time with the Canadiens, a team with Harvey, Richard, Geoffrion, Lach and Olmstead could never win the big games. He worked with Conacher, Clancy, Primeau, Jackson, Chabot, Hainsworth in Toronto. They won one Cup with Irvin (his first year) but went 0-6 in the finals the rest of the time.

The bottom line is, both Arbour and Irvin faced very tough competition. Irvin probably had better players to work with and had less playoff success (consistently making it to the Cup finals is impressive, but not as impressive as creating an all-time great dynasty with numerous upsets both early and late in Arbour's coaching career).

Fatigue? I won my last series in 6 games, while you went to OT in game 7. Who's going to be fresher?

This might benefit you for the first game but by the time games 5-7 roll around, my team will be healthier and in better-rested due to having played a full series less than your team.

Fine you have contained Mario by putting Jarvis, Potvin and Howell on him. That leaves only two guys to cover my other 4 skaters.

Only one of Potvin and Howell would cover Lemieux at a time, though both would be on the ice against him. I will put Potvin on Lemieux due to his superior physical play. Arbour found a way to contain Lemieux with McInnis (Marty, not Al), Fitzgerald and Krupp in 1993, he will have a good chance of doing it again with a much better supporting cast.

Don Marcotte (a pest, a tough checker, and a player who can drop the gloves or fight for pucks along the boards) is a perfect distractor for Iginla, who can be prone to dropping the gloves at bad times. Martin (regular PKer and great passer) will be up against Olmstead and should be able to contain him with some help from Howell. If Pronger or Niedermayer want to join the rush, Potvin can easily start a counter-offensive bringing the puck up the ice himself or by giving it to the speedy Marcotte.

Arbour has also the option of using Selke winner Troy Murray (one of the strongest, toughest defensive forwards of his era), Eddie Shack (a tough checker who was great along the boards), Marcel Bonin (the defensive glue that held that Richard/Beliveau together on hockey's greatest dynasty), Marcel Pronovost (the #2 defenseman on the Wings dynasty, a fierce checker with excellent speed) and Bill Barilko (the toughest player and hardest hitter on the Leafs dynasty).

2nd Lines: Smith clearly better than Darragh? Darragh was 2nd in assists in 19-20, and led the league in 20-21, and he has 2 retro "Conn Smythes". While Hooley has 1 goal and 0 assists in the two playoffs were he played for a Cup winner... Gillies might not beat Hadfield on the stat sheet, but that's about it. Gillies had more playoff GWGs in one series than Hadfield had in his career, and that was before the Isle's dynasty... Don't let Petrov's assist totals fool you, the Soviets didn't award 2nd assists, or give them when players scored off rebounds. If you could ever track down a top-10 assists list for the Soviet League in the 70s, I'm pretty sure Petrov would top it for at least half the years.

I realize Ratelle has the advantage, statistically, by playing in a league with 2 assists, but I still believe he is a superior playmaker to Petrov (which, combined with his better defensive play makes him the more valuable player overall). He retired 4th all-time in assists and was in the top ten in scoring nearly every year including finishing 3rd (to Orr and Esposito) during the season he won the Pearson (1972).

Darragh's two Conn Smythes are puzzling. In 1920, he got the Conn Smythe despite being tied in scoring with linemate Frank Nighbor, clearly the better defensive player. In 1921, he was again tied in scoring with two superior defensive players (Nighbor and blueliner Boucher). The retro CS article gives Darragh credit for game-winning goals--but how important were they when Ottawa won its six games by a total score of 21-9 in 1920 and 1921? (There were no EN goals and none of them games went to OT, so Ottawa easily won these games in regulation time). Darragh had two good playoff runs, but his stats were no better than those of his teammates and the article's GWG argument is weak given that the Senators dynasty blew out their opponents by more than a 2-to-1 ratio in their wins.

Other than the two very questionable Smythes, which are based on a flawed GWG argument, he has nothing close to the accomplishments of Smith. Smith was better defensive player, a tougher, more physical player, was a 2-time Hart candidate, a six-time top-ten scorer, and retired 4th all-time in points. He was a few votes away from being a 4-time all-star despite playing against Morenz, Boucher and Stewart. I've already proven earlier (see Seattle matchup) that Smith's stats fall in the playoffs basically at the same rate as Morenz, Cook, Conacher, ie at the same rate as all the stars of the era. (Now I will give credit to Darragh for scoring both goals in the final game of the 1921 final--but this hardly beats Smith's entire two-decade career).

