BROSSARD, Que. – The mind games have begun in the Boston-Montreal playoff series.
Canadiens coach Michel Therrien said Monday his team won’t be put off by what he feels are the Bruins attempts to plant a seed of doubt in goalie Carey Price’s head.
Or by what he feels is Bruins’ coach Claude Julien’s bid to catch a break from the referees.
“It’s something they’ve tried in the past,” said Therrien, whose team emerged from the opening two games in Boston tied 1-1 in the best-of-seven Eastern Conference semifinal. “We all remember in the (2013) Stanley Cup final when they talked about (Chicago goalie) Corey Crawford and how he was giving up goals glove side.
“It’s a part of their strategy. It’s the same thing with Claude’s comments, how they had to deal with penalties—which I find they’re coming out of pretty well. They’re trying to influence the decisions of the officials. These are the Boston Bruins. It’s always been like this and it won’t change. It doesn’t seem to be affecting my players and, as far as I’m concerned, it doesn’t affect me.”
Game 3 is set for Tuesday night at what will no doubt be for the Bruins a loud and hostile Bell Centre.
Bruins defencemen Dougie Hamilton and Torey Krug have suggested the key to beating Price is to shoot high, particularly when they have traffic in front of the net.
“We’ve definitely noticed that when he’s screened, he’s looking low and he gets really low,” Hamilton said on Sunday. “I think we can score a lot of goals up high.”
That drew a shrug from Price.
“I’ve seen a lot of scouting reports on lots of goalies throughout the league and that’s pretty much the scouting report on everybody,” he said. “It’s the same for (Boston goalie) Tuukka Rask, it’s the same for me, it’s the same for Ben Bishop, it’s the same for Corey Crawford. It’s a pretty irrelevant comment, I thought.”
Price insists he wasn’t doing a little toying of his own with the Bruins’ minds when he said they were lucky after Boston’s comeback 5-3 win in Game 2. The Bruins erased a 3-1 deficit in the final 9:04 of the third period to even the series.
Two goals beat Price high, although one went off Francis Bouillon’s stick and another—the tying goal by Patrice Bergeron—skipped off the ice and shot up under the crossbar.
“A puck that hits nothing and goes top shelf? That’s pretty lucky in my opinion,” said Price.
But he also said: “They did a pretty good job of getting to the net. They’re a very big, battling team and they’re experienced. They know what it takes to score goals in the playoffs. We’re going to have to do a better job of finding a way to see the puck.”
Not just the high shots, he added.
“Like I said, it’s a pretty general statement at this time of year. If you look at all the goals that are scored throughout the playoffs, probably 30 per cent of them are tips and 50 per cent of them are screens and the other 10 (per cent) are just clean shots.”
Price has been solid in the series, allowing seven goals on 85 shots in two games, including several big saves on close-in chances. The Bruins had Montreal hemmed in its zone for long stretches of both games.
Canadiens winger Brendan Gallagher said that if the goalie who backstopped Canada to gold at the Winter Olympics in February has a blind spot, he’s yet to find it during practices.
“I’ve been shooting on him for two years now and I’ve yet to find a weakness, so I don’t know if they’ve (found) one,” said Gallagher. “In our minds, he’s the best goalie in the world and he shows that every night.”
However they go in, the Canadiens want to concede fewer of them on home ice.
Therrien will have last line change, so he’ll be able to match his best checkers and defencemen against Boston’s top threats and perhaps keep possession of the puck a little longer.
The Canadiens certainly want the puck in Boston’s end of the ice more than it was in the first two games.
“It starts with our forecheck and possession of the puck through the neutral zone,” said winger Brian Gionta. “When we’re doing that right we can get our guys in there to press their defence into making quicker decisions.
“They don’t come out as clean and therefore they don’t come into our end as clean. We were doing that for the most part of Game 2.”
Therrien would not comment on potential lineup changes. Rene Bourque missed practice with a flu, so the lines weren’t entirely clear, but it appeared that rugged winger Brandon Prust may be scratched as he skated with the so-far unused George Parros.
It looks like rookie Michael Bournival, promoted to the second line with Gallagher and Tomas Plekanec during Game 2, will stay there.
And big Douglas Murray skated with Mike Weaver on the third defence pair. That could bump Bouillon to the pressbox.
The Canadiens insisted they were happy to leave Boston with a split of the series even though they had a lead snatched away that could have had them up 2-0.
Therrien is glad his power play has found its range with four goals on nine chances, but wants his team to be better at even strength, where Boston has outscored them 7-3.
“I didn’t hate the way we played,” he said. “But there are aspects of our game we need to improve. We’re all aware of it.”