It's now been almost two days since the Montreal Canadiens surprise Game 1 victory over the Boston Bruins. And while the city of Montreal is optimistic this morning, all does not seem to be good in Bruins-land.
Where the Canadiens put together and executed a perfect game plan against Boston in Game 1, the Bruins performance left much to be desired.
Boston looked like a team that was trying too hard to control themselves and avoid taking penalties. As such, they looked almost paralyzed, too deep in thought to execute and the result was a poor effort and a 2-0 loss.
So is it overly dramatic to say that the Bruins' season is on the line tonight in Game 2?
Going back to Montreal down by two would be an unmitigated disaster for the Bruins. So with the city of Boston, its players and management seemingly holding their collective breaths, this is sure to be an intense match tonight.
What to expect
The Bruins have been saying all the right things since the loss, but look like a frustrated bunch. Coach Claude Julien, in particular, got pretty testy with the media when asked yesterday about his team's weak performance in Game 1.
I guess that's understandable, considering it's widely expected a first round loss by the Bruins would result in Julien's dismissal. Quite simply, he's on the hot-seat and he knows it.
Julien's palpable stress level, however, has to be cause for concern for the Bruins. This is the guy leading the team into battle and if he is feeling the heat that has to translate to his players.
So as much as the Bruins' players keep saying that it's just one game and they can bounce back, they look like a nervous team right now. If Montreal once again scores the first goal, watch out!
The veteran influence
The Canadiens self-confidence comes from a solid veteran core that has "been there" before. Players like Brian Gionta, Scott Gomez, Hal Gill, Travis Moen and Brent Sopel have all won Stanley Cups. That experience coupled with the calm, cool, collected play of Carey Price gives the team all the confidence it needs.
More importantly, if they do lose a game it doesn't affect their ability to win the following game. They are simply a team that is not afraid to lose and I'm not sure we can say the same thing about the Bruins.
Mark Recchi is the sole cup winner on the Bruins and, after last game, the leadership of a player like Zdeno Chara has been called into question. It will be interesting to see how both players respond tonight.
The game plan
Montreal will want to stick to the exact style of play that won them Game 1. The main difference is that they need to do a better job of capitalizing on their scoring chances, especially on the power play.
In Game 1, the Canadiens, and Tomas Plekanec in particular, had a myriad of scoring chances but couldn't seal the deal. As such, the game was pretty tense until Brian Gionta scored his second goal in the third period. And this despite the fact that Boston wasn't able to mount much of an offensive threat.
It's just not a winning strategy to protect a one-goal lead for the entire third period, and scoring when they have the opportunity is an absolute must for Montreal tonight. Moreover, the Canadiens must score at least one power play goal tonight in order to increase their chances of taking a 2-0 series lead.
The Habs went 0-for-4 with the man-advantage in Game 1.
For the Bruins to win, they must crash and crowd Carey Price's net. I know I said that before Game 1 but the Bruins failed miserable to bring the thump. Power forwards Milan Lucic and Nathan Horton each had a measly two hits in Game 1 and that's just not good enough. Especially for a team that defines itself by its hard-nosed, physically-dominant style.
Boston has to get back to their game and walk the line between physicaly abusing the Habs and avoiding the penalty box. If they can, they will have a good chance at pulling out the victory.
The problem for Boston in Game 1 was that they tried to beat the Canadiens by playing hockey. Sorry Bs, but you don't stand a chance against Montreal in a straight skill game. Physicality is where it's at and Boston needs to get back to it.
This is the playoffs, so information is tough to come by and lineups don't get announced until the last minute. That being said, expect both Price and Tim Thomas to get the start for their respective teams.
Reports surfaced this morning that hulking Bruins' defenseman Zdeno Chara spent the night in hospital for dehydration. The report also said that he is under observation by the Bruins' medical staff, but there is no indication as to whether it will affect his status for tonight's game.
If I was a betting man, however, I'd say he'll play but the real question is whether or not he'll be 100 percent. Chara certainly didn't have a great game on Thursday and he'll need to be a lot better for Boston tonight.
Game time is at 7:00 PM and I'll be at Cafe Gianni with a bunch of people from the Team 990 to watch the game. If you're in the area, stop by. We'll be giving away prizes and it should be a blast!
Kamal is a freelance Habs writer, Senior Writer/Editor-in-Chief of HabsAddict.com, Montreal Canadiens Blogger on Hockeybuzz.com and Habs writer on TheFranchise.ca. Kamal is also a weekly contributor to the Sunday Shinny on The Team 990 (AM 990) every Sunday from 8 - 9 AM. Listen live at http://www.team990.com/