As befits a hockey coach who works in Washington, Bruce Boudreau is adroit at diplomacy.
“It was loud and it was crazy,” Boudreau said of the Bell Centre as the teams took the ice. But lest his words be misconstrued, Boudreau hastened to add that the raucous atmosphere was “crazy good.”
A couple hours later, as the minutes ticked down on a convincing Washington win, the crowd was not crazy good or crazy bad.
At least half had left the building – proving they weren’t so crazy after all.
The test of sanity is still to come, as fans spend an off day wondering if their team can rebound from two crushing defeats.
Never underestimate a Canadiens fan’s capacity for self-delusion, but seriously, folks:
How crazy do you have to be to still think they can win this thing?
Credit the Canadiens with heart and their seventh man with spirit.
Despite losing a game they led 4-1 in Washington, the Canadiens whipped their amped-up crowd into a level 11 frenzy by playing what Mike Cammalleri called their best first period of the season.
They outshot the Capitals 10-7 and had maybe five or six quality chances. But they couldn’t bury them.
And as was the case in Washington when the Capitals won a game they should have lost, you had the sense an opportunity had been blown.
The Canadiens won the first 20 minutes, but games last 60. And when Boyd Gordon’s fluke shorthanded goal opened the scoring and sucked the enthusiasm out of the crowd, you knew the first period mojo had vanished … and Big Mo was about to change benches.
By the time Jaro Halak skated to the bench 8:33 into the second period, he’d allowed three goals on 13 shots. He didn’t get much help from his defencemen, and the net-crashing Caps cuffed him around pretty good. But I gotta believe Carey Price gets the start on Wednesday.
I haven’t checked Twitter. Did Allan Walsh Tweet anything about the Canadiens’ goaltending?
My great and good friend Red Fisher, who has forgotten more than I’ll ever know about hockey, was kind enough to offer a few insights on this pivotal game:
• The little guys killed the Canadiens. Not little in terms of size, because most of the Capitals are bruisers, and that’s beginning to tell in the series, but four of the Washington goals were scored by the supporting cast: Gordon, Brooks Laich, Eric Fehr and – long after the issue had been decided – Matt Bradely.
• How many times, Red asked, is every member of a top forward line minus-4 in a playoff game? Tomas Plekanec, Mike Cammalleri and Andrei Kostitsyn were on for four even-strength goals by Washington.
• Marc-André Bergeron, minus-3, is not a defenceman in the estimation of Mr. Fisher, who has been watching Canadiens’ blueliners since Doug Harvey and Tom Johnson. “MAB has a good shot, Red grants, and he’s an asset on the PP. But while Boudreau denied it was a strategy, Red said the Caps were dumping the puck on MAB’s side all night – with predictable misery for a Dman who isn’t as good as Harvey, Johnson or Gaston Gingras.
Question for discussion: Have we seen the last of Jaro Halak in Montreal?
I’d bet dollars to donuts Price starts Game 4. Either he’ll win or, if the erstwhile Franchise loses, the Canadiens will come back with Halak in Washington, where the Caps, up 3-1, will close this out.
Alternative scenario: the Canadiens ride a hot Price back into the series.
In either case, it could be adios, Jaro.
And you wonder what the playoffs, which began so spectacularly for him, have done to Halak’s trade value.
• • •
Best of the Canadiens?
Brian Gionta (which is the case almost every game), Benoit Pouliot, Mike Cammalleri, minus-4 notwithstanding.
Another quiet night for the third and fourth lines. Glen Metropolit, in his first game back, played 5:37, Mathieu Darche 2:22.
In 9:21 of ToI for Washington, Eric Fehr had a goal and an assist.
• • •
Boudreau, gracious in victory, called Jacques Martin “one of the smartest, if not the smartest coach in the league.”
Maybe so, but the brilliant moves have included Martin relegating Ryan O’Byrne to the pressbox in a series against a big, physical team that has run mugged the Canadiens’ goaltender.
And while the Andrei Markov injury left him with few options, Martin’s use of Roman Hamrlik and Jaro Spacek have left the aging defencemen running on fumes at the most important stage of the season.
• • •
Scott Gomez, who helped screw up Game 2 with that stupid fight, took a misconduct for yapping at the ref.
If he gets kicked out of Game 4 it will be some sort of Eddie Shack hat trick.
• • •
Boudreau on his PP, which is 0-for the playoffs:
“Yeah, we suck.”