Saturday, 3 May 2014

Game Two - EC Semi Finals: Habs vs. Bruins


- Thornton took five good strides in an attempt to destroy Subban who saw the hit coming at the last minute to duck away. Thornton it appears, hit his knee and went down in great pain. Helped down the tunnel it sure looked like Thornton turned back and yelled out to his teammates "get him!". Huge loss for Boston. Huge.

- Habs excellent checking so far, severely limiting the Bruins ability to generate scoring chances or any semblance of momentum. Fans getting restless in the stands.

- And now Hamilton takes another dumb Boston penalty. The intermission did nothing to straighten this team out in the head.

- Another blast by Subban, another redeflect by Vanek to put the Habs up by the dreaded two goals. The Habs taking advantage of their powerplays, benefits from Boston's utter lack of composure.

- Thornton returns to the bench. But will he play is another question.

- Thornton takes a shift. Now I'm seriously wondering now much of that injury was pain, and how much was theatre.

- Habs have played a pretty much perfect third period. A fine balance of aggressive checking and taking advantage of offensive opportunities when presented. They have been far and away the better team the first 10 minutes. But 10 long minutes lay ahead.

- Ah, the dreaded two goal lead, the Bruins' Hamilton again scoring off a point shot from the middle with a heavy screen. Markov and Emelin not helping much. 3-2.

- Bruins really pushing here, Habs hanging on for dear life. This isn't going to finish well, methinks.

- Bouillon redeflects the second puck into his own net this game. Wow. We're tied.

- Utter zone chaos, Smith scores, passing lanes too open, Bruins take lead.

- Lucic the empty netter. A totally disheartening result, given how the Habs were seemingly in total control with less than 10 minutes left, and then everything just went south. The pucks, which had mainly bounced in the Habs favor, started bouncing heavily in Boston's direction. But that's hockey. Still, the Habs come away with a split, which is a good thing. But oh ... so ... close ... to a 2-0 series lead. Two days off to regain composure, and come up with some sort of a solution to address the Bruins complete domination 5v5 .


- Mad scramble in Bruins zone, Gallagher and Prust blow two certain scoring opportunities, but Weaver comes in to finish the play. Chance originated from a poor Marchand giveaway. That seems to be the big theme today - turnovers. Tie game.

- Pretty determined start by the Habs this period - dominating shot clock, and generating turnovers.

- Bruins again getting nabbed for bad penalties. It doesn't take much to make this team lose its cool.

- Habs have turned the tables on Boston this period, generating lots of neutral zone turnovers.

- Listless. The definition of Vanek and his linemates. Maybe a shakeup is necessary sooner rather than later.

- Bruins have totally found their game and are focusing in on the lead. Habs are as back on their heels as you can stretch, but Price is holding firm.

- The Vanek situation is bordering on absurd. He just shot a puck that probably didn't clock faster than 40kh. He's clearly injured. Upper body or something - but he's doing absolutely nothing right now. If he's hurt, it's pointless to play him, period.

- Carey Price is putting on quite the show. Remarkable goaltending here. Some of the finest I've ever seen.

- Okay, the Vanek comment. Nevermind I guess. 2-1 as Habs take advantage of a powerplay.

- And now Bruins take a bench minor for mouthing off. They're a mental case right now - completely off their game. Exactly what we talked about leading into their series. 

- Campbell with a frustration slash on Price at the period buzzer. How the heck that wasn't called is beyond me. But that's Boston Bruin hockey, I guess.

- Wild period. Habs came out and dominated centre ice, creating turnovers and eventually tying the game. Then the Bruins caught fire after getting a powerplay, but some heroic play by Price kept them from scoring. Frustrated, the Bruins then took a series of poor penalties, and the Habs mostly dysfunctional powerplay finally struck gold. Like game one, Bruins are dominating play, but their attitude and psyche have become their mortal enemies. We've talked about this quite a bit, but a team this good develops a sense of entitlement, and when things don't go your way, when the game becomes unfair, you lose it mentally. Habs, astoundingly, may come out of this with a 2-0 series lead. But 20 very long minutes await.


- Habs will go with the same lines, just the one already-noted switcheroo - Bournival will take the place of Moen on the 4th line.

- Looks like Matt Barkowski, who visibly struggled with the speedy Habs forwards, and committed the holding penalty which led to the Subban game winner, is a scratch today. Andrej Meszaros will take his spot on the Bruins 3rd d-line.

