The NHL goes to the movies: Grumpy Old Men
Would anyone have thought the Detroit-Columbus series would be about 15-year veteran Chris Osgood vs. rookie Steve Mason? Well, maybe. But more likely it was Mason first and his teammates second vs. Detroit’s skaters first and Osgood second.
But in the Blue Jackets first post-season game ever, Osgood, one of the worst netminders statistically during the regular season this year, proved he’s got something – or nothing – to prove against the wunderkind Mason.
It was only Game 1, but the questions surrounding Osgood look to be answered. The last goalie in the NHL to wear a helmet and cage stopped 13 Columbus shots in the first, including two big saves during an early Columbus onslaught that saw the Blue Jackets outshoot the Red Wings 7-1. He went on to stop 19 of 20 as Detroit shut down Columbus over the final 40 minutes.
After a spirited, scoreless first period, things settled in to where most pundits saw the series going: Detroit dominating – up 3-1 after two periods – with the Wings’ depth of skill just too much for the Jackets to handle. Osgood looked great; Mason like a deer in the playoff headlights.
The result was a 4-1 Detroit victory and if things play out as they looked in Game 1, the Blue Jackets will be repeating the mantra ‘You have to lose before you win’ when reflecting on their first-ever post-season, in about a week.
Meanwhile in Boston, things couldn’t have been more different, and more the same.
In the 32nd playoff instalment of the Canadiens and Bruins, the series was also about an old goalie – Boston’s 35-year-old Tim Thomas – and a young goalie – Montreal’s 21-year-old sophomore Carey Price.
Beginning with Rene Rancourt’s rousing renditions of the Canadian and U.S. national anthems, the Habs – and their few fans in the TD Banknorth Garden – looked nervous, while the Bruins collectively bounced on the blueline.
A spirited, physical affair saw the Bruins ahead 2-1 midway through the second period. The much-anticipated Milan Lucic vs. Mike Komisarek battle was on, but not too front and center. However, Georges Laraque vs. Zdeno Chara was with the big Frenchman skating on a line with Canadiens captain Saku Koivu and sniper Alex Kovalev, making room for the two skill players.
Speaking of Kovalev, Montreal fans must have been wondering where the mercurial Russian was until…boom, he arrived with a one-time, game-tying slapshot from the top of the right faceoff circle to the top corner of the Boston net off a broken play at the Bruins’ blueline; Kovalev’s 10th goal in his past 11 games.
With the game tied 2-2 halfway through the third period, Montreal was dominating. But it was Chara – the NHL’s hardest shooter – who slammed home a power play, game-winning slapper at 11:15 of the third period in a 4-2 Boston victory that looked like something out of the fight-filled 1970s by game’s end.
The tone has been set in both of these series. The Blue Jackets have a lot of work ahead of them, just to avoid a sweep. And the Canadiens will need a win in Boston Saturday night to have any hope of repeating their 2008 first round victory over the Bruins.
And, yes. The grumpy old men in the nets won the battles on Thursday night.
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