After two games in beantown, the Montreal Canadiens are up 2-0 on the rival Bruins. If you would have told a lot of pundits that this would be the score after two games they would have laughed at you.
The Bruins were too big. Tim Thomas has been too dominant all year long. Zdeno Chara is a tree of a man that simply can’t be cut down (although like a tree he needs plenty of water).
The Habs were too soft and too small. They’ve got an anchor for a first line center and have holes throughout their lineup.
Like most instances in hockey, the “pundits” and “experts” were wrong. Very, very wrong.
The Canadiens have managed to expose some major holes within the Bruins lineup, while many of Boston’s top players simply haven’t met expectations.
With the series heading back to la Belle Province, now would be a good time to look at the Good, the Bad and the Ugly from the first two games.
I could go in a lot of directions here. Firstly, and it goes without saying, Carey Price has been absolutely stellar. His positioning has been perfect and he’s been gobbling up almost every puck sent his direction.
Secondly, Thomas Plekanec has been the best shutdown centerman of the playoffs thus far. The Bruins top line has been completely stifled by the Habs best forward. David Krejci, Nathan Horton, and Milan Lucic haven’t produced any offense and it’s mainly due to Plekanec’s constant forecheck.
Lars Eller has also been very strong so far. He’s not taking penalties, he’s controlling the puck down low and has been relentless on the forecheck. He’s showing signs of maturity and is demonstrating that he’s capable of assuming a top six role down the road.
Surprisingly, Scott Gomez has also been very good in the first two games. He has suddenly remembered how to play defense and is once again creating offense for the his line mates. He’s a plus 1, he’s has two takeaways and four blocked shots. If he keeps this up, Habs fans will quickly forget the horrid season he just went through.
Finally, and only because I’m trying to stay brief, James Wisniewski has stepped up his game tremendously since the second season has started. What’s impressed me most about Wisniewski is his ability to lead the rush. If you watch him attentively throughout a game you’ll notice his ability to consistently get the puck to a player in motion. His passes have been precise and crisp. Wisniewski has been the engine behind the teams attack and the architect behind its most successful rushes up the ice.
Boston’s attack has been utterly terrible throughout the first two games. Despite all their efforts, and an intense practice which focused on attacking the net, the Bruins have failed to create traffic in front of Carey Price. The Habs have managed to keep the much bigger Boston forwards to the outside by maintaining a very tight defensive system which hinges on the forwards coming back to support the defense corps.
Tim Thomas has been horrible throughout the first two games. Thomas has been fighting the puck since the opening faceoff and seems to have lost his confidence. The insurance goal from game one was a stinker while all three goals in game two came off rebounds that Thomas couldn’t control. If the Bruins are too have chance of getting back into this series, they need Thomas to play like Thomas.
Also, Claude Julien has been completely out coached thus far. Julien has been unable to keep his top line away from Plekanec and there’s no excuse for it when you’ve got home ice advantage.
The Habs have to stay disciplined if they are to win two more games. They did a good job keeping their composure throughout the first two, despite the efforts of Lucic and Horton who continuously tried to bate the Canadiens players into fighting. If the Habs stray away from the system and fall into the thuggery trap, they’ll be in trouble.