So far during the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals, the Montreal Canadiens' star players have buried the Bruins. However, in Game 5, those players were neutralized - totally frustrated and disabled by a superior, grating Bruins team.
Tomas Plekanec, the turtlenecked menace who potted this masterful goal in Game 3 of the series, was frustrated to the point of uselessness. He took two bad penalties in the first and second periods, leading to the game-winning powerplay goal from Jarome Iginla.
Meanwhile, P.K. Subban, who has been the most prominent thorn in Boston's side during these playoffs, was totally disarmed. From his tussle with Milan Lucic, to the subsequent taunting, to the third-period tear-fest following Shawn Thornton's Super Soaker incident, Subban was too busy complaining to be a real factor.
Yes, he scored a goal - an absolutely unstoppable one-timer with 3:29 left in the game - but the goal was meaningless. It meant as much as a snipe in warm-ups. It was way too little way too late, and Mr. Subban seemed far too satisfied with his untimely tally. He was tossing whatever little momentum he could back at the suppressive wave that was the Bruins' forecheck.
Put simply, he was fighting it. He was buying into Lucic and Thornton's goads from the bench. He wasn't playing on the ice, which is a great sign for the Bruins - if they can take the celebrated Bs killer off his game, then they cancel out one of the Habs' biggest threats right away.
Meanwhile, Tomas Vanek, who was antidote to the Bruins poison during his years in Buffalo, was nowhere to be seen. After a pair of PP goals in Game 2, he was again silent. Max Pacioretty, who was the subject of much groaning this week in Montreal, put up six fruitless shots. The Canadiens' big guns were quieted in a big way, and it was all because the Bruins got in their heads.
And then there's Carey Price. The brickwall keeper who has thwarted the Boston offense time and time again folded just as he did in Game 2. Just as he forfeited three goals on three shots in that game, he again gave up consecutive goals to deflate his team's effort. On Loui Eriksson's third-period notch, he threw everything he had at the shot, coming up devastated and three goals behind.
The Canadiens were aggravated, antagonized, and neutralized - a product of the Bruins' prying and invasive big-body play. By taking the top-tier players off the game, the Black and Gold have taken control of the series one mental play at a time.