MORAL VICTORY FOR HABS


If nothing else, the 8th-place Montreal Canadiens proved they could keep up with the 1st-place Boston Bruins.

Indeed, over the first 40-minutes of last night’s game at the Boston Garden, the Habs were arguabley the better team.  However, hockey is a 60-minute game.  And the Bruins were the better club over the final 10 minutes, scoring the winner and adding an empty-netter in a 4-2, opening-game win over the Canadiens in this first-round playoff series.

True, the Habs found themselves down 2-0 in this hockey game.  However, they refused to fold their tents.  And goals by Chris Higgins and Alex Kovalev tied this one up after two periods.  But, with Josh Gorges, a solid citizen for the Habs up until this point, in the penalty box, big Zdeno Chara fired a 60-footer to beat Carey Price with what proved to be the winning goal.

Higgins?  Here’s a guy who can’t seem to hit the broad side of a barn.  But put him at an impossible angle, and he’ll put the puck in the net, as he did against Tim Thomas.  Kovalev?  Another patented goal from no. 27: from his wrong wing at the faceoff circle.

Yes, something to build on for the Montreal Canadiens.  Trouble is, if they don’t build on it, and fast, they are in a heap of trouble.

Because if the Habs fail to beat the Bruins tomorrow night in Boston, they will go down 2-0 in this series.  Bad enough.  It also means they would have to win four of the next five games to take this playoff matchup.  And that ain’t gonna happen.

Can you say “Must Win?”

Bob Gainey showed nothing new at practice today, which means you can expect to see Georges Laraque on a line with Kovalev and Saku Koivu, which was the case for most of game one.  And you can also expect to see Alex Tanguay, the usual third on that line, playing with Glen Metropolit and Higgins.  To Tanguay’s credit, he adjusted well with his new linemates, and the three of them came together to form Montreal’s most effective unit. But, for my money, I want Tanguay back with Kovalev and Kovivu.

I have no problem with Laraque in the lineup.  In fact, he put together a commendable 13 minutes of ice time.  But give him two other forwards to play with: not Kovalev and Koivu.

The big problem plaguing the Canadiens up front is the  continued uninspired play of the so-called second line of Tomas Plekanec, Andrei Kostitsyn and Matt D’Agostini.  Plekanec was talking the talk going into this series; how he was going to turn his game around after a tremendously disappointing regular season.  But, after 60 minutes of playoff hockey, he looks like the same player who failed to answer the bell in post-season play last season.

In other words, he continues to play “like a little girl,” as he so aptly put it when asked to assess his play in the post season last year.

Bob Gainey says Plekanec will have to find it within himself to elevate his level of play, as soon as he hits bottom.

You mean he isn’t there yet?!

Carey Price was good last night, but he needs to be better than good.  Good doesn’t win you hockey games in the playoffs.  Good doesn’t win you a series.  He needs to be great.  Yes, he kept his team in game one when the Bruins could have run away with this one after going ahead 2-0.  But he needs to steal one.  He had that chance last night, and failed.

Something for the Canadiens to build on?  Absolutely.  Saku Koivu wasn’t about to give up on this one, as he challenged big Chara along the boards in the final minutes as the Habs pressed for the equalizer.  But then again, you would expect nothing less from the The Captain.

More of that kind of effort is needed by the Habs tomorrow night.

Can the Bruins be better?  Absolutely.

Do the Canadiens NEED to be better?  Without a doubt.  Otherwise, the moral victory the Habs scored in game one will be cold comfort to this  Montreal team that won many of the battles last night, except the one on the scoreboard.

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About ahefter

I have covered hockey extensively during my 30-year sports broadcasting career. From the Miracle on Ice at Lake Placid to the Edmonton Oiler dynasty years, I've shared my views on hockey with listeners in Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver. You can "catch me in action" on Youtube at the following URL: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1n5BdB9ngYw My radio stops include TSN 690 Montreal, CJAD Montreal, CKNW Vancouver, and CKEY Toronto. I also ran the Canadian Press sports desk (radio). My travels as a network reporter have taken me to four Olympics, most recently Vancouver 2010. I'm currently an Applied Assistant Professor within the School of Communication at the University of Hartford.
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