Photo by Allen McInnis, The Gazette
Claude Julien, breathing a lot easier now that his job is safe until Thursday night, said Boston needed the good start it got at the Bell Centre.
“We know how (the Canadiens) play when they score early,” the Bruins coach added. “With us taking the lead, it got them out of their comfort zone.”
The Bruins early jump put the Canadiens in a discomfort zone that last through the first half of the game. And Boston did it by following the blueprint the Canadiens had demonstrated at the TD Banknorth Garden:
Give your goaltender a chance to win.
I actually thought Tim Thomas had a tougher time than Carey Price did in Boston. The Canadiens system of max protecting Price limited the Bruins to peripheral play and low-percentage shots through Games One and Two.
The Canadiens came at Thomas in waves through the last 30 minutes of Game Three. Their speed advantage had Bruins defenders on their heels, particularly during a 15-shot third period.
But it wasn’t enough, and it started too late.
Hal Gill and Carey Price talked about a lackadaisical attitude at the team’s morning skate. Jacques Martin noticed.
“It’s a good thing we weren’t playing this morning,” the coach said during his post-game press conference, “because we weren’t ready.
“We didn’t compete the first 30 minutes of the game,” Martin added. “This time of year, you have to be ready.”
Martin highlighted his team’s compete level and its execution of their system as two qualities that were absent when the puck dropped. The Canadiens blew an early power play, surrendered a bad-coverage goal almost immediately thereafter and the loudest building in the league settled into stunned silence.
If the players had been loose at morning skate, they were tight through the early going.
Boston defencemen, who’d had a terrible time clearing their zone through Games One and Two, were given acres of open ice.
The Canadiens D pinched at inopportune times, and the Bruins mounted more odd-man rushes than they’d had through the first 120 minutes of the series.
Give the Canadiens credit for resilience. Down 3-0, they ramped up their O-zone game and began pressuring Thomas, who gave up two bad goals (as did Price) but made his usual quotient of acrobatic saves when he had to.
And so it’s a series.
The Canadiens are off Tuesday, but I’ll wake up early and try to come up with some profound thoughts.