I will give Gillies the edge in clutch play over Hadfield, but I'm sure he could have had the same success as Gillies had they switched teams. Hadfield actually has a better PO scoring rate and is equally strong and aggressive.

and a far more disciplined team

Strongly disagree. Most of my key defensive players spent very little time in the box relative to the demands of their position:

Player|PIM|GP
Jarvis|263|964
Marcotte|317|868
Martin|609|1,101
Bonin|336|454
Potvin|1,356|1,060
Howell|1,298|1,411
Pronovost|851|1,206
Hajt|433|854

Elite shutdown players like Jarvis, Hajt and Marcotte don't average 30 PIM per season by being undisciplined. Potvin's totals high but keep in mind that his average ice time is 30 minutes per game and a good chunk of those penalties are fighting majors. And these numbers hardly change in the POs- (61 PIM in 132 gp for Marcotte, 41 PIM in 105 gp for Jarvis, 164 PIM in 185 gp for Potvin, etc).

My key scorers:

Player|PIM|GP
Ratelle|276|1,281
Cournoyer|255|968
Simmer|544|712
Smith|1,013|716
Turgeon|452|1,294
Lalonde|138|99

Smith was a bit PIM prone, but not terrible. (And if Smith's 1.3 PIM per game is bad, Lemieux's 0.9 PIM per game is even worse since he played in a low-PIM era and had far, far fewer fighting majors). Lalonde wasn't PIM prone (keep in mind he played 50 minutes per game-his PIM rate is more like 70 PIM per 99 games today or ~58 PIM per season). The rest of my key offensive players clearly were excellent at staying out of the box.

The only players on my team that were really penalty-prone are Ramage, Barilko, Hadfield and Shack, but most of those are due to fighting majors (as opposed to non-coincidental minors that would put me on the PK). And, while they are valuable, none of them are key contributors. Now I agree you have a lot of very disciplined players (Morrow, Wentworth, Niedermayer, Nevin, Macleish). But I've demonstrated above that all of my key offensive and defensive players (except for Smith) are disciplined and cool-headed.

Actually, Chris Pronger is far more reckless and undisicplined than any defenseman on my team; his two suspensions during Anaheim's Cup win, combined with his significant increase in PIM rate during the POs, is a dangerous combination. Jarome Iginla's jump from 0.71 PIM to 1.66 PIM in the PO is troubling as well. And for the data we have, Petrov took 402 PIM in 309 games.

Final thoughts

Even if you have all the edges you say you have, I have far superior offense from my 3rd and 4th lines, better defensive depth, and a far more disciplined team, which will lead to a big special teams advantage, as well as the home ice advantage.

My advantages are: a superior goalie that badly outplayed Lumley in 2 of their 3 playoff meetings, a greatly superior coach who didn't allow his team to underachieve, a significantly better top-three trio of defensemen who will see close to 85 minutes per game, a better second line, and better defensive play from my 3rd and 4th line. (Discipline is equal).

I see this series going to seven, but the real-life advantages (Broda easily beating Lumley twice, Arbour containing a prime Lemieux) in addition to what I said above will allow the Canadiens to prevail.

That's probably all the time I have given that the deadline is tonight. As always, BM67, it's been a good discussion. And thanks to anybody that's read this far.

BM67
12-18-2007, 06:41 AM
In the 1917 Stanley Cup series, Lalonde was held to 1 goal, covered by Jack Walker who had 1 goal and 2 assists, and racked up 24 PIM in 4 games. Lalonde had a volcanic temper.

Hadfield and Barilko both led the NHL in PIM. Smith finished 3rd in PIM 3 times.

Hockey Outsider
12-18-2007, 09:26 PM
I realize there's less than an hour to go for voting but I might as well add these two comments:

Hadfield's PIM numbers are distorted because he started his career as a pure enforcer and, after a few years, evolved to a relatively disciplined 30-goal scorer. He led the NHL in PIM in his first full season but Hadfield never even finished in the top ten in PIM once he found his scoring touch (1968-1976). He only averaged 72 PIM per year during the last decade of his career (lower than what Gillies averaged).

