Montreal Canadiens vs. Boston Bruins Game 2: Keys for Each Team
Fairly or unfairly, the Game 1 star and goat were easy to select after the Montreal Canadiens topped the Boston Bruins in overtime Thursday night. You can see the official NHL.com play-by-play transcript here.
Canadiens defenseman P.K. Subban bookended the scoring in his squad’s 4-3 victory with a pair of power-play goals. Both of those man advantages resulted from a minor penalty to Bruins sophomore blueliner Matt Bartkowski.
The Habs have thus usurped home-ice advantage in the NHL’s 2014 Atlantic Division Final. Their chance to amplify that advantage will come in Saturday afternoon’s Game 2, roughly 37 hours after Subban’s sudden-death strike.
With another victory, Montreal can continue its playoff-long win streak and sculpt its second 2-0 lead in as many series on opposing ice. The Canadiens previously built on a Game 1 overtime triumph to sweep the higher-seeded Tampa Bay Lightning.
On the flip side, Saturday’s 12:30 p.m. ET matinee will be Boston’s chance to draw its second 1-1 knot in as many series. The Bruins won four straight last week after dropping a one-goal decision to Detroit at the start of their division semifinal.
Per the nature of an overtime, let alone a double-overtime affair, Game 1 yielded a mixed bag for both clubs. Here are three items for the Bruins and Canadiens to build on or improve upon going into Game 2.
Key for Boston: Resilience
Dating back to last year’s Stanley Cup Final, the Bruins have dropped the opener in three consecutive playoff series. They bounced back from a triple-overtime falter to pull even with the Blackhawks last June and, as previously alluded, redeemed their 1-0 loss to Detroit last month.
Translation: Boston has been through this before and has consistently proved it can sweep away those vinegary ice chips to ensure a competitive best-of-seven series.
To that point, per the team’s official website, second-year defenseman Torey Krug was apt to assert, “We’ve just got to move on. Short term memory. It’s a long series, it’s going to be long. We know that, I think they know that, and they got one in our building.”
The same report yielded a comparable sentiment from players and coaches alike. Preserving that poise and determination will be essential to gripping the upper hand in Game 2, something the Bruins failed to do in conceding 2-0 and 3-2 deficits on Thursday.
Key for Montreal: An Emboldened Carey Price
The prime Game 1 story on the Habs’ website centered on goaltender Carey Price’s toil and eventual reward in the form of 48 saves and a win.
One could argue that the quantity of those shots trumped the quality. One could argue that the Bruins did not dish up a sufficient test for the full 84 minutes and 15 seconds.
Price and his teammates cannot worry about that. Perceptions and context aside, a victorious performance in a game like this can give any netminder valuable traction.
Consider the fact that, if you delete three distant, homeward-bound shots in the third period, Price turned in three full-length stanzas of shutout hockey. He did his part to keep Boston scoreless through the first 40 regulation minutes and all 24-plus minutes of sudden death.
If one must cite those three goals, including two equalizers, and look at the third frame as a downer, that is not necessarily a bad thing. There is nothing wrong with coming off a winning effort with a blend of confidence and a little more still to prove.
With that approach, Price should also instill a drive and determination to his teammates to do what they must to help protect any lead they give him.
Key for Boston: Polish and Purpose with the Puck
There were times, particularly when they trailed in the first two periods, when the Bruins did not shoot with sufficient authority. A little more elevation of the puck on a multitude of plays could have been the difference.
At 16:54 of Thursday’s opening frame, Krug pounced on a loose puck amidst a scramble on Price’s porch. The problem was he stalled on his shot upon collecting the biscuit and settled for a vain 24-foot wrister.
At 1:04 of the second period, David Krejci spooned a potential equalizer wide on a backhand from within a mere 12 feet of the net.
Barely two-and-a-half minutes afterward, Krug’s poor puck management in the neutral zone invited Rene Bourque’s 2-0 tally. The only reason Krug was not formally charged with a giveaway was because only his skate blade, not his stick blade, touched the puck on a botched pass receipt.
