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Friday, April 15, 2011

Price Perfect -- Habs Win Game 1 in Beantown

It may go against the so-called experts' predictions, but is anyone really surprised how the Habs won game 1 of their opening round series against the supposedly big, bad Bruins?

Montreal-area Boston Pizzas are changing their names for the series. Brilliant!!

Not me. But of course, I picked the Habs.

The Canadiens as a team played a picture-perfect road game and Carey Price stopped all 31 shots he faced, making sure to remind everyone that he plans to build on his terrific regular season and take things to the next level in the playoffs with last night's 2-0 shutout against the Bruins.

Price was cool, calm and collected as we have become used to seeing when he's playing at his best. He made the key saves when needed, but let's also make sure to give the Canadiens defence their kudos -- they kept the Bruins to the outside for most of the game, and made some key shot blocks when it counted. Boston was limited to only 5 shots on goal in the 3rd period.

Postgame all the experts spoke about all the mistakes the Bruins made last night. Sure, they made lots of mistakes. Some may even think Milan Lucic is a mistake, period. But nobody (outside of RDS) praised the Habs in causing those mistakes. Let's be honest. When a guy like Andrei Kostitsyn, who heroically takes a Chara slapper off of his foot early in the game to then come back and still win puck battles then you know -- something good is going on with Montreal.

This has nothing to do with how the Bruins played Don Cherry; this has to do with how the Canadiens played. And the Canadiens played a terrific road game. They won puck battles. They played with energy. They kept their feet moving. They got the puck deep. They cleared the zone. They cleared rebounds. They didn't panic. They played for eachother...

Sure that pest who looks like a skinhead Brad Marchand missed a wide open net and was also stopped by Price down low. But Tomas Plekanec, who had a terrific game last night, also missed 2 open nets -- one after Timmy T. fumbled with the puck.

And with Price being the game's 1st star and of course Brian Gionta, Capitaine Clutch with both goals, who was the unsung hero last night but little Scotty Gomez!? Yes, that Gomez, the guy who supposedly earns his 8 million salary in the playoffs. Well, he's off to a good start with helpers on both Gionta goals.

Once again Bob Gainey, who was with the team last night, can be validated for his GM decisions.

And even Leafs fans could cheer as their "past his prime" former golden boy Tomas Kaberle turned over the puck in the Bruins' zone which Gomez promptly collected and threw over to Gionta for the game's opening goal early in the first.

It's not going to be long, if it hasn't begun already until the Bruins press and fans alike start raking Kaberle over the coals. The fact is, he's a defensive liability and was brought in for the one and only goal of helping the Bruins' powerplay. Last night, they were 0-3.

If this trend continues, Kaberle will probably be back with the Leafs come October.

Then later in the 3rd Gomez took the puck away from Milan Lucic -- who looked big time frustrated for most of the game -- then dropped the puck to Gionta who blasted a hard slapper through the smaller Timmy Thomas with less than 4 minutes remaining in the game. Habs 2, Bruins 0.

Reporting the Habs victory, the TSN panel who all picked Boston to win the series implied with their body language that, yeah -- this isn't that surprising and that the Habs just picked it up where they left off in last year's playoffs.

Here's where the fun begins. Coming into the series, the heavily-favoured Bruins were already working at a mental deficit. Why? Because they're going to LAKE PLACID to practice in between the games in Montreal. What does that say to you? Does that breed confidence???? And Coach Julien was already talking about the Bruins in the cup finals... glad to see he was outcoached badly last night. Boy is Martin schooling him.

So the two areas where most pundits did actually give the advantage to Montreal -- goaltending and coaching -- comes off big for Game 1. I know Chara is a wanted man in Montreal and it's probably a good idea to take some extra precautions, but this isn't like J.F.K. going to Dallas. Lake Placid? They can go to Lake Placid all they want in about 10 days time when Boston pulls their golf clubs out of storage.

So now the Bruins with all the pressure already on their shoulders, have to contend psychologically with losing the first game at home, losing home ice advantage, running away to Lake Placid for their Montreal games and having Carey Price bore deeper and deeper into their collective heads. This could snowball very quickly.

Me and my bud, we loved it when we watched that Gionta shot find its way through Thomas at the end of the 3rd to seal the deal. But what we loved even more was the reaction of one Boston fan in a grey hoodie, who stood up and gave the Seinfeld-esque "ehhh" hand gesture/wave, got up and left. Boy, 500 bucks at least for that seat... and he doesn't even stay the full 60 minutes?

It's only one game with still lots to go. But Martin and his team have to feel satisfied with their performance last night. Maybe a bit more of an offensive thrust and things will hopefully continue this way.

Game 2 in Boston is this Saturday at 7pm.

The Habs know that Boston will come at them tomorrow night in a way they did previously when they become desperate. The Habs, extremely well-coached, will hopefully rise above the fray and let the Bruins beat themselves by taking bad penalties. We'll see what transpires. Going home to Montreal with a 2-0 series lead would be a lot to ask for. But...


Meanwhile, the Sabres beat the Flyers last night in Philly. Skill over braun my friends (I think I'm going to start making t-shirts with this). With all of their scoring punch, the Flyers were also shutout last night. Ryan Miller -- you know he's up to the challenge. Meanwhile with the shady goaltending and no Chris Pronger, suddenly the Flyers don't look as good as they used to.

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