Here are some of the players coming up big for the Montreal Canadiens as they go for a sweep of the Tampa Bay Lightning on Tuesday night (CBC, CBCSports.ca, 6:30 p.m. ET):
Carey Price: Dominant before, during and after the Olympics, and more of the same in the playoffs.
P.K. Subban: Did anyone expect him not to show up for the playoffs? Fifty-one points in 56 games with the Belleville Bulls in his OHL playoff career, 10 points in seven games in his only AHL series with the Hamilton Bulldogs, and he’s now up to 20 points in 29 NHL playoff outings. He’s a gamer.
Rene Bourque: Three goals in three games thus far in the series against the Lightning. He had a pretty good playoff series last year against the Ottawa Senators. Still too early to call him Mr. Spring?
We could go on and on. But that doesn't mean everything is going the Habs' way.
The Canadiens have scored only one goal in 11 power-play opportunities through three games.
In Game 3 on Sunday, already up 1-0, Montreal was awarded a four-minute power play three minutes into the game, thanks to a high-sticking penalty to Tampa Bay defenceman Mark Barberio. A raucous Bell Centre, pumped up by Ginette Reno’s debut as the national anthem singer, would have exploded had the Habs scored a goal or two.
Instead, Montreal managed to shoot just once on goalie AndersLindback, and the Lightning gained momentum with that huge kill. A period later, Tampa Bay evened the score, and we ended up with an actual hockey game.
Keep in mind that the Lightning aren't exactly a top-rate penalty-killing team, ranking 23rd in the NHL this season at an efficiency of 80.7 per cent.
Breaking down the Canadiens’ power play month by month, it’s easy to see that the struggles have been lingering for a while. A respectable 19th-place finish in the regular season hides the fact that this unit has been inconsistent.
On Dec. 1, Montreal had 24 goals on 100 opportunities, which any math wiz can tell you equates to a 24 per cent success rate. Since then, they have scored exactly one more goal than they had in those first two months, going 25-for-190 (13.2 per cent).
Recent history, however, shows that the last three Stanley Cup champions all had power plays converting on less than 13 per cent of their chances. The 2013 Blackhawks, 2012 Kings and 2011 Bruins were 5-on-5 powerhouses, which the Canadiens have been for the last month or so, with 35 goals scored at even strength in their last 11 games.
That's not to say that the Stanley Cup will finally come back north of the border after a 21-year wait. But a weak power play is not the end of the world.
5: Consecutive games with at least one point for Canadiens centre Lars Eller, whose streak began in his last two appearances in the regular season, before a virus forced him out of the team’s last three games. A strong playoff run will earn him extra dollars as he’s slated to become a restricted free agent on July 1.
9: Blocked shots by Andrei Markov in Game 3. With 19 points in 57 games, including none in three games of this series, the veteran defenceman has never been known as a big-time playoff producer, but he's a more complete player than ever.
21: Years since the Canadiens’ last sweep in the playoffs, which happened in the second round of the team’s Stanley Cup run in 1993, against the Buffalo Sabres. Is this the year the drought ends? Tune in Tuesday night to find out.