Playoff Hab-It: April 15th, 2011


Getting The Best Of The Bruins

It’s no secret that once the Canadiens got the lead early in the first period of last night’s game, coach Jacques Martin would get his boys to hang on for dear life. The Habs were incredible along the boards, and did a fantastic job closing up the mid-ice lane for the majority of the game.

That being said, if not for the absolute brilliance of Canadiens’ netminder Carey Price, the outcome may have been much different. With the dominance in the faceoff circle by the Boston Bruins, they seemed to have the puck continuously for extended periods of time. Price did a great job keeping rebounds to a minimum, thus reducing second chance opportunities for the Bruins.

Julien Got The Best of Martin

With the aforementioned face-off and puck possession dominance by the boys in Black and Gold, it was child’s play for Bruins’ coach Claude Julien to control the match-ups during the first game of this best -of-seven series. With the Canadiens’ inability to control face-offs and establish puck possession, Jacques Martin could not get the match-ups he would have preferred and was stuck trusting his wards to do their best under the circumstances.

On multiple occasions, the Habs’ fourth line was caught facing off against the second line of the Bruins, and power forward extraordinaire Milan Lucic. Players like Lars Eller, David Desharnais and Tom Pyatt, who were physically outmatched by the more physical Bruins, played a big man’s game, and were wonderful when called upon.

Take It Outside Boys

It seemed, at least for tonight, that the Bruins were forced to initiate their offense from the perimeter. Their inability to gain a net-front presence against Montreal’s defense core had them change their game plan that had worked so well in the last two meetings between these teams in Boston.

All that not-withstanding , it remains that, other than the shots taken from the outside by Boston’s perennial Norris Trophy candidate Zdeno Chara, the majority of the Bruins’ shots fired on the Canadiens’ net were not very strong.

Am I Being Too Critical?

You can call it nit picking, or anything else you want, but, as a coach myself, the game plan executed by the Canadiens yesterday left my heart palpitating at many junctures of the game. There were a ton of little things I spotted during Thursday’s game, that could have easily resulted in scoring opportunities for Boston.

I would have loved to see a more concerted effort by the centres on the Canadiens in the face-off circle. On too many occasions, they tried to win draws cleanly, and got beat by Patrice Bergeron and company. As a centreman, you must be able to identify why you are losing so many draws and adjust.

Players like Plekanec and Gomez try too often to keep their hands high on the shaft of their stick, in order to try and control the puck off the draw. If that is resulting in continuous loses at the dot, perhaps it would be smart to try tying up your opponent, and winning draws with your feet instead.

Then, there are the many attempts to clear the zone by the Habs. On multiple occasions, after winning battles along the boards, players were chipping the pucks up the half-wall weakly, allowing the Bruins to maintain possession in the defensive zone. The Canadiens must be better at clearing their own zone. Given the previously mentioned ineptness at face-offs, it’s important they generate offense in transition, and must be better.

Et Cetera

Be sure to check out the gang at Causeway Crowd. They are sure to be critical of their Bruins, although I found they played a very good game.

While this series in ongoing, you may want to catch Gresh and Zolak on CBS Boston Radio between 10:00 AM and 2:00 PM, as well as Tony Marinaro on the Team 990 between 10AM and Noon. They have had a friendly feud brewing since the hit by Zdeno Chara on Max Pacioretty. It’s radio at its best.

Too Many Men On The Site will round up everything happening in the NHL.