Friday, May 02, 2014

Boston-Montreal Game #1: Habs' Award Snubs Outshine Nominees

Date: 01/05/2014
Opponent: Bruins
Location: Boston

Win: 4-3 (OT)

Habs Goalie: Price (W)
Opposition Goalie: Rask (L)

Habs goalscorers: Subban (2), Bourque, Bouillon
Opposition goalscorers: Smith, Krug, Boychuk

Play of the game

I can't remember exactly when the chance was anymore. A lot of them ago, no doubt. OK, I checked. It was halfway into the first OT period and the Bruins were fabricating another gorgeous passing play from seemingly nothing. Marchand hangs around to the last second and then creeps into perfect scorer's position. He directs a hard enough shot through a screen (one-time) to the net, and Carey price is just there. I literally scratched my head. How could he be there? That wasn't the only highlight, but the one I chose...

Dome hockey team

The 6 players we're playing in a no changes, do or die contest in the dome


Rene Bourque

Thanks goodness. Boston will have the conundrum. After checking the Desharnais line to a standstill, they had to watch while Rene Bourque found the passion and drive he has displayed so sparingly in bleu, blanc, rouge. Bourque was outstanding, wreaking havoc in the Boston zone and sending shots that always seemed to test. His goal was just the thing to play in Boston video study as well, the perfect seed of the lethal counter that those Boston rookie D should hopefully carry for the next games.

Dale Weise

Now that we are all agreed with the pleasant surprises that Vanek, Weaver and other Bergevin moves have been, let's spare some lines for Dale Weise. Now, I adored Raphael Diaz, the player and the idea of a freebie from Switzerland slotting in at a high level, but in Weise, Bergevin acquired a player that was always sorely lacking -- that 4th line player that actually gives fits to other teams, as each is alleged to. Dale Weise did that tonight and because of his adaptability offered Therrien options with all his lines (playing his shifts with Desharnais well). He is in the the dome for two simple reasons though -- penalties. The refs tonight would have been happy to see a game with no penalties, rules fudged or not. What Weise did was create two situations where the official simply could not ignore. Boston will complain, but they must be seen as the spoiled brats they are for wanting all 45 infractions without calls. Weise's energy on that last drive even brought the rarest of OT calls and both his penalties set the way for Subban goals.

Brendan Gallagher

You could see from the first shift that Brendan Gallagher was going to have to make an adjustment in this one to make any mark at all. This is still true and holds for all the Habs really. Gallagher on possession looks a total mess, but let's not think this win had much to do with possession. Gallagher epitomized instead the players who managed some small adjustment to see just enough chinks in Boston armour to strike out once or twice. His biggest play of the night will go down as a defensive lunge that saved the contest, but as always, I liked his perseverance and cunning in the offensive zone. Look for one of the adjustments made to be an adaptation of three of the present lines (Vanek and Pacioretty to be separated), and expect Gallagher to pop up in an important position, just like he did on the winning goal.


PK Subban

What can you say about PK. He is a superstar. While he does have his lapses on defence, far more than my quickly greying hair would like, he more than makes up for these with game-changing plays. While the intros would focus on his penchant for stirring emotion, these did not anticipate him to stir twice with markers on the PP. As was duly noted, the PP goals serve the dual purpose of adding to the scoreline and Boston's troubles -- that is their need to reflect on how far they can continue to push the good will of referees. The hot-blooded Subban also showed some new-found cool for a while as he absorbed many late hits and even a cross-check to the face without so much as a smirk at the referee.

Alexei Emelin

Awkward at times all season, and even tonight. There's still something about Emelin that I ended up liking here. Discipline as always was there, and that will play its part as the series extends. But also some little last ditch stuff, some very important blocked shots (5) and hits (6) against the top line of Boston and the tougher backend. He has Carey Price to thank profusely for his acceptable -1, but he should spare some credit for himself in what looked like a mismatch for the better part of 45 minutes.


Carey Price - Game Puck

Through the muffle of the departing crowd you could barely hear Brad Marchand being chosen second star in Boston over Carey Price. Let's not even consider where they come up with that Boston player. It pales to reason that the provider of endless showcase saves could be relegated to third star. Never mind, we know they don't have heads screwed on straight (or at all). Carey gets our game puck. While it's easy to heap all praise on the late game saves that ultimately gave the Subban goal its time, his real tour de force for me was in setting the stage with shutout periods against a steady attack. Carey tested every shooter from the Bruins in this game and no easy looper or rebound was given (thanks Brendan). With due respect to Jonas Gustavsson, this is a new puzzle for Boston to work out. Just another for the list.


Was this not one of the strangest Bruins-Habs games you can remember? While the Bruins would dominate in most aspects, the Habs did not take up their typical and highly effective tactic of distraction. Instead, it was mostly turned cheeks, puck and zone concession and total commitment to those counter attacks every ten minutes.

My feeling is that the team got away with one here. Yes, I speak of positives and conundrums for the Bruins, that's true. There are a fair few piles of those for the Habs coaching staff to work on too.

First, let's consider the Habs not truly exploiting some legitimate soft hind parts on the Bruins. Bartkowski, Miller, Krug, Hamilton -- these are youngish players that must be forced to adapt themselves. While the "third line got a wonderful result from the match up with Miller and Krug, the big boys have to do better on Boychuk and Bartkowski (i.e., send more Bartkowski's way). I think of Plekanec in particular, as one to direct this strategy better.

Second, despite all the Norris talk, the first line simply has to give Chara more challenge. He walked through this game. Vanek is taking heat, Pacioretty hides in the shadow of it. Neither of these players fluked their reputations.  If nothing else, each should start unleashing their hefty wristers At best, I'd hope for a little more possession.

The adjustments to be made aren't entirely clear. As stated, I expect a line juggle. Wholly warranted in the playoff situation, to overcome a pretty clear set of obstacles. I'd see Pacioretty/Vanek with Plekanec and then Prust or the versatile Weise with Desharnais and the other. The big threat is cancelled, there may be a time for it later, and there will be powerplays. Desharnais seems to be a key focus, and it is to Therrien to force Julien to question how much he can dedicate to Desharnais as he re-allocates elsewhere.

On defence, we must see. No one player in particular deserves to sit out. The simple toll of hits, however, may require a Douglas Murray cameo, and possibly Tinordi at some point. I favour neither as choice components, but this long arduous battle will require good management of all assets.

The adjustment around Price should follow Don Cherry's advice. Let this goalie see the pucks if possible. And let him take the team where he can.

The cost of the runaround for 45 minutes in this game is not yet fully known. Saturday may present some cobwebs. Still the luxury of a win in hand always offsets these things. Well done Habs for following through on the good work in Tampa.


  1. I've never seen price so busy, and I've never seen him blocking shots so aggressively - particularly when he would come out of his crease to take away the angle from close-shooters. Incredible game by him.

    I couldn't find paccioretty or vanek on the ice last night. Desharnais I noticed a bit more, but he needs his big linemates to use their large frames some more. Chara should be gone after, constantly, relentlessly, and until montreal has last change it's going to be up to whomever Julien matches his ogre against.

    1. The Habs have at least given Julien something to think about, which is more than one can say for any regular season opponent. I wonder how adaptable this team might be now after so much success with the tried and true recipe. As I postulated in the weaknesses of the Bruins, I think this may be a big point in the Habs favour. We all remember from an Ottawa series how an inflexible coach can stand pat far too long.

      That said, the Habs didn't do an Ottawa on Boston, they just got a bit opportunistic. I hope Therrien finds more in the tapes, because the Bruins are beatable. 117 points is a lot but it's a lot further from 164 than it is from 100.