Jarome Iginla fanned on a radiant chance to cut the deficit in half during Boston’s first power play. At the 14:38 mark of the middle frame, he absorbed his own rebound and hastily shanked it wide of the opposite post.
Although the Bruins started tuning the mesh in the third period, their preceding lack of precision proved to cost them by night’s end. They could have dissolved Montreal’s lead earlier and maybe spawned an advantage of their own with quicker and crisper passes and shots.
Key for Montreal: Better Finish from the Forwards
One of Montreal’s somewhat overlooked surprises from Thursday was Thomas Vanek’s general invisibility. The elite first-line winger mustered zero points and zero shots on goal in a somewhat paltry 18 minutes and 58 seconds of ice time.
The Boston Globe reporter Fluto Shinzawa even noted that “Montreal coach Michel Therrien pulled Vanek off the line at times. Therrien was so desperate to acquire some air for Vanek that he gave Weise, a fourth-liner, some of the sharpshooter’s shifts.”
It did not matter on this particular night. Between Subban and Francis Bouillon, the Habs cultivated three of their four Game 1 goals from a point-patrolling defenseman.
There is nothing wrong with continuing to bank on good things from an elite player of Subban’s ilk. At least, there will not be until the opposition figures out how to stifle him.
Come what may, Montreal will want its forwards to flex a little more on the attack as this series progresses. Not unlike Boston, it could stand to upgrade its quality of shots in the immediate neighborhood of the net.
The Habs can variously take charge in generating their swarms and pounce on rebounds that are parented by the likes of Subban. By a combination of those means, the Canadiens can keep the Bruins backcheckers and backstop on alert.
The more they do that, the better their chances of introducing the likes of Vanek as a factor sooner rather than later. The same goes for David Desharnais and Max Pacioretty, who matches Vanek’s scoreless output and minus-one rating in the series opener.
Key for Boston: Discipline in Momentous Minutes
While discipline is essential at all times, penalties are going to come at one point or another in a game. The times when they are less ideal than usual are when the Bruins landed in the bin during Game 1.
The aforementioned Bartkowski’s two penalties, which set up Subban’s strikes, occurred in the tone-setting phases of the first period and in the second overtime. The only other time they went short-handed was when Daniel Paille incurred a tripping minor at 19:33 of the first overtime.
In between, Brad Marchand needlessly cross-checked Lars Eller at the regulation siren to put each team down a man at the start of the bonus round.
As Michael Hurley of CBS Boston observed on that play, “Eller sent a shot from the neutral zone toward the net after the clock hit zero, and he and Marchand engaged in a mini-tussle. Eller picked up an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, while Marchand will go to the box for cross check when overtime begins.”
It's hard to tell with certainty whether Eller’s infraction was cited before or after Marchand confronted him. But the act of unsportsmanlike conduct was implicitly shooting after the stoppage of play.
In turn, Marchand’s decision may have cost his club a power play to commence overtime. Given how special teams have worked for Boston of late (21.7 power-play success in the regular season, 33 percent in the playoffs), that cannot happen again.
Key for Montreal: Flustering Boston’s Defense
Drawing two penalties on the likes of Bartkowski proved to be a productive means of exploiting the greener two-thirds of the Bruins blue-line brigade. Krug’s costly turnover in the middle frame was similarly effective in the same basic department.
More of the same will be in order for the Habs in Game 2. In addition, it is worth noting that Boston’s seasoned defensive pilot, Zdeno Chara, logged a draining 32:25 of ice time Thursday night.
With that much toil and the day-and-a-half recharging period ahead of Game 2, the Bruins captain may be a little more gaffe-prone on Saturday. Montreal’s comparatively fresh-legged and fresh-minded forwards need to watch for and push for opportunities to exploit that possibility.
When that happens to a goaltender’s skating mates, the effect can trickle down to the crease. Tuukka Rask’s performance and subsequent frustration were sound evidence of that notion in Game 1.
Unless otherwise indicated, all statistics for this report were found via NHL.com.