Lalonde had a fiery temper, as did Richard and many other star power forwards. In 1918, Lalonde spent 17 minutes in the box in two playoff games--and still managed to score 6 points.

BM67
12-19-2007, 08:53 AM
The Devils are a 2-seed, the Canadiens a 1. Why does New Jersey have home ice?
New Jersey received more regular season ranking points. NJ was #2 overall and Montreal was #3.

ck26
12-19-2007, 09:23 AM
GAME ONE

East Rutherford — After an uncharacteristically boisterous – and profane – display by captain Mario Lemieux before the clinching game 6 of the previous series, the state of New Jersey has been abuzz with anticipation of a conference final against Quebec. The home fans showed up in force and turned the Continental Airlines Arena into the Bada Bing. Route 120 was a sea of red and black for hours before the drop of the puck, an imposing presence that set the tone for the evening.

The Devils got to work quickly, riding the wave to an early 1-0 lead, the product of a lovely give-and-go between Lemieux and defenseman Scott Niedermayer, who beat Turk Broda with a wrist shot high to the stick side. The Canadiens struggled to fire back, their defense tentative and their offense out of sync, making several first-period turnovers in the neutral zone. Dick Irvin chose match his 2nd line against the big line of Charlie Simmer, Edouard Lalonde and Yvan Cournoyer, and Montreal struggled to build momentum in the face of physical play from Clark Gillies and Vladimir Petrov.

It took everything in Turk Broda’s bag to keep the deficit at one going into the first intermission, and the Canadiens took the ice to start the 2nd period desperate for a spark. They turned to Troy Murray’s line, and that spark surfaced in a hurry, although it wasn’t exactly what Arbour had in mind. Winger Eddie Shack was penalized for an overzealous bodycheck on Jarome Iginla, and after the ensuing scrum, the Devils ended up with a 4-minute powerplay. They went to work quickly, needing only 13 seconds for Jack Darragh to double the lead, the result of a fluky ricochet off the skate of Bill Barilko. Bad turned to worse for the visiting Canadiens less than 30 seconds later, when a Chris Pronger slapshot hit Denis Potvin 6” higher than Darragh’s did Barilko. The fact that Niedermayer blasted home his second on a screened shot in the second two minutes meant little – the wind had already gone out of Montreal’s sails after Potvin hobbled off the ice and into the dressing room early in the second period. With a 3-0 lead, New Jersey took their foot off the throttle and protected Harry Lumley’s shutout. The shell-shocked Canadiens outshot the Devils over the last 30 minutes, 16-9, but never mounted sustained pressure. Potvin did not return, and is listed as day-to-day with an "upper body injury."

New Jersey 3 — 0 Montreal
New Jersey leads the series 1 — 0

ck26
12-20-2007, 03:13 AM
GAME TWO

East Rutherford — Little things can make the difference. Sometimes a single overzealous play by a 4th line winger in game 1 can have lasting impact. Eddie Shack’s penalty and the two ensuing powerplay goals were painful – defenseman Denis Potvin’s foot injury was potentially ruinous. That foot has been the talk of the Eastern seaboard for two days – dominating the discussion around water coolers and on the radio, but when the visiting Canadiens leave the dressing room, Potvin broke a time-honored hockey tradition and stepped onto the ice even before goaltender Turk Broda. He began the same slowly and deliberately, but otherwise looked healthy for his first two shifts, assuming his normal position aside Harry Howell.

The flow was back and forth for the first half of the period, with neither team able to take advantage of equally-distributed scoring chances. Turk Broda, whose performance in game 1 left something to be desired, was back to his game, making a great save on an Olmstead-Lemieux 2-on-1 rush and more on a six-shot New Jersey powerplay to end the first.

