Montreal 0 Boston 3 (Bell Centre)
posted by Rocket
Men's hockey games at the 2010 Winter Olympics begin in less than 10 days. When asked to describe Team Canada's style of play, head coach Mike Babcock said, "I like the ability of our four lines to really come at you. I think we're going to have the ability to be physical, play with and without the puck, and just be relentless."
Guy Boucher, head coach of the Hamilton Bulldogs, took a page out Babcock's strategy manual and teaches his players to be relentless on the ice. Mathieu Darche explains that Bouchard believes it will create momentum, and energy to wear the opposition down which may draw penalties, create turnovers, or provide scoring chances.
In Saturday's game against Pittsburgh, the fourth line of Brock Trotter, David Desharnais, and Ryan White played like Bulldogs. Most agreed that it was the Canadiens most effective fourth line all season. They were even rewarded with some power-play time.
But today against the Bruins, the fourth line played like Canadiens. They were far more cautious, sitting back and letting the opposition come to them. Given that the Habs were effectively standing still, Boston's fourth line were able to knock around their smaller Montreal counterparts.
The energy and momentum that the fourth line had provided on Saturday was missing. The Bruins displayed a lack of confidence and played a sloppy first period filled with turnovers. The passive Canadiens couldn't take advantage. The Bruins scored twice in the last three minutes of the period to take a 2-0 lead.
In review, the Hockey Night in Canada crew agreed that coach Jacques Martin liked the way the Canadiens played in the first period far more than the aggressive style the day before against Pittsburgh despite trailing in the game.
Martin said this week that open, free-wheeling hockey just doesn't work in the NHL anymore.
Bell Centre fans would undoubtedly disagree. The building was rather quiet for the first period as they watched their team chase the Bruins all over the ice.
"That shouldn't have happened," coach Martin said. "If you look at the standings, you're playing a team you're fighting for a playoff spot and we had a chance to hurt them. What's disappointing is the way we came out, we lost the game in the first period.
"If we'd played in the first the way we played in the second and third, we still might have lost the game, but at least we would have given it our best. Certain individuals needed to give us more."
Seems that we have heard the 'not being ready to come and play' line from Martin before. Whose responsibility is it to prepare his team?
The mood picked up a little in the second period as the Canadiens outshot the Bruins 15-3. The gaudy shot totals are misleading, as the Habs had only a few good scoring chances, mostly from the stick of Tomas Plekanec. The Habs' top center finished the game with nine shots on goal.
But the Canadiens couldn't convert against the Boston netminder as they didn't bring the puck to the net, nor did they create any traffic in front of Tuukka Rask.
It was also evident today that the Canadiens were missing there three best snipers in Andrei Kostitsyn, Mike Cammalleri, and Benoit Pouliot. Mathieu Darche gives 100 percent every shift but cannot finish when provided with terrific setups from Tomas Plekanec and Sergei Kostitsyn.
Likewise, Travis Moen is not the answer for the line of Scott Gomez and Brian Gionta.
While Sergei Kostitsyn was one of the few offensive weapons for the Habs, in a curious decision by the coach, he saw no power play time.
Critics were quick to point out that the defensive zone coverage was poor for the Canadiens. Perhaps that was a factor of sticking to a passive system and spending too much time in their own zone.
Ryan O'Byrne led the team with five blocked shots and five hits. Two of the hits he delivered, to Miroslav Satan and Daniel Paille, were of the thunderous variety, and O'Byrne made quick work of Blake Wheeler in a one-punch fight.
There was lots of sympathy for Jaroslav Halak after the game, who was a victim of two shots tipped by teammates that ended up behind him.
It is the same thing that Carey Price has experienced all season; that is, shots tipping off teammates sticks or skates, not the sympathy or understanding part. Yes, a double standard is alive and well in Montreal.
While Halak couldn't be faulted for at least two of the goals today, one can imagine the firestorm if Price had recorded numbers similar to his. Halak posted a rather pedestrian 3.00 goals against average and .875 save percentage for his weekend's work.
Puckhandling is not normally a strength of Halak's game but today it created more than a few anxious moments. It was simply clear that Halak was not as sharp this weekend as he had been playing.
It shouldn't be a surprise as we have seen before that Halak's game starts to deteriorate once he makes his fourth consecutive start, perhaps due to physical and mental fatigue.
It was reported that when Halak makes five consecutive starts as he did today, his record is 0-3 in the fifth game.
While not worthy of a conclusion on its own, this statistic could be meaningful when trying to determine whether Halak can handle the workload and pressure of being a No. 1 goaltender.
“We said before the game that we don’t want to be the team that puts them back on their feet and start winning again, but that’s pretty much what we did tonight,” Plekanec said.
For the Bruins, it was their first win in 11 games, and scoring three was a rarity for the team who is 30th in goals scored in the league.
The Canadiens next face a team on a winning streak of 14 games, the Washington Capitals. That game takes place on Wednesday at the Bell Centre.
Rocket's three stars
1. Marco Sturm
2. Tuukka Rask
3. Patrice Bergeron
Material from wire services was used in this report.
(photo credit: AP)