Bleu, blank, et rouge
Opener is all Canadiens as Bruins come up empty
Overall, the Bruins submitted a pretty good performance in Game 1 last night at TD Garden.
They put 31 pucks on Carey Price, including 18 in the second period. For extended stretches in the second, they dominated the puck-possession game in the Montreal zone. They limited the Canadiens to a total of 20 shots. The Bruins won 59 percent of the faceoffs. They forced the Canadiens to play a passive, counterpunching approach.
In the playoffs, pretty good just isn’t good enough.
A first-period Tomas Kaberle cough-up led to Brian Gionta’s winning goal. In the third, another defensive-zone giveaway, this time by Milan Lucic, allowed Gionta to net an insurance goal.
At the other end, Price, aided by a lockdown defense that could have doubled as security at the Louvre, turned aside all 31 shots to backstop the Canadiens to a 2-0 win before 17,565 fans.
“They found a way to capitalize on their chances. We didn’t,’’ said Lucic, who took one shot. “I think that’s what it came down to. They played the type of game they wanted to play. For ourselves, we played a pretty good game. But it just goes to show that this is a playoff series. Going into Saturday, we have to give just a little bit more to get that win.’’
The Canadiens played a perfect road game. Like visitors always emphasize, they scored first, and quickly, to hush the crowd.
On the play, Kaberle retreated into his zone to pursue a puck. Once he tracked it down, Kaberle reversed the puck with a casual backhand swat, believing Dennis Seidenberg or a backtracking winger would settle the pass. In hindsight, Kaberle put too much muscle on the puck.
“I reversed it a little too much, obviously,’’ said Kaberle. “They put it, right away, right back at the net. It was a great play.’’
Scott Gomez, hugging the wall, intercepted Kaberle’s pass. Just as Gomez settled the puck, he released it and put a pass on Gionta’s tape. With no help in sight, Tim Thomas couldn’t do much to get in front of the shot, which hit the back of the net at 2:44 of the first.
Then, like the Rangers did to the Bruins late in the regular season, the Canadiens packed it in in front of Price.
The visitors started the game in a 1-2-2 formation. But armed with the lead and the confidence it brought, the Canadiens sagged into an even more conservative 1-4 trap. The Bruins, they figured, were welcome to clean entries into their zone. But once the Bruins arrived, the Canadiens were intent on filling shooting lanes, boxing out forwards, and giving Price every opportunity to get clean looks at the pucks that came his way.
“I don’t think we did a very good job of taking away his vision,’’ said Bruins coach Claude Julien. “He saw a lot of shots tonight. He saw a lot of pucks. We definitely have to get better in that area.’’
The Bruins had their chances, none better than Brad Marchand’s first-period sniff. Late in the first, Marchand slipped backdoor. Kaberle saw him and connected with a tape-to-tape pass. As Marchand brought the hammer down on a one-timer, the rookie heeled the puck. Instead of smacking the back of an open net, Marchand’s shot skittered wide right.
“I rushed it a bit,’’ said Marchand. “I should have stopped it. I had a wide-open net. I just rushed it a bit.’’
Marchand, however, was one of the team’s go-to forwards. The left wing put a team-best six pucks on Price. The best scoring chance of the second came off the stick of Shawn Thornton. After Price fumbled a puck, Thornton swooped into the slot and fired a point-blank shot on goal, but Price stood tall.
The Bruins needed more from their skilled forwards. The No. 1 line of Lucic, David Krejci, and Nathan Horton combined for four shots. Patrice Bergeron and Mark Recchi recorded one shot apiece.
“We had a lot of chances. A lot of shots,’’ said Lucic. “But if anything with shots, we’ve just got to find a way to create more traffic, pounce on rebounds, and not make it easy on them.’’
The most significant concern was the absence of last-ditch push in the danger areas. The Bruins were getting chances down low and from spots where shots are dangerous. But they were missing the final element — some beefy net-front presence — that can transform mere chances into goals. Too often, Price stared down wide-open shooting lanes. The Bruins didn’t get enough bodies or sticks in those lanes to disrupt the Montreal netminder.
Even though the Bruins weren’t having much luck against Montreal’s stingy defense, they gave away any hope of a rally in the third. Lucic, trying to lug the puck out of the defensive zone, was stripped by Gomez. Then, Gomez gave the puck to Gionta, who rapped a sharp-angle slapper that dribbled through Thomas at 16:42.
“We just played a game that we dominated,’’ Julien said. “We spent a lot of time in the offensive end. Basically, we didn’t score goals.’’
Fluto Shinzawa can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.