Fearless prediction for Game 4:
There will be more than two penalties.
And they might not be minors.
If Boston is going to avoid falling into a 3-1 hole when the series resumes Thursday night at the Bell Centre, the Bruins are going to have to be more Bruinish.
Chastened by a Canadiens power play that scored four times in nine opportunities during the first two games of the series in Boston, the Bruins avoided the penalty box in Game 3.
Carl Soderberg, who is not known as the Milan Lucic of Sweden, took the only Boston penalty, a two-minute goalkeeper interference call that Carey Price did a nice job of selling.
The final faceoff might have been a harbinger of Game 4. Lars Eller’s empty-netter had given the Canadiens a 4-2 lead with three seconds left. Claude Julien deplayed his fourth line for the meaningless centre-ice draw, and there was some predictable jostling as the siren sounded.
I think we’ll see more of that in Game 4. And the Boston BS will start long before the 19:57 mark of the third period.
The Bruins will be aggressive from the opening faceoff. And the Canadiens’ ability to deal with aggression will go a long way toward deciding how the rest of this series plays out.
Led by Alexei Emelin’s seven, the Canadiens outhit Boston 36-31 in Game 3. Every skater except Tomas Plekanec and David Desharnais had at least one hit.
Subbed in for Francis Bouillon, Douglas Murray had five hits. The mammoth Swede also blocked four shots, contributing to the Canadiens total of 29 (Emelin had five, Josh Gorges and Mike Weaver four each). The shot blocks exceeded Carey Price’s save total by three.
Because Boston likely will try to go medieval and because Michel Therrien is inclined to stick with a winning lineup, I think we’ll see Douglas Murray back for Game 4. You can time Murray’s skating with a calendar and the advanced-stats weenies hate him, but the mammoth Swede is an effective crease-clearer.
The Soderberg “hit” notwithstanding, Price dealt with less traffic than he had in Game 2. And when the Canadiens’ all-world goaltender can see shots, he stops them.
Price has outplayed Vezina Trophy finalist Tuukka Rask in this series. And P.K. Subban, who’s the reigning Norris Trophy laureate but isn’t a finalist for the award this year, is outplaying Zdeno Chara, who is shortlisted for the 2014 Norris.
P.K. was spectacular in Game 3: 27:50 of ice time to lead both teams, a goal and an assist, giving Subban 11 points in the playoffs. He’s been on the scoresheet in every game except the opener against Tampa Bay.
But stats, advanced or traditional, don’t tell the full story on P.K.
Abused on and off the ice by the Bruins and their more cretinous fans, Subban is playing his best hockey of the season. He’s avoiding the penalty box – the roughing infraction on Reilly Smith was borderline. He’s skating the puck out of trouble, and P.K. is making exquisite tape-to-tape passes to teammates in motion.
Let’s be glad the Bell Centre is home to at least five playoff games this season. Geoff Molson is going to need that scratch to pay the Canadiens’ most valuable skater.
In addition to Subban, Price and Murray, the Canadiens got good-to-excellent Game 3 performances from Plekanec, Lars Eller and his linemates, Rene Bourque and Brian Gionta; Weise, Travis Moen (did you love his savage hit on Jarome Iginla late in the game?), Mike Weaver and Josh Gorges.
Therrien reunited Brendan Gallagher with David Desharnais and Max Pacioretty. Thomas Vanek was moved to Gallagher’s spot with Plekanec and Michäel Bournival. Neither trio set the world on fire against Boston, but Vanek made a nice pass to set up the Plekanec goal.
Daniel Brière played only 6:08 – less ice time than Shawn Thornton – but his head-man pass sent Weise winging away for his second goal of the playoffs.
For the third time in the series, the Canadiens led by two goals in the third period.
This time, they were able to seal the deal in regulation.
Game 4 should be a beauty.