ROCKET SPORTS MEDIA — Hello there, folks! Back with another edition of my three stars of the week column!
Players will earn points each time they appear as a star in this column and at the end of the year, I will award my three stars of the season.
The Canadiens lost in the Stanley Cup Finals in five games to the Tampa Bay Lightning. They picked up a win in game four of the series and got some feel-good moments before the series ended. Here are my three stars of the week.
☆ THIRD STAR: Josh Anderson
It would have been nice to get a little more consistency out of Josh Anderson during the playoffs. He concluded the playoffs with six points, five of them goals, and up until the Vegas series he really had not made the type of impact you would hope for considering Anderson’s frame and skillset. But Anderson had some nice performances to close out the playoffs, including game four in Montreal.
Anderson, who was shifted to play alongside Nick Suzuki and Cole Caufield for the do or die game four, provided a spark that the Canadiens needed on that line, the physicality was there, the speed was there and when Suzuki made a beautiful pass to the slot it was Anderson on the end of it, giving the Canadiens an early lead.
In the overtime period, Anderson used his speed to create a rush opportunity and then used his power to try and take it hard to the net and though he was cut off, he still had the strength to center the puck with one hand on his stick. Caufield was unable to score, but when you thought he might be out of the play, Anderson dove back in and scored the game-winning goal.
Even in game five, when the Canadiens were suffocated by the Lightning, Anderson was intense all night and he also had the Canadiens best chance to score, with a partial break against Andrei Vasilevskiy, but unfortunately was unable to capitalize.
As I said, Anderson closed out his playoffs on a pretty good note, it just would have been nice to see some more consistency in his game throughout the playoff run.
☆ SECOND STAR: Shea Weber
The Canadiens captain had a really impressive playoff run. He finished the playoffs leading the Canadiens in plus/minus, at plus-four and was second amongst skaters in average time on ice, just slightly behind his regular defensive partner and fellow Clydesdale, Ben Chiarot. He did all of that with a thumb injury that everyone knew about heading into the playoffs, but you would not have known it from his punishing play in the Habs zone.
Weber’s thunderous hit on Brayden Point in game four really stands out this week. The belief so many had earlier this season was that Weber had lost a step and was not as effective as he had been in previous years, but there he was laying an incredible hit on one of the game’s better skaters.
Typically, this is a column devoted to the on-ice contributions of a player, but Weber’s leadership extends from his role on the ice to the things he does off of it and this week we saw that.
He and Carey Price were asked about the difference of this series and when Price tried to shoulder the blame for his performances in games one, two and three, the Habs captain quickly jumped in to say it was on the Canadiens skaters, not Price.
Weber showed this week why he is the captain of the Canadiens with his incredible play on the ice throughout the playoffs and his incredible leadership on and off the ice.
☆ FIRST STAR: Carey Price
In every week but one during this magical playoff run, Carey Price was my first star of the week, and the week he was not the first star, he was still featured as my third star of the week. That is simply because, we are not here talking about a magical playoff run if not for Price’s performances throughout the run.
In games four and five this week, he gave the Canadiens the chance to extend the series, he had 32 saves in game four and only surrendered one goal in game five, that he had absolutely no chance to stop, but the Canadiens lost the game 1-0. Unfortunately, a familiar story during Price’s career.
Last week, following games one, two and three of the series, we saw a portion of the fan base and the media revert back to the tried and tested method of just blaming the goaltender for every goal, ignoring context entirely and just doing the easiest thing to do; put it on Price. That was incredibly unfair and games four and five showed that.
It was too little, far too late, but the Canadiens provided just a little bit more support in front of Price and did not turn it over quite as much or as egregiously as we had seen in the first three games of the series, leaving Price to deal with a few less rush opportunities and saves that he actually had a chance of making.
The Canadiens had a magical run and when thinking back on it, you cannot get too far without the memory of a miraculous Price save coming to mind. Whether it was the blocker save on Mitch Marner or the stick save on Jason Spezza from round one, the blocker save on Mark Scheifele in round two, saves on Mark Stone, Alec Martinez and Max Pacioretty in round three and even in the finals with huge saves on Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov.
Carey Price was simply phenomenal during this run, and he showed once again why he is so highly regarded by his peers.
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By Joseph Whalen, Host, Canadiens Connection podcast
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