Before the game began on Hockey Night in Canada, Elliotte Friedman noted that anything outside of two wins at home by the Boston Bruins would be failure, by their standards. Well the Bruins better start worrying as the Montreal Canadiens took game one with a 2-0 win at the TD Banknorth Garden.
It’s just one game, but the shot of Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli chewing his nails late in the third period summed up the night. Concern.
You can’t say it was a perfect road win for the Canadiens, but there were several moments where they played just that. Most notably was in the first period, where they kept the Bruins off the shot clock for more than 8 minutes
The Canadiens used their speed to stay ahead of their opponents and force their defensemen to make mistakes. One of those was leaving Canadiens captain Brian Gionta open to take a Scott Gomez pass to open the scoring at 2:44 on the team’s first shot on goal.
The early goal took the momentum of of the Garden crowd that was rallied pre-game by anthem singer Rene Rancourt. Sidebar: Is it ironic that the Bruins’s anthem singer has a French name?
The Bruins were able to turn the tables in the second period and gain some momentum of their own, but by the third period they couldn’t keep up with the Habs and regroup in time.
What seems to stand out most was Boston’s 36-25 margin on faceoffs. As effective as they were on the draw, they just couldn’t make anything come out of those battles. It didn’t help that the Canadiens were getting under the Bruins skin. Nathan Horton had a cross checking duel with P.K. Subban, and Brad Marchand took a foolish interference call late in the second period.
Gionta and Gomez teamed up again to put the game out of reach at 16:42 of the third period.
What really made the Canadiens stand out the most was the fact that everybody had a hand in tonight’s game.
Gomez may have played his best game of the season and just in time. Talking to HNiC post game, Gomez noted that the regular season was a lot of difficulty, but gave credit to a lot of friends and former teammates who motivated him through it and into the playoffs. He also acknowledged that it was just one game, and there is more to be done. He’s absolutely right about that, and hopefully tonight’s win motivates him the rest of the series and beyond.
Tomas Plekanec was a nightmare yet again for David Krejci, and eventually received the frustrations of one Zdeno Chara late in the game. The Habs center was also snake-bitten on a pair of golden opportunities to beat Tim Thomas and put the game out of reach much earlier. If Plekanec’s play tonight was any indicator, having home ice the rest of the way is a big advantage with the last change to put him back out.
After missing most of the first period blocking a shot, Andrei Kostitsyn returned to the game. It took a few shifts, but Kostitsyn was quickly back up to speed and willing to throw the body.
Ryan White led the team in hits with seven in just 7:51 TOI, earning some power play time in Kostitsyn’s absence, and wasn’t afraid to get in front of the net.
P.K Subban did his best impression of the ’70s Oakland Raiders, drawing on the energy of the booing fans through 27:07 TOI. Though a rookie by NHL standards, he certainly is not when it comes to the playoffs. Subban also played it smart by staying out of the penalty box, and drew a tripping call in what was easily deemed a well-timed dive in many people’s books.
Carey Price was, well Carey Price. A typical composed game by the Canadiens netminder, making big saves when called upon. The Bruins too had some missed opportunities, but Price’s best friend on the night came from the 19 Bruins’ shots his teammates blocked for him en route to the shutout. James Wisniewski and Brent Sopel, two guys not even on the roster at the start of the season, had four blocks each.
Several of the Bruins shots were finding the CH of Price’s jersey rather easily, and was it just me were there fewer black jerseys in the crease than we’d usually see? They also made the mistake of dumping pucks right into his vicinity, which made ot easy for one of the league’s best puck handling goalies to get the puck headed back the other way.
It had to be a huge confidence boost for Price who had a pair of games he’d rather forget in at the Garden in his last two outings.
Tonight’s game put the “revenge game” last month out of everyone’s mind and the Canadiens seemed to be back on track to what is important, winning. But as Gomez said, this is just one game. Can the Habs sustain the onslaught of blocking shots and avoid injury, and will the Bruins physical presence catch up with them? We’ll get some of those answers during Game Two on Saturday.
Tweet of the night from Brent Sopel: “Hell of an effort by everyone. That’s what playoff hockey is about.”
Trivia: Since the NHL Expansion in 1967, the Habs have one Game One of their numerous playoff meetings with the Bruins 12 times. They have won all but one (1988) of those dozen series.
Reaction out of Beantown from Stanley Cup of Chowder