Matching even strength goals in the second period from Olmstead and Ratelle were the only tallies on the score sheet until halfway through the third when a surprising hero emerged from an innocuous play in the Montreal zone. Jarome Iginla’s pass to the point died along the half-boards, and when Cy Wentworth pinched to hold the puck in the zone, Doug Jarvis out-raced him, chipped the puck past and started a 2-on-0 with Pit Martin. Chris Pronger was a half-step slow to respond and could do nothing but watch as Martin banged home a Lumley rebound. New Jersey’s crowd fell silent, and when Don Marcotte lobbed home two empty net goals to seal it, he announced loud and clear that the carnival had officially left town. Next stop: Montreal.

Montreal 4 — 1 New Jersey
Series tied 1 — 1

ck26
12-20-2007, 05:15 AM
GAME THREE

Ou etes Lalonde et Cournoyer?

The headline in Le Journal de Montreal couldn’t have been more clear. Two of Montreal’s most dangerous weapons – Edouard Lalonde and Yvan Cournoyer – were AWOL for games one and two. With the series shifting to Quebec, Habs fans are expecting big things from the big gun and the native son.

From the drop of the first puck, the Lalonde line was on fire. Cournoyer rang in the first shift by ringing a wrist shot off the crossbar, and after one period, Charlie Simmer had recorded six shots of his own. The barrage was on, but Lumley held it together in the back. Al Arbour shortened the bench to three lines and his Habs put up an inspired effort, peppering Lumley with 21 shots in the first period alone. Potvin, still skating in 4th gear on account of his clearly injured foot, struggled to keep up with his teammates’ pace at times, easily a first for the all-star defenseman.

In the 2nd period, Hooley Smith finally made his mark, after two games that were nearly as quiet as Lalonde’s. Two heavy bodychecks put Ken Morrow on his backside on one shift and Moose Johnson on the bench on the next, reinvigorating the home crowd and drawing the ire of the New Jersey Devils. Chris Pronger returned the favor, burying Yvan Cournoyer in the neutral zone, and setting off a frantic five-minute fury of quid pro quo. A slashing penalty against Kirk Muller cost New Jersey a powerplay and the powerplay cost New Jersey the momentum after Vic Hadfield banged in a loose puck to give Montreal the lead.

The next 30 minutes were the Turk Broda show, keeping the Montreal net empty with help from Harry Howell and Marcel Pronovost. When Broda finally made a mistake – getting caught trying to play the puck behind his goal – Pronovost responded with the defensive play of the game, poke-checking away a centering pass destined for the stick of Darragh. Pronovost’s heroics nearly collapsed the roof of the Forum, but the fervor was short-lived. With four minutes left, Rob Ramage gifted Kirk Muller an opportunity at redemption, passing away the puck in the neutral zone. Muller took advantage, fed MacLeish, and watched as the center tied the score at 1. Three minutes later, Canadiens fans suffered another heartbreak when Mario Lemieux worked a 1-2 with Dirty Berty Olmstead, skated around Potvin and deposited the puck past Turk Broda.

Not the native son Canadiens fans were hoping for.

New Jersey 2 — 1 Montreal
New Jersey leads the series 2 — 1

ck26
12-20-2007, 06:07 AM
GAME FOUR

Montreal – The desperate Montreal Canadiens finally found a formula that was good enough to beat Harry Lumley: Cournoyer + Cournoyer + more Cournoyer.

Many in Montreal were concerned the local superstar would never show up, but he answered the bell in the third period of game 4 in a big way, staving off a potentially lethal loss and helping Montreal even the series at two games apiece. His one-timer from the left faceoff circle 6 minutes into the third broke a 2-2 tie, his assist on Lalonde’s breakaway goal a few minutes later doubled the lead, and his cool finish with six minutes left put the 5-2 win on ice.

The Devils dominated the first two periods, out-shooting the Canadiens 23-11, but couldn’t do enough to get a third puck past Turk Broda. Lemieux, the hero of game 3, had the best opportunity to claim a third period lead after powering past Howell and feeding a pass to Iginla, who was waiting on the doorstep. That the puck hopped over Iginla's stick was a sign it just wasn't New Jersey's night.

By evening the series up at 2, the Canadiens ensured the series would come back to Quebec for game 6.

