The ’12 Days of Christmas’ is a classic holiday song first published in its current form in 1908. In a nod to the classic carol, join The Hockey Writers as we count down the 12 Days of Hockeymas. Each day, we will provide you with a piece of hockey history as we eagerly await the start of the 2020-21 NHL season.
In today’s article, Day 7 of our series, we take a short journey back to May 14, 2014, to reminisce about the Montreal Canadiens’ Game 7 Stanley Cup semifinal victory over their rival, the Boston Bruins. Game 7s often epitomize the most compelling and dramatic moments of the sport. They can simultaneously define or establish careers and crush dreams of winning championships. This night in Boston was no different.
In order to fully appreciate the past victory, some context will be provided to fill in the historical gaps. As sweet as the Candiens’ Game 7 win was, unfortunately fans may be hard pressed to find a more memorable win since.
How They Got There
The Canadiens entered the playoffs after a respectable 100-point season placing them as the third seed in the Atlantic Division and as the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference. Their first opponent was an inexperienced Tampa Bay Lightning who finished as the second seed in the Atlantic Division with 101 points. With Lightning starting goaltender Ben Bishop out with injury, the Habs dispatched the Lightning in a four-game sweep. The Lightning did not have an answer for the Canadiens’ depth.
The Bruins finished the 2013-14 season as the league’s elite powerhouse, earning the Presidents’ Trophy as the league’s best regular season team. As a result, the Bruins played a decent Detroit Red Wings team that claimed the last wild card position in the Eastern Conference. The Bruins lost the first game but bounced back with four straight wins to close out their series in five games, setting the stage for a matchup with the Canadiens.
Facing the Rival Bruins
Some experts viewed the Bruins as legit Stanley Cup contenders and expected the Canadiens to fall a little short in the series. For the Bruins, anything short of a championship would be viewed as a failure. The X factor (as it still often is) was highly dependent on the play of Carey Price, who many felt would have to steal the series for the Canadiens. However, the Habs took an early series lead with P.K. Subban’s double-overtime power-play goal in Game 1.
The Bruins crushed the Canadiens’ momentum with a shocking come-from-behind win in Game 2. Dale Weise was the hero of Game 3, scoring a slick breakaway, five-hole goal on Tuukka Rask. Battling back, the Bruins took Game 4 and 5, pushing the Canadiens to the brink of elimination. In Game 6, Price shut the door, earning a shutout in a 4-0 Canadiens win and Thomas Vanek scored two goals to force the seventh and deciding game.
The series prior to Game 7 had been a very physical and confrontational affair with players trading jabs on and off the ice. The bitterness turned to comedic antics with Weise’s famous or infamous flexing taunt directed at Bruins forward Milan Lucic. The two sparred throughout the series creating headlines and great entertainment. Game 7 did not disappoint.
As the winners of the Presidents’ Trophy, the Bruins were given home ice advantage through the playoffs, meaning Game 7 was played at the TD Garden in Boston. The crowd would not be enough to save the team on this evening, though. The Canadiens would win the game 3-1, ending that chapter on one of the NHL’s greatest rivalries. Now to the details.
Weise Gets the Last Laugh
Dale Weise, of all people, opened the scoring for the Canadiens early in the first period off of a hard cross-crease pass from Daniel Briere. Bruins forward Shawn Thornton took himself out of position by trying to lay a big hit on Brandon Prust who was already being defended. This created some confusion among the Bruins and Weise was able to sneak in backdoor for a tap in.
Weise’s influence on this game and in the series more broadly established him as a legend among Canadiens fans. Prior to this series, he was a fairly obscure depth NHL player who had been rarely utilized.
Jarome Iginla and Missed Opportunities
On the Bruins side, the veteran Jarome Iginla was by far the most dangerous player on that intense night in Boston. He scored the team’s only goal and had several close chances to tie the game when it was still a one-goal game for the Canadiens. In the third period with the game close, Iginla hit the post on essentially a wide-open net off of a rebound from a David Krejci shot. The Bruins would not get any closer than that.
The Hall of Fame inductee Iginla would go on to play the better part of four more seasons in the NHL, but would never again play a playoff game. That night in Boston ended his season and his last legitimate opportunity to win a Stanley Cup.
Daniel Briere Comes up Clutch (Again)
Briere was arguably the hero of Game 7. Known throughout his career as a high-pressure playoff performer, he delivered with a goal and assist when it mattered most. His aforementioned assist on the Weise goal opened the scoring and his power-play goal with just a few minutes remaining would seal the series for the Canadiens.
After a Bruins’ shorthanded turnover in the Canadiens’ zone, Brendan Gallagher hustled up the ice near the boards. Briere, in support, crossed into the Bruins’ zone and found space between a Bruins defenceman and a back-checking Bruins forward. Gallagher slipped Briere a slick pass and Briere managed to bank a pass off of Bruins captain Zdeno Chara’s foot and into the net.
In that moment, it became clear that the Canadiens would complete the upset and move them into the Eastern Conference Final against the New York Rangers. The celebrations began immediately.
To some Habs fans, the victory in this Game 7 was akin to winning a small championship (from ‘Retiring NHL star Daniel Briere Remembers Time with Canadiens,’ TheTorontoStar – 19/08/15). Sadly, though, the team still had two rounds to go if they wanted a championship. Game 7 provided them with a matchup against the Rangers. Most remember that series for the Chris Kreider incident with Price in Game 1. Price was forced to leave the series with a knee injury.
The Canadiens would go on to lose their series against the Rangers after a Game 6 loss at Madison Square Garden. There is no telling what could have been that season with Price in the lineup. My (perhaps unpopular) opinion was that it would not have mattered. The Rangers outplayed the Candiens and in my mind would have most likely won regardless.
Instead, the Game 7 against the Bruins in 2014 remained the high point for that core of Canadiens. As we await the start of a new 2020-21 season, Canadiens fans can only hope that the new assortment of players can help supersede the success found that memorable night in Boston.