When the National Hockey League announced the finalists for its annual NHL Awards ceremony over the past few weeks, the Montreal Canadiens were completely shut out. Their opponent in the Atlantic Division Final series, the Boston Bruins had three nominees for major awards.
Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask is up for the Vezina Trophy as the NHL’s top goaltender, Zdeno Chara is a finalist for the Norris Trophy as the league’s best defenseman, and center Patrice Bergeron is once again nominated for the Frank J. Selke Award as the best defensive forward in the NHL.
The Bruins also finished first overall in the NHL’s regular season standings with 117 points.
Chara may take home the NHL’s top defenseman award, and Rask may very well win the top goaltender award for their work in the regular season, but neither was the best at their position in the series against the Canadiens.
An argument could be made that Tomas Plekanec and Lars Eller were the best defensive forwards in the series for shutting down the David Krejci, Milan Lucic and Jarome Iginla line, but Bergeron was up to the task for most of the series against Max Pacioretty and David Desharnais.
Chara was relatively quiet for the big man throughout the series. He did not score, only registered a pair of assists, and was not his normal dominant defensive self. He played a huge role in a furious third period come back in Game 2 that kept the Bruins from falling behind 2-0 in the series, posting a plus 5 differential in a 5-3 Boston victory.
However, Chara was not the usual intimidating factor that he normally is, leading to speculation he may have been injured. This 6’9” defender is also 37 years old, so it is possible he started to run out of gas after a long season that included a trip to the Olympics.
P.K. Subban on the other hand was phenomenal for the Habs in every game. He started the series with two points in each of the first three games, carrying the Canadiens to an early 2-1 series lead. Subban led the series in goals with four and points with seven, and was the main component on an incredible Canadiens power play, that scored eight times on 25 opportunities in the series.
Subban averaged just over 27 minutes of ice time per game, while Chara played 25:27. Subban played against the Bruins top two forward lines nearly every time he was on the ice, and did an excellent job at both ends of the rink. There was no question he was the best defenseman in this series.
Rask had a tremendous regular season and deserved his Vezina nomination. Throughout his career the Montreal Canadiens have had his number it seems, and though Rask was not terrible in this series, he was not at the same level he was all season.
Rask posted a 2.04 GAA and .930 SV% in the regular season, but dropped to 2.58 and .903 in the seven game series with the Habs. The Finnish netminder posted a shutout in Game 4 and was excellent in Game 5 to give the Bruins a 3-2 series lead. However, Rask allowed seven goals on 46 shots in a pair of losses in Game 6 and 7, allowing the Canadiens to come back and win the series.
Price on the other hand was great throughout the entire series. He stopped 48 shots in a Game 1 victory and was the sole reason Montreal opened the series with a win. He had a bad third period in Game 2, allowing three goals on nine shots, but bounced back quickly.
Price posted a 2.04 GAA and a .936 SV% in the seven game series, and was at his best in must win situations. In Game 6 and 7 combined, Price stopped 55 of 56 shots, leading the Canadiens to an upset victory over the President’s Trophy winners in Boston.
The Bruins players may collect a lot of individual hardware at the NHL Awards ceremony in Las Vegas, but the Montreal Canadiens still have a chance to get the one trophy that really matters.