- Bruins retaliate right off the bat. This is exactly the opposite of what they need to do.

- Emelin dives and draws the Habs a powerplay. Subban seemingly cut in the hand but is on the ice again.

- Mostly disorganized powerplay, hurt because Habs couldn't start Markov/Subban off the bat.  Briere didn't help much with weak feeds back to the line that were easily intercepted.

- Habs with two iffy calls to set up Bruins 5-on-3. Gorges and Weaver blocking machines to kill it. Huge, huge kill. Should give Habs a huge lift.

- Habs forwards being much more diligent with their backcheck. Bruins are visibly frustrated.

- Habs have to be quicker moving the puck through the neutral zone. It bites them again as Gionta coughs up the puck, and on the fierce Bruins transition, Paille buries a slot chance. 1-0.

- Paille goal also came as a result of wide open passing lanes. Prust didn't cover his territory, and was immediately yanked for a shift by Therrien. Messages are being sent, but will the players recognize and perform their defensive duties?

- I guess that's the (one of the few) advantages of dump and chase. Hamilton nailed for interference on Paxioretty.

- Habs powerplay passing just not on today. Passes are either behind or in feet.

- Subban and Chara are sent off, which benefits the Habs as P.K. was on the end of a two minute shift.

- Well that wasn't pretty. Bruins got to play the game on their terms, and again dominated. Habs forwards must do more to come back to stifle the passing lanes. Montreal also really struggling to engage their transition, which is resulting in far too many turnovers or possession surrenders. Anyway, the Habs best players must engage. Pacioretty and Vanek need to do something or the Habs have a long afternoon ahead.


Okay, as we know, there hasn't been much time between game one and two of this series, so we're going to preview in point form today, a lot of it an extenuation of what we noted following the conclusion of the first match.

- Travis Moen, who struggled to keep pace, is a scratch today in favor of the younger, speedier and probably healthier Michael Bournival. While I luvs Travis to death, it's the right move. Moen's purpose was to check and contain - his lack of speed meant he wasn't doing much of either.

- I don't expect a whole lot different from the Bruins today, given that they did as much as a team could possibly do to win, but still lose. The only significant adjustment I think we'll see is Boston forwards being more aggressive around the crease, trying to disrupt Carey Price as much as possible. In light of this, I thought (more accurately feared) that Therrien would go with the "more physical" Doug Murray today, although it now appears that the Habs will continue to play the same defensive sets.

- Habs by comparison, will need to make many more adjustments than their adversaries. Aside from working off the so-called rust, Habs forwards must do a better positional job bottling up the passing lanes during Bruins rushes. Boston had more than a handful of stellar scoring chances on Price because they were able to so freely pass the puck north/south during a rush or transition.

In addition to protecting lanes, the forwards must also be more aware of not turning the puck over in the neutral zone. Daniel Briere was a big culprit Thursday night, committing two relatively soft giveaways near the red line, one of which directly to Boston's 2nd goal. I'm hoping the addition of Bournival improves the situation.

Finally, the Habs will really need to get offense from the guys who are expected to deliver. The Desharnais line has faced some fierce checking by its opponents (which in part has allowed the Eller line - the Habs best of the post-season to date, the luxury of weaker defensive opponents). If the Habs top line produces, this team becomes incredibly difficult to beat.

- Goaltending: Tuuka Rask, by his own admission, wasn't great Thursday night. But then that's the story with Rask when facing the Habs, isn't it? He'll have to elevate his game somehow, because right now, he's getting his clock cleaned by the guy on the other end of the rink.

- Frustration: As this blog noted not only heading into game one, but leading up to the playoffs, the Bruins are an emotionally fragile team burdened by a sense of entitlement. Winning teams are often this way. When you go out and expect to win, and things don't go your way, you get mad. And then you start doing stupid things. The Bruins were clearly a rattled bunch Thursday night, their frustration not so much vented by taking dumb penalties, but in finishing scoring opportunities. Carey Price's brilliance was clearly getting into the heads of many Boston forwards as the game progressed, which didn't help the Bruins finishing close to a dozen golden scoring opportunities.

Anyway, expect an even more intense game today, if that's even possible, because the Bruins can ill-afford to go to Montreal down two games in the series. The pressure is firmly on Boston, and today's game will give us a pretty good glimpse as to whether this team has the mental capacity to advance to the Stanley Cup Final.

Puck drops (ugh) at 12:40, EST.

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