The following is an imagined back-and-forth involving Montreal Canadiens head coach Michel Therrien and a random reporter who shall be named Joey Journalism following Game 1 of the second-round series between the Canadiens and Boston Bruins.
"Coach, Joey Journalism, Mainstream Media Times, what do you think was the biggest reason why you beat the Bruins tonight?"
"Well, Joey, I'd say Carey Price. I thought we Carey Price'd right from the get-go and continued to Carey Price throughout the game. I thought we Carey Price'd especially Carey Price during the Carey Price and if not for Carey Price, it would've been hard to Carey Price the Carey Price late. In overtime, Carey Price and definitely Carey Price with the Carey Price. Carey Price, Carey Price, Carey Price. Next question."
That's not what Therrien said at TD Garden after his Canadiens defeated the Bruins 4-3 in double overtime on Thursday night, but the biggest reason why the Habs have a 1-0 lead in this best-of-seven series is Price.
Therrien's real quote was shorter and to the point.
Therrien: "Carey Price was outstanding. Both goalies were good." #Habson690— Conor McKenna (@mckennaconor) May 2, 2014
Yeah, P.K. Subban scored twice on the power play, including the winner at 4:17 of the second overtime. But the only reason Subban had the opportunity to silence a crowd that revels in booing him every time he touches the puck was by the grace of Price's ability to slam the door time after time in this game, especially after Johnny Boychuk tied the game at 3-3 late in the third period.
Price made 48 saves in his first game since the Canadiens completed a first-round sweep of the Tampa Bay Lightning on April 22. Of the 15 saves he made after regulation, his denial of David Krejci in the first overtime on a one-on-one chance was by far the most brilliant. Krejci deked to his backhand, but Price found a way to stay upright just enough to get a blocker on the puck.
This game was more lopsided than a poorly inflated basketball. The Bruins held a 98-58 advantage in shot attempts in all situations and were even more devastating at five-on-five, as they had an 89-47 edge in shot attempts. It's not too often a goaltender can be credited with stealing a game in which he allows three goals, all of which were scored in the third period, but that's exactly what Price did Thursday.
Price said afterward that his defense did a great job of keeping shots to the outside, as is tradition when a goaltender bails his team out, but that was simply not true. The Canadiens were manhandled for two periods and taken behind the woodshed and beaten like an unloved plow horse in the third period. There were point-blank chances, rebound chances, breakaway chances, chances during which his teammates were more out of place than an M. Night Shyamalan cameo in one of his movies.
Yet Price delivered a virtuoso performance that opened the door for Subban to play…well, not hero.
Price was Batman. Subban was Robin.
As wonderful of a game as Price played, this can't be the manner in which the Canadiens win this series.
In small doses, however, the Canadiens showed how they can oust the Bruins.
The soft underbelly of the Bruins is their second and third defense pairs that feature Torey Krug, Boychuk, Matt Bartkowski and Kevan Miller. Krug and Boychuk each scored goals in Game 1, and Boychuk is an experienced veteran, but Krug, Miller and Bartkowski are the weak links on this championship-caliber team.
Both of Subban's power-play goals were the result of penalties by Bartkowski. Krug fumbled a moderately difficult but still attainable pass from Boychuk in the neutral zone that led to Rene Bourque scoring on a two-on-one rush. When Francis Bouillon gave the Canadiens a 3-2 lead with 7:51 remaining in the third period, it was again with Krug and Boychuk on the ice.
Miller was steady and got through the game mostly unscathed in his 25:41 of ice time, but the other three members of the bottom-two defense pairings were exploited in a major way by the Canadiens.
The Canadiens will need to clean up the rest of their game as to not have to lean on Price for three more victories in a similar fashion. If the Bruins attempt nearly 70 percent of shots over the rest of the series, this will not end well for the Canadiens.
But the seeds have been sown by the Canadiens for a second-round upset. If Price is anywhere close to his Game 1 level and the Canadiens avoid being speed bagged at even strength, this could be a far more interesting and competitive series than many had imagined.
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