WILMINGTON, Mass. — Montreal Canadiens goaltender Carey Price stopped every shot he saw Thursday night in Game 1 of his team’s second-round Stanley Cup playoff series against the Boston Bruins.
The three shots he didn’t see, of course, ended up in the back of his net. That’s the way it usually works for the NHL’s best goalies, a club in which Price certainly holds membership.
The Montreal goalie was simply fantastic Thursday night, as he stopped 48 of 51 shots in the Habs’ 4-3 double-overtime win. The sparkling performance arguably was the best of his career, especially given the stakes. And for all of the Bruins’ missed chances, and for all of Price’s highlight-reel saves, the Bruins still were able to score three goals. On most nights, that’s enough to win.
In the process, the Bruins were able to lay the blueprint for success against the Montreal netminder. That game plan is nothing revolutionary, but the fact remains Boston needs to get bodies in front of Price to make life difficult for the recent Olympic gold-medal winner.
“Especially the second half of the game, I thought we did a pretty good job of getting in front of (Price),” Bruins center David Krejci said after practice Friday. “Obviously it’s a hard battle, but we have to get there.”
The Bruins finally started to do that in Game 1 after two scoreless periods of hockey. Here’s how they were able to climb back into the game after trailing 2-0 entering the third period.
Reilly Smith goal
Smith got the Bruins on the board with a wicked wrist shot from the right faceoff circle on a shot that somehow got through a ton of traffic, up over Price’s shoulder and underneath the crossbar. That was pretty miraculous, given that Patrice Bergeron and Alexei Emelin were fighting for position in front of the net. That’s also the reason Price likely never even saw the laser from the wing.
Torey Krug goal
The Bruins had multiple offensive chances started by gaining speed into the offensive zone. That finally paid off in the form of Krug’s goal. Milan Lucic carried the puck into the Montreal zone and stopped just inside the blue line. As he did, Smith kept skating his lane down the left wing, as Travis Moen chased behind him. That put Moen right into Krug’s shooting lane as he took the pass at the left circle from Lucic and ripped a slap shot by Price. It’s a reminder that not all net-front presence is generated by just going to the crease and standing in front of the goalie.
Johnny Boychuk goal
Loui Eriksson did terrific work on the Bruins’ third goal. He was able to keep the puck alive in a scramble in front of the net, and the puck eventually got back to Johnny Boychuk at the point. By then, Eriksson had established himself in front of Price. Montreal defenseman Josh Gorges and P.K. Subban both collapsed on Eriksson, and that created plenty of obstruction in front. That, combined with a hellacious Boychuk slap shot from the “Stanley Cup Playoffs” logo, made it impossible for Price to have any chance of stopping the shot.
The Bruins scored three goals, but they could have had even more. Many of their missed chances came as a result of scrambles in front of the net. There also were chances like when Dougie Hamilton rang the post with Carl Soderberg planted right in front of Price.
Is there still room for improvement when it comes to net-front presence? The Bruins believe so.
“I think we could definitely have a few more bodies in front,” Marchand said Friday. “It’s obviously a lot tougher for goalies to see the pucks when there’s guys battling in front there. He’s a very good goalie, so pucks that he sees, he’s going to stop. We have to make sure we have more bodies in front.”
If the Bruins can continue to overpower the Canadiens’ defense and get to the front of the net, they should be able to have even more chances as the series progresses. Assuming the B’s finish one or two of those chances, in addition to cleaning things up in their own end, they will have plenty to build on moving forward.