The early games last night featured a pair of top seeds facing the two eight seeds and the results, while predictable, still uncovered some interesting benchmarks for the future of these two series.
In Montreal, the Canadiens continued their domination of the Bruins this season, doing so with a relentless offensive attack and the willingness of skill players such as Tomas Plekanec, Alex Kovalev and the Kostitsyn brothers to play physical and forecheck.
The fact both Andrei and Sergei Kostitsyn scored within the first five minutes of the game certainly answered any questions regarding how the young pair would handle NHL playoff hockey, but the one issue which is far from settled is the play of rookie goalkeeper Carey Price.
Now this is a glass-half-full-half-empty scenario. True, Price gave up just one goal in Montreal’s 4-1 victory. But if Boston wants to make a series of this thing, the Bruins must forget everything coach Claude Julien taught them this year; everything that helped an underdog team scratch out a playoff berth when their most gifted offensive player (Patrice Bergeron) missed most of the season with a concussion. That is, the Bruins must throw the kitchen sink at Price.
In Game 1, Price was rarely tested, facing only 18 shots and benefiting from the fact the B’s couldn’t put a lot of their attempts on net (a combination of Habs shot blocking and Boston ineptness).
Price definitely looked nervous before his first-ever NHL playoff game and Boston must get to him somehow in Game 2, because his first playoff game on the road in Game 3 must be as intimidating as possible if the Bruins have any shot in this series.
Meanwhile, in Detroit, the Red Wings bested the Predators 3-1, but the star of the game was another freshman netminder making his first post-season start. Nashville’s Dan Ellis is seven years older than the 20-year-old Price, but the pressure was all the same.
The fact the Preds went down had nothing to do with goaltending, but rather the fact Detroit played one of the most fundamentally sound and positionally perfect games you’ll ever see. The Preds rarely got a sniff at Dominik Hasek and Detroit’s pedigree may just be too much in this series.
There was no more perfect an example of this than in the second period when Nashville’s Brandon Bochenski made a go of a loose puck squirting into Detroit territory. Bochenski was greeted first by Chris Chelios, then Nicklas Lidstrom en route to Hasek, who never had to even consider the possibility the attacker would get anywhere near him with the puck.
If you’re counting, that’s three future Hall of Famers between a Predator and a scoring chance. And that’s a pretty good microcosm of the game right there.
Now Nashville, like Boston, will have its best chance in Game 3, when the series heads back to Tennessee for some home cooking. But the chances of an experienced Red Wings team getting nervous is pretty much laughable.
Can Montreal make the same claim about Price yet?
THN.com’s Playoff Blogs, featuring analysis and opinion on the action from the night before, with insight on what happened and what it all means going forward, will appear daily throughout the NHL playoffs. Read more entries HERE.
Ryan Kennedy is a writer and copy editor for The Hockey News magazine, the co-author of the book Hockey’s Young Guns and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog appears Wednesdays and his features, The Hot List and Year of the Ram, appears Tuesday and Thursday, respectively.
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