Sports Hockey

NHL Playoffs

Will Canadiens turn to rookie defenceman Nathan Beaulieu? 0

By Chris Stevenson, QMI Agency

All signs point to Nathan Beaulieu making his NHL playoff debut with the Montreal Canadiens against the Boston Bruins on Monday night. (AL CHAREST/QMI Agency)

All signs point to Nathan Beaulieu making his NHL playoff debut with the Montreal Canadiens against the Boston Bruins on Monday night. (AL CHAREST/QMI Agency)

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MONTREAL - 

In 2010 when the Montreal Canadiens were down 3-2 facing elimination at home against the Washington Capitals, they dressed seven defencemen in Game 6.

The seventh defenceman was a rookie called up from the Hamilton Bulldogs and he had an assist on the Canadiens’ second goal in what turned out to be a 4-1 win to tie the series. The Habs went on to win Game 7 and advance to the second round of the NHL playoffs.

P.K. Subban was off and running.

Not that Subban actually delivered the win. Canadiens goaltender Jarolsav Halak making 53 saves that night in what was one of the great playoff goatlending performances might have had a little more to do with it.

It’s just interesting to note this time around, with the Habs facing elimination at the hands of the Boston Bruins Monday night, there’s a chance another rookie defenceman could make his NHL playoff debut.

Again, Canadiens goaltender Carey Price coming up with something like a 53-save performance might have more to do with a Canadiens win against the Boston Bruins than the playoff debut of 21-year-old Nathan Beaulieu.

Nothing’s for sure, of course, but given the way things looked at the Canadiens morning skate in advance of Game 6 of the Atlantic Division final, Beaulieu could be getting a chance to play in place of veteran Douglas Murray.

Murray, who was the culprit on the winning goal in overtime of Game 4 and was on the scene for the first goal of Game 5, stayed out on the ice for some extra skating Monday morning. The big man has been a liability because of his lack of footspeed and Canadiens coach Michel Therrien couldn’t hide him on the road in Saturday’s game.

There’s still a chance Therrien could use veteran defenceman Francis Bouillon for Game 6, but Beaulieu, a nice skater who can move the puck, might be more of what the Canadiens need against the Bruins’ forecheck.

“Its been good to be around the group. Playoff hockey doesn’t get any bigger than that and it doesn’t get any bigger than Montreal,” said Beaulieu.

The circumstances might be similar, but that might be close to where the comparisons between Subban and Beaulieu end. If he plays, this will be Bealieu’s first pro playoff game. When he was called up in 2010, Subban had three goals and seven assists in seven playoff games with Hamilton in the AHL.

Subban was also coming off an AHL regular season in which he had 18 goals and 35 assists.

Beaulieu had seven goals and 24 assists in 67 games this season (he had two assists in 17 regular-season games with the Habs).

Of course, talking about who’s going to be the Canadiens’ sixth defenceman is fun and all, but the on-going story for the Habs is the no-show for their top regular-season offensive guys Max Pacioretty, David Desharnais and trade deadline acquistion, Thomas Vanek. They have combined for zero even-strength goals.

Only one of the Canadiens’ top six forwards – Tomas Plekanec – has scored 5-on5.

If that trend continues Monday night, it’s probably not going to matter who Therrien dresses as the sixth defenceman.

chris.stevenson@sunmedia.ca

twitter.com/CJ_Stevenson

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