Michel Therrien said his team played its best game of the season Monday night at the Bell Centre.
And who are we to contradict the kindly old coach?
Your Montreal Canadiens posted impressive regular-season wins over Chicago and Pittsburgh.
They swept Tampa Bay out of the playoffs.
But Therrien is right (as he has been frequently this season).
Given the circumstances – elimination game against a President’s Trophy winner riding two impressive Ws in a row – the 4-0 victory that sent this wild series back to Boston for Game 7 was the Canadiens’ best of the season.
And apart from the circumstances, it was a great effort for the home team because everyone in a red jersey contributed.
Shall we work our way through the roster?
• Carey Price calmly turned away a rather modest total of 26 shots for the fourth playoff shutout of his career. An anomaly: Price has hung all his postseason goose eggs on Boston. And if you include the Olympics, Price has allowed one goal in four elimination games. (Thanks for that one, Mike Ziegler.)
• Max Pacioretty had a goal and an assist while terrorizing the Boston defence with his speed and, in this game, intensity.
• Thomas Vanek had four shots on goal, two of which eluded Tuukka Rask. He also had a couple hits. Vanek has nine SoG in the series … and four goals.
• Playing his best game of the postseason – perhaps because he was at his healthiest – Brandon Prust had seven hits in 11:18 of ice time. Perhaps Prust assured himself of a solid game by shaking Ginette Reno’s hand after O Canada.
• Don Meehan, P.K. Subban’s agent, was at Game 6 – maybe to ask Marc Bergevin what gift he plans to give P.K. for his 25th birthday on Tuesday. The darling of the Bell Centre had a full stat sheet: 24:27 of ice time, two penalties, three hits, two giveaways, two blocked shots and one Michel Therrien knee-slapper.
When asked, during his postgame press conference, about a sequence of Boston zone domination that began with Subban in the penalty box and continues for what seemed like an eternity after he got out and rejoined his scrambling teammates, Therrien said the takeaway was the revelation that P.K. “is a bad left winger.”
Therrien laughed heartily at his own joke. The coach wouldn’t have been as jovial if Boston’s sustained pressure had produced a goal in a game that was 1-0 at the time.
• Andrei Markov led the Canadiens in ice time with 24:44 and through that time never set a foot wrong.
• Markov’s D partner and homeboy, Alexei Emelin, had his bell rung by Milan Lucic but gave as good as he got in recording four thunderous hits.
• David Desharnais yanked the puck back from the goal line when a Boston score might have made for tight collars at the rink.
• Daniel Brière returned to the lineup and boosted the second wave of the power play while adding a scoring threat to his even-strength shifts with linemates Prust and the tireless Dale Weise.
• Michäel Bournival skated like the wind and recorded six hits. This kid is going to be a good player in Montreal for the next 12 years.
• Lars Eller scored what proved to be the winning goal 2:11 into the game. He also went 12-9 in the faceoff circle and used his size effectively against the Bruins.
• Bouncing back from maybe the worst playoff game of his career, Tomas Plekanec went 13-8 on faceoffs and was superb, as always on a PK unit that stymied Boston.
• In the first professional playoff game, AHL and NHL, of his career, Nathan Beaulieu skated, moved the puck effectively, made the pass that sprung Pacioretty for his goal and generally comported himself as a future CH stalwart and a present reason to keep Douglas Murray and Francis Bouillon in the pressbox.
• Mike Weaver had an assist, blocked five shots and shrugged off Boston’s attempts to run him.
• Josh Gorges was Josh Gorges: fur blocked shots, a couple hits while playing stay-at-home Felix Unger to P.K.’s freewheeling Oscar Madison.
• Brendan Gallagher blocked a couple shots and annoyed the Bruins every time he got within grinning distance of Tuukka Rask.
• Brian Gionta and Rene Bourque put in hard-working nights at the office.
It was a total team effort – including the seventh man. The atmosphere in the Bell Centre was electric, from beginning to end.
And it will be noisy in Boston on Wednesday night.
In his postgame remarks, Claude Julien took time out from whining to say his Bruins will win the series.
Michel Therrien was content to observe that anything can happen in a seventh game.
Julien has to be concerned by the lack of production from big guns such as David Krejci, Milan Lucic and Jarome Iginla. Despite his best efforts to unsettle the Canadiens, Brad Marchand was a non-factor in Game 6.
And, most ominous of all, Zdeno Chara looked a bit tired.
But it’s probably a safe bet the big lug will bounce back. Thoroughbreds like Chara play well in Game 7′s.
We could be in for a classic.