Well, many of us did predict Boston in six.
Now don’t start throwing right hooks at the computer screen. Your Montreal Canadiens aren’t going to lose four straight games in this series.
At least I don’t think they will.
Jacques Martin has given his guys a day off today. The coach did that quite a bit through the latter part of the season, recognizing that a day without skating has to be beneficial to older players, such as Hal Gill and Roman Hamrlik, and young bucks playing big minutes.
P.K. Subban fits into that category: another 26:50 in Game Three. And Tomas Plekanec played a tough 19 minutes, including his customary power-play and penalty-killing duty.
Carey Price probably will enjoy a day off skates. He’s played a lot of high-pressure hockey this season.
It’s back to business on Wednesday morning, where Martin and his staff will try to re-instill the sense of urgency that Arpon Basu writes about.
Boston played desperate hockey in Game Three. Down 0-2, they had to.
Up 2-0, the Canadiens lacked the desperation – and discipline – they need to win games. You could tell, right from the beginning, that Killer Instinct was a healthy scratch for the home team.
The jittery Bruins took a Too Many Men penalty (a Canadiens’ specialty, and theirs would come later) 1:08 into the game.
The crowd, which had come to party, smelled blood and kicked their enthusiasm into high gear.
But the ensuing power-play generated but one feeble shot. And fresh off a successful penalty kill, a wide-open David Krejci blasted Patrice Bergeron’s cross-ice pass from Price.
Boston had its first lead of the series, and much energy left the building. It got even quieter after a weird ricochet off the back boards turned into a Nathan Horton goal and a bad Price clear attempt (of which there were several) found its way onto Rich Peverley’s stick.
Twenty-two minutes in, the Canadiens were down 3-zip.
And this team doesn’t do comebacks.
But they almost pulled one off. Tim Thomas was weak on goals by Andrei Kostitsyn and Plekanec. The Canadiens ramped up their O, and the building came to life.
Thirty minutes of high-intensity hockey weren’t enough, though. Not in the playoffs. Not against Boston, which got superb play from Bergeron (10-7 on draws, plus-3) and an inspirational performance from its captain, who returned from sick bay to play 26:20 to a chorus of boos.
We have a series. And here’s a fearless prediction:
The team that wins Game Four will advance to the conference semi-final.
Both teams have now won games playing smart, disciplined hockey. I think that’s what we’ll see at the Bell Centre Thursday night, and it could be a classic.
• • •
Benoit Pouliot played 3:21 last night.
He had three shifts in the first period, none in the second and spent the third watching his teammates mount their desperate comeback attempt.
Benny was benched because of yet another dumb penalty. He hasn’t scored a goal since March 5, hasn’t recorded a point since somehow collecting three assists on his return to Minnesota.
All that talent, and the guy is useless.
Here’s one Expos fans will appreciate: Benny is a latter-day Ellis Valentine.
• • •
Jaro Spacek was minus-2 and laboured in Game 3.
Of all the Canadiens’ D, Spatcho looked least comfortable coping with the aggressive forecheck of the Bruins.
• • •
That great photo of P.K. in the net is by Allen McInnis of The Gazette.
• • •
Guest Comment, from J.Ambrose.Obrien:
* It may have been a loss, but it was by far the most entertaining game of the series thus far. The first period was played at hyper-speed with relentless back-and-forth rushes. I hear the Bell Centre medical staff got out the defibrillator for Bob Cole, just in case.
* Speaking of the adenoidal voice of Newfoundland, Cole should really apologize to Cammalleri for repeatedly identifying him as the one muffing all those offensive-zone opportunities. It was Gomez. Oh well, Bob, a “1″ can look like a “3″, I guess.
* Booner was mocking Julien’s coaching acumen in the last two games, so perhaps we should now give Mike Holmgren’s little brother the credit he is due for some smart adjustments in game 3. The Bruins lined up 4 across at their blueline, and the Habs stubbornly refused to dump it in, stick-checking into turnovers. And they ran a neutral zone trap that looked mighty similar to what the Habs had been using. And they beautifully cut off the Habs’ favoured PP passing lanes, leaving our lads bumbling and confused with the man-advantage.
* Speaking of our Impotency Play, might we not be better off dressing Weber to use on the PP, and sit Pouliot out…, forever? Desharnais and Darche had some real jump, and looked capable of big things, but everytime the puck wound up in Poo-poo’s vicinity, pffffft. Deflation.
* Kudos to Gionta and Pleks who really stepped up their play in the third period. True leaders (take notes, Gomez). And AK46 is such a power out there. If his foot has recovered, JM should really consider double-shifting him — with Pleks AND Gomez.
* Meanwhile, Ryan White, who to me deserved a LOT of credit for the game 1 win, was extremely quiet in this one. Likely afraid to make a mistake in front of the home crowd. I expect he’ll have the eye of the tiger again Thursday.
* Finally, there are very few venues in sport, and none in hockey. that have the electric atmosphere of a playoff game in Montreal. It isn’t just the decibels of the crowd noise. It is the almost symphonic pitch, harmony, modulations, and crescendos of the tricouleur chorus. Epic!!!