Montreal 5 — 2 New Jersey
Series tied 2 — 2

ck26
12-21-2007, 07:11 AM
GAME FIVE

East Rutherford – Turk Broda is a goaltender who can steal a game, but the Canadiens may have wasted one. Broda stopped pretty much everything, but he couldn’t quite stop Mario Lemieux.

14:12 into the overtime, Mario Lemieux left the bench, received a home-run pass from Chris Pronger, deked his way around Billy Hajt and backhanded over Turk Broda to end the longest scorless tie of the playoffs and give the Devils a 1-0 win.

Despite being out-shot 36-22 and rarely controlling the flow of play, Montreal held tight through all 60 minutes and into the extra frame. Broda made 35 saves and held the Devils scoreless on seven powerplays, but eventually his luck ran out and New Jersey took their 3-2 series lead.

In a game characterized by stodgy defense, it was only appropriate that a defensive breakdown would be the difference. When defenseman Bill Barilko went to the bench for a line change, both Marcel Pronovost and Rob Ramage jumped on to replace him. Noticing the mistake, both defensemen paused just long enough for Lemieux to receive the 90-foot outlet pass from Chris Pronger, and once the puck was on his stick, the outcome was never in doubt.

New Jersey 1 — 0 Montreal
New Jersey leads the series 3 — 2

ck26
12-21-2007, 04:40 PM
GAME SIX

Montreal - The mood in the city of Montreal was uncharacteristically calm and assured in the build-up to game six. Despite being on the ropes for the first time in the series, the media was extremely upbeat; the theme: that these Canadiens were too good to be defeated by silly mistakes. Whether or not their belief was founded in reality would be up for the players to decide.

The Habs met the first puck drop with an opening flurry. New Jersey – playing fast and loose – controlled the puck and got shots on Turk Broda, but Montreal came with the physical play and their goalkeeper took care of the rest. Hooley Smith brought the Montreal crowd to its feet with two big bodychecks against Pronger and Wentworth, the latter giving Montreal their first big scoring opportunity; one that Lumley met with confidence. Coach Al Arbour rolled all four lines, allowing the Troy Murray line to get into the flow of the game for the first time since halfway through the series.

New Jersey nearly broke the deadlock with three minutes left in the first period when Mario Lemieux and Bert Olmstead victimized Harry Howell with a give-and-go play to the left of Broda, but Lemieux’s shot was rushed by Ratelle and hit Broda in the chest. When Jarome Iginla took a whack at the loose puck, hit Broda in the helmet and started off a scrum in the Montreal crease. In the melee, a Denis Potvin facewash drew the ire of Iginla, who retaliated with a two-handed slash across the thigh of the Montreal captain. That slash went unpenalized, but you would be hard-pressed to convince New Jersey they got away with it. While Potvin didn’t take the ice again in the first, when he started the second period, something had changed inside the Montreal captain.

The second period began in earnest on the first shift after a full-on Denis Potvin hip check against Mario Lemieux. The Devils captain tried to carry the puck into the offensive zone but got buried by his Montreal counterpart. Super Mario got up gingerly, and the hit proved to be cataclysmic – the Canadiens fell into formation with their captain just as the Devil Train derailed with theirs.

Potvin logged serious minutes during the second period – pulling multiple double-shifts – and was the best players on the ice throughout. Montreal finally broke the tie at the 11:49 mark of the 2nd period on one of Potvin’s trademark wrist-shots from high in the slot. After Newsy Lalonde and Charlie Simmer played keepaway in the corner, the New Jersey defense collapsed, leaving the slot empty for the Montreal captain to claim the lead.

Two more goals – a powerplay tally from Newsy Lalonde and an even-strength tally by Doug Jarvis – put the game out of reach late in the 2nd period, and a visibly deflated Devils team never made a push in the third. Mario Lemieux and Bert Olmstead tried to make a game of it, but the Potvin-Howell duo stood firm, and didn’t allow nearly enough chances for the Devils to really test Turk Broda.

Amid the chorus of cheers, blaring music and general post-game pandemonium, one fan in the upper-level held up a sign that spoke for a province. “ENCORE”

Montreal 3 — 0 New Jersey
Series tied 3 — 3

game seven shortly ...

ck26
12-21-2007, 05:34 PM
GAME SEVEN

East Rutherford - “Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.” While it is rarely appropriate to equate sport with warfare, Winston Churchill’s quote to the House of Commons on 20 August 1940 are the only words that quite do justice to the events of game seven.

