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Montreal Canadiens celebrate after defeating the New York Rangers 3-2 in overtime in Game 3 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup playoffs Eastern Conference finals on May 22 in New York. (Kathy Willens/AP)
Montreal Canadiens celebrate after defeating the New York Rangers 3-2 in overtime in Game 3 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup playoffs Eastern Conference finals on May 22 in New York. (Kathy Willens/AP)

Canadiens relying on bend-don’t-break mentality Add to ...

It grows quickly, can withstand more force on a kilo-per-kilo basis than steel, and it’s more flexible than concrete.

Bamboo is something of a miracle fibre, given its resiliency.

The material’s hockey equivalent is the bend-don’t-break Montreal Canadiens.

In any playoffs, teams will be thrust into situations where it’s simpler and easier to let go than to grit it out; the Habs are demonstrably not a let-it-go kind of bunch.

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So where does that quality come from?

“I’d say it’s the veterans. They’ve seen it all before, and they manage to always keep their cool. It creates confidence,” said centre David Desharnais, citing dressing room leaders Brian Gionta, Josh Gorges, Andrei Markov and Daniel Brière, who have a combined 362 playoff games. “I think it’s something that you can instill, in the other years since I’ve been here, we didn’t have quite the same mentality, and this season with the comebacks we’ve shown there’s no panic in this team.”

Coach Michel Therrien argues character – as amorphous a concept as there is in sports – is a key factor, and no matter how you define it, the team has made a priority of accepting it.

Montreal GM Marc Bergevin is one of the three finalists for hockey executive of the year – his second in as many years on the job – and is fond of saying that “certain players get you to the playoffs, others get you through the playoffs.”

Clearly, the addition this year of players like Brière, Dale Weise, Mike Weaver and yes, even the beleaguered Thomas Vanek, have paid dividends.

“Character is something that starts to shine through during the season,” Therriesn said. “This group has had to demonstrate theirs. We’re not the only team to have it, but we’ve succeeded as a group in managing our emotions well.”

Asked where character and leadership manifest themselves most frequently, forward Lars Eller said “In the room. During the season, the ups and downs you go through as a team, a lot of times we’ve been able to rally back, whether we’re behind in third periods, stuff like that. When we’re down a goal there’s no panic, guys stay calm, we stick to the game plan . . . there’s that calmness, that trust between the team.”

Whether that drives success or is a by-product of it is a tricky proposition to untangle.

But the fact is, Montreal finds itself in a manageable situation, down 1-2 with a road win and a chance to even the series; that they’re doing this without their star goalie Carey Price, who is also the emotional centre of the team, is a testament to something intangible.

“You can’t play like you’re afraid to lose. Getting back to the Boston series, you get down 3-2, you’re used to playing under pressure, you have the experience of getting through that,” Eller said.

The Habs’ most recent inflexion point came on Thursday; down 0-2 in the series, they allowed the Rangers to score the first goal in their home building, things could easily have fallen apart, resolve could have slipped..

“It could, but it didn’t,” said Eller. “That’s the difference with this team.”

The Rangers have needed a pair of game seven victories to reach the conference final, and have encountered lots of adversity on and off the ice.

Come to think of it, this is a match-up of bamboo teams.

Every building material has its breaking point, however, and this much is true: one of these clubs will have to break.

The odds clearly favour the Rangers, the Habs will have to demonstrate there’s still a lot of bend in them to overcome them.

Follow on Twitter: @MrSeanGordon

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