Monday, 12 May 2014

Game Six - EC Semi Finals: Bruins vs. Habs


Oh, Andrei. You know we love you to death, but we can't possible condone the stickwork with a clear conscience. We know you're just settling a few scores, but that's the wrong way of doing it. Enter, the GREAT Dale Weise:

See Andrei? That's how you give the Bruins a taste of their own medicine: With sardonic and sarcastic delight.

Montreal 4, Boston 0:


- Don't say we haven't been begging for Murray to be mothballed, but the evidence is kinda really in: Beaulieu's possession tonight, 77%. Murray's this series? 29%.

- Start to this period will be critical - Habs must maintain their composure, and also their forecheck. They played an exceptionally sound game in their zone Game 3, if they can replicate that for 20 more minutes, the Bruins will have an almost unclimbable hill. 

- Here come the Bruins. Price needs that A game more than ever.

- Habs aggressive in the neutral zone, this is what they need to do. Also hustling back hard to break up Bruins rushes.

- Beaulieu with a tremendous shot block, that has him smarting. Possibly saved a goal.

- Doug Hamilton very, very lucky for not getting called for delay after taking out the Boston goal on a Habs 3-on-1 rush. Officials determined to give Boston every possible benefit of the doubt, here. 

- Habs playing an excellent third, the Bruins are basically throwing caution to the wind, desperately trying to generate a goal. It's resulting in many great chances for the Habs off the rush. Habs defense very sound, calm, composed, and effective. 10 long minutes still left, though.  We haven't forgotten Game 2.

- Desharnais may not have scored in a long while, but he makes a remarkable diving play to somehow keep the puck out of the net. That's an incredible athletic play by Desharnais to keep the Bruins off the board.

- Short change really benefiting the Habs this period in protecting their zone.

- As time winds down in the 3rd, Habs have to be extra aware of Bruins taking cheap shots with intent to injure.

- Vanek with the empty netter. Habs will play one more night.

- Now, and this is very important, the Canadiens must avoid all physical contact, all Boston attempts to hit cheap and/or dirty. Tonight's lineup will be Wednesday night's lineup, for all the marbles.

- Here comes the Bruins goon show. Skate away guys, skate away.

- And so we go to Game 7. Habs played an excellent elimination game - did everything right, and were aided by good bounces, both in scoring, and in Boston not scoring, especially earlier in the game. Key moments was the Habs holding steady after getting caught in their zone, with Gorges running a 3 minute shift. The other was a shift by the Briere line with 6 minutes left in the second period, which really stunted the Bruins' momentum, and in retrospect, caused the period to flip completely in the Habs favor, where they were able to extend their scoreboard lead from 1, to 3-0.

I cannot envision Therrrien changing his lineup Wednesday. Tonight, the team clicked. Beaulieu was just fine, thank you very, very much. This is the team that will either live, or die, in 48 hours.

I'll say it now. The winner Wednesday night will play in the Stanley Cup Final. So hold on. It's going to be intense.


- Glorious missed chances off the powerplay. Really should be 2-0. Bounces ominously not going Habs way.

- Bruins powerplay apparently only making a game 5 appearance.

- Subban comes out of the box, and long change catches the Habs badly, the Bruins hemming them in their zone for nearly two straight minutes, with Montreal pinned 3 defenseman. Exhausted, they can't clear. Bruins push hard, but Canadiens somehow manage to win the puck and clear the zone.

- Bruins with a strong 2nd, real bounce-back period. But they're failing to capitalize on great chances, Marchand, Lucic both missing sure-fire scoring chances. Again, we have to wonder if frustration will set in on that Boston bench?

- Habs defense doing long-bomb zone clearances, which is not only a bad sign, but it's essentially automatically surrendering puck possession. This cannot be sustained. The Bruins will keep coming back and pounding the puck deep. Eventually they will score, unless and until the Habs are able to regather their composure, and focus on clearing their zone while maintaining possession.

- Habs 4th line with a solid shift, able to generate a couple of turnovers, able to outpossess the Bruins. This is critical in turning the momentum tide, which is right now, firmly with Boston. Canadiens should be focused on finishing the 2nd period aggressively, the opportunity at hand to generate some separation heading to the final frame.

- And there we have it. Beaulieu with time, a fine long pass that takes a crazy bounce, Pacioretty outskates Rask to the puck, and finally, finally scores. This is huge. Mega huge. 2-0.

- And Vanek makes it 3-0 on the powerplay. Bounces again going the Habs way. But really, he and Desharnais and Pacioretty have finally delivered on the promise. And the Habs are now in great shape forcing this to a game 7.

- That shift by the Habs 4th line with 6 minutes left was a real game changer. Depending on how this game pans out, and possibly Wednesday night, it could be a series changer. We'll see.


- Welp, I must admit I had a bad feeling heading into Saturday night, much much better feeling heading into tonight. But that's just my gut feeling at this point.

- Therrien not holding back, putting in Briere, pulling out Moen. He's looking to outscore, outspeed the Bruins tonight. The physical stuff is shelved. There's nothing more to be gained from "outhitting" this Bruins opponent.

- Gio better shake her hand.

- Prust gets the honor. Here's hoping he gets a better result tonight.

