When Daniel Briere was signed this past July to a two year contract that will have him earn 4 million dollars each season, Montreal Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin said there are players that get teams into the NHL postseason, and players that get them through the postseason.
Briere came to Montreal with a very impressive playoff resume that included 109 points in 108 career NHL playoff games, but he was coming off a terrible season with the Philadelphia Flyers, which led to him being bought out of the last two years of his lucrative contract.
Many fans, myself among them, thought there was no fit for Briere on the Habs roster, and that it was ridiculous to bring in a 36 year old and hope he can be a significant contributor in the postseason.
Briere disappointed throughout most of the regular season, where he scored just 25 points in 69 games, but just as Bergevin predicted in the summer, Briere is showing his worth in the postseason. His regular season struggles have him playing on a fourth line with Dale Weise and Brandon Prust, and playing very few minutes, but Briere is making the most of the situation.
The small forward has a well earned reputation as a clutch playoff performer, and a flair for the dramatic in big moments of postseason games. Briere struggled down the stretch of the regular schedule, scoring just four points in his last 21 games, but flipped the switch into postseason mode when Montreal faced the Tampa Bay Lightning in the first round.
Game 1 of the first round series went to overtime, and as the time wound down on the first overtime period, Briere made a big play that led to the game ending. He scooped up a loose puck from behind the Lightning goal and fed it out front to a wide open Dale Weise. The rugged winger made no mistake hammering a one timer past Anders Lindback before the gigantic Lightning goaltender could get set for the shot.
Just like that, Briere put an entire regular season of frustration behind him and was in postseason mode.
Briere was quiet in Game 2 and 3, but with Tampa Bay on the ropes in Game 4 he made sure not to allow them up off the mat. Just over two minutes into the game, on his first shift of the night, Briere took a pass from Weise and used his soft hands in close to roof the puck just under the crossbar and give the Habs an early lead.
Montreal would barely hang on, winning the game and completing the sweep on a last minute Max Pacioretty goal.
The opening game of round two against the Boston Bruins would also head to overtime, and once again Briere made his mark on the Habs taking a 1-0 series lead. The Habs drew a penalty in the second overtime, and Briere was trusted with some double overtime power play ice, even though he was the least used Canadien in the game.
Tomas Plekanec scrambled the draw with Patrice Bergeron and Briere stepped in and got the loose puck back to Andrei Markov at the Habs point. Markov quickly handed the puck over to P.K. Subban who unleashed a booming slapper into the back of the Bruins goal.
Once again Briere found a way to leave a big mark with little ice time.
In Game 3, Briere saw just 6:08 of ice time, but had a hand in the game’s deciding play. With just over six minutes to play in the second period, Briere scooped up a loose puck in his own zone and fed a perfect pass to a streaking Weise who made his way behind the Bruins defense.
Weise fired the puck through the legs of Tuukka Rask and made the score 3-0 for Montreal. Boston would mount a late comeback, but the Weise marker would stand as the game’s winning goal, and once again Briere’s name was attached the game winner.
Briere played just over eight minutes in a Game 4 loss, and was a healthy scratch for another loss in Game 5. He did not score any points in Game 6, however, as he has done throughout his career, Briere played his best game of the playoffs in Game 7.
Already having scored five points in four career Game 7’s, three of which his team won, Briere added to his deciding game legacy with another huge performance against the Bruins.
The seventh game was only 2:18 old, but Briere had already helped open the scoring. Brandon Prust beat a pair of Bruins in a puck battle in the corner and fed it to Briere who immediately found Weise wide open at the front of the Bruins crease. Weise directed the puck into the wide open net in front of him and the Habs were on the board.
Clinging to a 2-1 lead late in the third period, the Canadiens were given a power play when Johnny Boychuk was whistled for interference with just 4:31 to play. Briere was put on the ice, even though he had skated just eleven seconds of ice time since the midway point of the second period. He picked up a pass off the rush from Brendan Gallagher inside the Bruins zone, and fired a puck toward the Bruins goal. Fortunately for Briere, and all the Canadiens, the puck took a bounce off Zdeno Chara’s skate and found its way into the back of Boston’s net. Call it luck, call it a bad break for Boston, call it part of the Briere playoff magic. No matter what you call it, Briere had only nine shifts in Game 7 and two of them ended with him celebrating a goal.
There is no doubt that Briere was a major disappointment in the regular season, but he keeps finding ways to contribute in the playoffs. His tough regular season limits the trust head coach Michel Therrien has in the veteran, but Briere is 7th on the Habs in playoff scoring, even though he ranks 20th on the team in average time on ice. Strangely, the only player with less average ice time is Nathan Beaulieu, who has two points in two game. Perhaps less is more when it comes to playoff ice time.
Briere may not be averaging a point per game like he has in his playoff career before this season, but he is certainly making the most of his opportunity. So far in the playoffs, Briere has scored 2.95 points per 60 minutes of ice time, the best rate of any player on the team.
Daniel Briere may not have gotten the Montreal Canadiens through the playoffs yet, but he has played a huge role in the team getting halfway through. There is no reason to think, perhaps with a little more ice time, he could help the Habs get their 25th Stanley Cup.