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Canadiens vs Bruins 2014 playoffs Game 2 preview

After being thoroughly outplayed and winning anyway, can the Habs bounce back from a Game 1 victory?

Jared Wickerham

The Canadiens found a way to win in Boston. Now, heading into Game 2, they need to find their game.

The Canadiens were opportunistic in their first foray into Boston territory, taking advantage of their limited scoring chances, not to mention the brick wall in their net, before eventually emerging victorious. The Canadiens made it happen by taking advantage of two pre-series keys, as Price came up huge and the Habs third line overwhelmed their counterparts. Indeed, Rene Bourque, Lars Eller, and Brian Gionta picked up where they left off against the Tampa Bay Lightning, pushing the play toward the Boston end and coming up with two big goals.

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Unfortunately, another pre-series key - the assumption that the Habs top six would be able to keep pace with Boston's -fell dreadfully short. The Canadiens were manhandled when 17-81-21 weren't on the ice. The Habs' ostensible first line of Max Pacioretty, Thomas Vanek, and David Desharnais was worse than useless, with each member of the trio at least ten shot attempts below par on the evening. The line served little purpose beyond being present for the ice time of the the Bruins' best defenders, as the trio saw a steady dose of Zdeno Chara and Patrice Bergeron, which seemingly rendered them inert. The Habs should count themselves lucky that they were able to win under these circumstances, and Michel Therrien should already be drawing up the game plan that will allow his offensive weapons some room to breathe when back in the friendly confines of the Bell Centre.

In the mean time, however, there is this afternoon. First and foremost, it will be nearly impossible for the Canadiens to play as poorly as they did on Thursday evening. That said, Michel Therrien may be wise to consider a couple of adjustments going into Game 2.

Heading into the Boston series, MT removed impressive rookie Michael Bournival from the lineup. Bournival played well against Tampa, using a high-energy, crash-and-bang type game to make plays for his linemates on what was a very potent fourth line, often with Daniel Briere and Dale Weise. With savvy veteran Travis "he has a cup ring!" Moen available, however , Therrien reinserted the experienced Saskatchewanian at the expense of the energetic young Quebecker. Moen's Game 1 performance may have come in the context of what was an abysmal team performance, but he still managed to prove himself one of the least effective Habs on Thursday. In fact, Moen sported a shot differential worse than every one of his linemates. Whether that statistic is the product of rust, residual injury symptoms, or an inability to conform to the aggressive system that the Canadiens' coaching staff have implemented for the playoffs, Moen needs to show that he can earn his spot in the lineup, rather than being granted it over those who have recently demonstrated their effectiveness.

Secondly, and since the Canadiens will again have to allow Claude Julien last change today, the Habs may be wise to split up some of their more offensively talented players. Playing Pacioretty, Desharnais, and Vanek together is too easy a target for a coach that has one of the league's best defensive defenders at his disposal in Chara, and while that group hasn't been fundamentally effective since they were put together (and they were especially poor in Game 1), spreading them out would help to maximize opportunities for the Habs' best goal scorers. If Max Pacioretty and Thomas Vanek are the two Canadiens most capable of scoring goals (notwithstanding a possible injury or other mitigating circumstances with Vanek), Therrien should ensure that only one spends the game saddled with a 6'9" behemoth clogging up his shooting and passing lanes.

The Canadiens have already done what they needed to, and that's use their special teams, goaltending, and some opportunism to take one of the opening two games in Boston. With that victory, the Habs will now hold home-ice advantage going back to Montreal. This afternoon, however, the Canadiens have a chance to head home with a real advantage. If Montreal can find a way to adapt, and at least stand up five-on-five, they'll be on their way to making the ideal a reality.