- Firsr huge break of the night. Miller with terrible misplay behind his net. Eller capitalizes. Can the Habs keep building on this bounce?

- Tremendous start for Montreal . Forecheck very resembling of game 3. Bruins basically in retreat trying to weather the storm.

- Desharnais line comes within a hair of making it 2-0. Lots of fire in their belly so far. Best looking they've appeared this series.

- Habs winning most of the puck battles firing shots on Rask at every angle. No way they can sustain this pace over 60 minutes, though.

- Julien in a tough spot. Therrien matching Desharnais line against Bartkowski and Miller, wit the last change. Bruins may be forced to over play their top 4.

- unbelievable PK for the Habs, highlighted by an astonishing shift by Emelin. Boston in total disarray. Probably the best kill of the season. Right there.

- Game settling a bit, but it's still one of the best periods this team has played all year.

- Siren goes to end the period, Bruins attempt to sucker the Habs behind their net, but Hamilton is the only one penalized with a vicious cross on Plekanec. Habs will have man advantage to start the 2nd. 

- Habs looked good. Great even. Early period checking was near perfection, and surprisingly physical. Boston, even knowing their opponents were going to come out hard, looked a little shellshocked the first 10 minutes. Game settled down somewhat, officials let a lot of nasty stickwork go, most of it committed by Boston. The only area that looked weak for the Habs was puck control in their own zone - too many clunky and unforced turnovers, a couple of which generated some pretty high percentage scoring chances on Price. Still, there's no way the Habs can't be happy with the result. The only big question is, can they maintain this vigor and pace all the way to the finish line? If they somehow can, they'll be in great shape to force a game 7. Huge if, though.


Need motivation? Well, you can start with this:

Need more? About about this:

Or if that still isn't enough, maybe a bit of this:

Ladies and gents, the Boston Bruins, in all of their bush-league, arrogant glory. 

It's all pretty simple at this point for hockey fans in Montreal. Lose, or go home. The Canadiens face elimination for the first time this season, as they take on the Bruins at the Bell Centre.

Right now, a betting man wouldn't dare touch the Habs. After Thursday's devastating 1-0 OT loss, and Saturday's listless 4-2 defeat, the Bruins look to be unstoppable.

But ... there remains hope. Not much. But some.

The crux of the Habs hopes focuses on a couple of late Game 5 incidents, both very similar in nature. First, Milan Lucic, with his team holding a comfortable lead (apparently) started taunting P.K. Subban with a series of arm flexes. With 4 minutes left in the game, Shawn Thornton, who earlier in the series attempted to fake injury after hitting his knee against a dodging Subban, sprayed the Canadiens defenseman with water to his face as he was skating by the Boston bench during play. The spray cost Thornton a $2,800 fine, a mere pittance for an NHL regular.

While the League seems unwilling to take meaningful action against such classless behavior, those two acts were noted, and have been talked about by Habs players and coaches alike since Sunday morning. They were acts brazen with arrogance, committed by a team that believes that it's above the law of the League. To a great extent, that's true. The National Hockey League continues to look the other way, even though Boston consistantly acts very, very badly on the ice and their bench.

So there's a score to be settled. The question is, does this Habs team have the gumption to put Boston back in a humbler place?

While no official lineup changes have been announced, there's been lots of speculation today that the Habs will start the young Nathan Beaulieu, in place of the screamingly incompetent Doug Murray. It would be a bold move, especially considering that it would be Beaulieu's very first post-season game of his life, and against the Habs' fiercest rival in a do-or-die contest. This isn't tossing Beaulieu into the deep end. It's tossing him into the Mariana Trench.

Still, the logistics do make sense. Paired next to Mike Weaver, who's had an excellent series as a shot blocker and defensive defenseman, Beaulieu's specialty leans towards possession and transition. Weaver can do his job stopping pucks, Beaulieu can do his moving them.

Ultimately, we won't know for great certainty if Beaulieu will start until warmups.

Otherwise, the ongoing story continues to be the lack of production by the players who everyone assumed would produce. Once again, all eyes will be on Max Pacioretty and Thomas Vanek, the former who has but just one goal in 9 playoff games, the later who's posting the worst possession numbers among all - that's right - all Habs players, except for Doug Murray.

Other players to watch out for include Thomas Plekanec, who had a string of disastrous shifts Saturday night that contributed directly to the Habs loss. Meanwhile, fans are growing increasingly impatient again with the performances delivered by Rene Bourque, who just two weeks ago was playing like a Conn Smythe candidate, but against the season, has looked like the usual, listless, unproductive, regular season self.

This 6th game of the series won't be easy.  Carey Price will have to play extraordinary well, even by his standards. There is much more pressure on the Habs tonight, especially against a Bruins team that seems to be strutting with great confidence.

But there's a fine line between confidence and arrogance. With the Bruins, it's especially thin. This is a team that tends to fray very quickly when things don't go their way.

Tonight, the ghosts must make their presence felt. The Habs need the benefit of some luck if they have any hopes of playing Wednesday, one final time, against the despised Bruins.

Puck drops at 7:40 EST. For perhaps the last time until October.

4:45 P.M. EST UPDATE: Beaulieu is IN tonight, according to TVA.

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