Sunday, April 17, 2011
Habs Head Home Up 2-0
Can't ask for anything more than this. Habs are up 2-0 in their 1st round series against the Bruins with Games 3 and 4 to be played in Montreal.
It's only 2 games, and there's still a long way to go. But is it safe to say to all of the naysayers that the Habs are the real deal and that last year's run was no fluke?? And that the Habs have crafted a team around a core that knows what it takes to win in the playoffs???
The Habs continued to put into practice their tough, everyone plays for eachother game with another strong effort in Game 2 last night in Boston, defeating the on the ropes, looking-for-answers Bruins 3-1 -- a game where the Habs once again got an early lead and never looked back.
The start to Game 2 was memorable if for only the announcement of the lineups. Andrei Kostitsyn, who has now officially "gotten it" -- meaning he's figured out what he needs to do to be successful, and that doesn't always mean scoring goals -- was forced to sit after taking a Chara slapper off of his foot in Game 1.
But then the real shocker: Zdeno Chara, the big brutish Bruins dman who brought bad karma his way after shoving Pacioretty into the stantion back in March, looked like death warmed-over in the warmup and didn't end up playing. Chara has supposedly contracted some sort of virus and checked in to the hospital on Friday with dehydration.
Chara's status is uncertain for Game 3 but we can understand, he must have been in seriously bad sorts if he couldn't play the game. We'll be sure to keep an ear open for Mark Recchi's diagnosis sometime tomorrow :)
We know how much of an impact player Chara is. But let's be honest Bruins fans: your defense is average at best with him even in the lineup. Sans Chara, the Bruins' defense corps of Boychuk, Kaberle, McQuaid, Seidenberg, Ference and Chara's replacement Shane Hnidy are completely lacklustre. Does this sound like a Stanley Cup contending defense corps???
Tomas Kaberle has, and always will be, a DEFENSIVE LIABILITY. This Habs Fan in LeafLand has seen the good and mostly the bad of Kaberle. Not the final piece of the puzzle for a cup run.
Compare them to the Habs' defense: Subban (star), Gill (cup winner), Hamrlik (1st pick overall 1994 draft), Spacek, Sopel (cup winner), and Wisniewski. And Weber who can play defense is playing forward, and two of our top four dmen are out in Markov and Gorges. It's not even close.
Ultimately Chara's absence gave the Habs yet another mental boost over their beantown, chowder-eating rivals. The Habs grabbed the early lead, this time Mike Cammellari putting in a rebound from a James Wisniewski shot less than a minute into the first period.
Then after a bad Bruins penalty, the Habs made them pay with Mathieu Darche finishing off a nice play in front of Timmy Thomas. Habs 2-0. Boston crowd, grumbling, calling for Julien's head. They'll get it soon enough.
The Bruins came out like a house on fire as could be expected in the second period but the Habs didn't wilt or falter. Boston finally broke their series long goose egg when Bergeron put the puck past Price, but the hermetic seal around Carey Price's net reinstituted itself from then on in.
The straw that broke the camel's back came near the end of the 2nd period when Lars Eller's shot from the top of the circle was kicked out by Thomas right to Yannick Weber -- ironically replacing AK46in the lineup -- who then seized the moment by backhanding the puck into the open net. Habs 3, Bruins 1.
A real key to the Habs' success so far has been their play in the neural zone. They're winning the centre ice line by intercepting passes and turning it around quickly. It's really a joy to watch as the Bruins get caught looking one way while the Habs are already zoning in on Thomas with the puck.
Before last night's game, David Krejci, who's been giving Joe Thornton a run for his money as to who's the best playoff "no-show," had the nerve and poor judgment to guarantee a Bruins victory last night. Suddenly he thinks he's Marc Messier. The Bruins, both off and on the ice, have been a hapless bunch making ALL the wrong decisions.
It's sad that the media and all the pundits are putting the blame on poor Timmy Thomas -- the soon-to-be 2011 Vezina winner and new shooting percentage recordholder. Everyone's pointing the finger at him. Like Tukka Rask -- or as Don Cherry blurted last night "Put TASK in" -- is going to do any better!?
Well, it's true Thomas is being outplayed -- no doubt about that. But let's be honest, the Habs are making the right shots and playing the right way against this goalie. Thomas plays a wonky style and has ALWAYS been prone to rebounds. It's not his fault that the Bruins defence is losing the race to the puck when Yannick Weber or Cammellari gets there first to put the puck into the open net.
Thomas is a small but agile goalie who is extremely good at reading plays, especially down low. And without some key stops last night the game would have been out of hand very early. But the Habs are provoking turnovers and penalties while playing an extremely disciplined, smart and patient game that's built on last year's run. And the thing is, this year they have a better goalie in Price.
The Habs are totally into this team's collective heads. The fans too. Usually boisterous, loud and loyal, Bruins fans were caught leaving the proverbial scene of the crime -- again -- with more than 5 minutes remaining. Your team is uptight as it is... do they need to hear your boos? Not that I want anything to change...
Aside from the goal scorers, the Canadiens had another strong team outing last night. From Plekanec all the way down to Ryan White -- who brings the kind of consistent energy and grit we had hoped from Maxim Lapierre -- the Habs seem committed to playing a team game, one where everyone plays for eachother and seems to want to do whatever it takes to win.
I was really impressed with Lars Eller's compete level last night. Tom Pyatt also won a lot of puck battles and kept the puck deep. Weber came in and was a difference maker, and Ryan White -- love that good Canadian kid.
And each of the elements pundits put in the Habs corner: coaching, goaltending and special teams -- are all playing out. Julien is being badly outcoached; Price is playing for real this time; and the Habs penalty kill has been picture-perfect, while their powerplay at least got into the action last night.
Post-game Julien seemed composed, almost as if sure, we lost because Chara was out. Well my friend, you lost with Chara in the lineup, and you can make all the excuses you want once this is all said and done, but it's your team and so your job situation will be put to the test over the summer, that's for sure.
By now, if you're following this series, you've probably heard, the Bruins are 0-26 when down 2-0 in a playoff series. Beantown is not a happy place right now, especially with the Red Sox off to a 3-10 start.
But Boston, if you can take any consolation in it, at least you're used to losing.
Game 3 is Monday night in Montreal.
OTHER NEWS AROUND THE NHL
Ducks Ryan suspended for 2 games for stomping. What an ugly, malicious and just plain dangerous act. Ryan was right to be suspended and since he's a key player it just puts the Ducks in a very tight spot. Really hate seeing that.
Kings bounce back hard. Is last night's game just a blip, or is it San Jose's cue to bow out, once again??? We'll see, but boy the Sharks were just plain bad last night.
Flyers and Sabres in a wild one. Sabres took wayyy too many penalties and that's just asking for trouble, even with one of the NHL's top goalies in Ryan Miller. The Flyers may just have gotten their mojos back in the nick of time. But still no Chris Pronger.
McGill University scores! Interesting stat, Mathieu Darche's goal was the first time in 58 years a McGill grad scored a goal in the NHL playoffs. Way to go Darche!!!