Canadiens goaltender Turk Broda, after surrendering just 1 goal in the previous two games, looked to be on top of his. New Jersey Devils captain Mario Lemieux, free of the leash Denis Potvin placed on him in game six, was ready to roll in the bubble game of this conference final.

Marcel Pronovost has rarely been overmatched in his NHL career, but Lemieux was simply out of his league on just about every shift tonight. Lemieux’s first shift was trademark Lemieux, and when he carried the puck through the neutral zone, zig-zagged across the blue line and unleashed a laser onto Turk Broda’s net, he looked very much on-form. Lemieux registered a playoff-high 10 first-period shots, at least one on each of his eight first-period shifts, but Turk Broda was up to the task on each one. The best chance came when Lemieux overpowered Pronovost and drove the net from the left faceoff circle, but it took Super Mario too long to get his shot off, and he failed to elevate over the sprawling Broda.

The first period ended with the score still level, and the visiting Canadiens took solace in that they’d survived the blitzkrieg from Mario. That solace lasted exactly 11 seconds, the time it took Lemieux to win the faceoff, push the puck to Olmstead, drive the net and deflect Olmstead’s shot-pass on net. Turk Broda’s glove was up to the challenge, but only barely, and the Devils had made their momentum-claiming statement. Much of the second period played out much like the first – the Devils dominating the run of play via Lemieux, and the Canadiens doing all they could to keep their own goal empty. Newsy Lalonde and Yvon Cournoyer got it in gear half-way through the second, registering back-to-back shifts with 3 shots on goal, although none of them seriously challenged Lumley.

The breakthrough finally came with six minutes left in the second, from – surprise, surprise – Denis Potvin. With Chris Pronger sitting in the box for tripping, the Canadiens powerplay went to work, Potvin and Pit Marin flipping the puck back and forth at the points while Cournoyer circled low in the right faceoff circle. A one-two pass from Potvin to Simmer back to Potvin sprung the defender loose high in the slot, and when the defense collapsed to cover him, he slid the puck through to Cournoyer. Lumley got a piece of his one-timer, but Lalonde got the rest, putting the visiting Canadiens up 1-0.

The Devils looked rattled, and three minutes later, an errant pass from Ken Morrow gifted a breakaway to Jean Ratelle, who made no mistake and doubled the lead with ease.

Irvin and Lemieux tried to rally the troops in the locker room, but any hope for a comeback was dashed early in the third, when Denis Potvin helped himself to Jack Darragh’s puck in the neutral zone, fired a laser to Cournoyer, who caught the Devils in a line change and added one to the Canadiens lead. One could hear a pin drop in the Continental Airlines Arena as reality set in to the host Devils that they had reached the end of the road.

Mario Lemieux fought on valiantly, but even Super Mario didn’t have what it took to win the thing by himself. His pass to Jarome Iginla set up what appeared to be New Jersey’s first tally eight minutes into the third, but a whistle behind the play negated the opportunity and broke the back of the Devils. Even Lemieux’s 16 shots (a high in this year’s playoffs) were not enough to beat Turk Broda, whose 42 saves were the story of the night. When Cournoyer added his second – with seven minutes left in the third, and, appropriately, with an assist from Denis Potvin – the traveling Canadiens fans began the celebrations in full. A few Devils fans trickled out of the arena early, but most stayed to the end, watching the final seconds tick down on the Devils season – cheering their team and paying tribute to the Canadiens. Those Canadiens ended on a high, and should travel to the finals with momentum to spare.

Montreal 4 — 0 New Jersey
Montreal wins the series 4 — 3
Three stars: 1) Turk Broda, 2) Mario Lemieux, 3) Denis Potvin

Hockey Outsider
12-22-2007, 12:44 AM
Congrats for a good series BM67. I had your team in my top five this time and I'll predict you win one of the next 3 drafts.

Talk about suspense. Thanks for the great write-ups, CK. Four shutouts seems appropriate for such a close, defensive series. I think you did a good job of balancing the depth players and

And, as always, thanks to everybody that voted.