Spring hockey in bloom
MONTREAL – With 10 games left in the regular season, the Canadiens are already playing like there’s a Cup on the line.
Out-shooting, out-hitting, out-blocking and out-chancing the Bruins on Saturday night, the Habs are doing all the little things that make a big difference when the postseason rolls around. Keeping Boston’s power play unit on ice for the first 59 minutes of the game, the well-behaved Canadiens managed to snuff out the only opportunity the B’s had with the man advantage in the waning seconds, holding the Bruins shotless in their last-ditch attempt to force overtime.
With a win over their northeast division rivals on Saturday night, the Canadiens gave themselves a little breathing room in the conference standings, now sitting just two wins away from clinching a coveted playoff berth.
“Every time we play this team, it’s the most important game up to this point. We’ve had a couple of good ones against these guys,” mentioned Josh Gorges, who accounted for six of his team’s 23 blocked shots against Boston. “I think tonight we played a full 60 minutes and that was what was impressive. They had some good push – that’s a good hockey team over there and they weren’t going down lightly. But we held our ground, we stayed strong and we played hard for 60 minutes, which is more than we have against these guys in the past.”
Including the 2011 playoffs, 13 of the past 14 games between the Habs and Bruins have been decided by a single goal. Heading into the second intermission riding a 2-1 lead, the Canadiens kept their foot on the gas through the final 20 minutes, helping Carey Price capture his league-leading 19th win of the campaign.
“You can’t say it was a statement game; there’s still a lot of hockey left to be played,” warned Michel Therrien after winning the 2012-13 season series against the Bruins three games to one. “But in a game like tonight, I like the way we approached the third period. I trust [our] guys a lot.
“We’ve got some good, young players and they’re well surrounded with great leadership,” he explained. “That’s one of the reasons there’s good chemistry with this team. Carey was fantastic tonight. Am I surprised [by our team this year]? Not really. There’s still another level we’re looking for and [the guys] want to get better as a team.”
While two points in April are worth the same as two points earned in January, there’s no doubt the win over the Bruins felt a little more valuable inside the Canadiens dressing room. With 10 games to go and home ice advantage on the line, beating Boston to maintain their stranglehold on the division was an opportunity the Habs weren’t willing to pass up.
“It’s obviously two big ones. We’re battling for the top spot. The playoffs are coming up soon and we’re just trying to set the tempo for the rest of the season going into the playoffs,” shared Price, who made 26 saves in his 31st start of the campaign. “You could see the goals were playoff-type goals: three pretty lucky ones. That’s a tough way to win, but we’ll take it.”
Scoring in back-to-back games after previously going 18 without a goal, Alex Galchenyuk is starting to heat up heading into the home stretch. Currently riding his first three-game point streak of the season, the rookie forward is also excited about getting a taste of another NHL first in a few weeks.
“Anytime you play against the Boston Bruins, it’s a big rivalry. It always feels like the playoffs against them. But I don’t know what the playoffs really feel like – I haven’t played in the playoffs here yet,” admitted the 19-year-old with a laugh. “That should be interesting!”
Three weeks from now, the only difference he’ll see will be a little extra facial hair in the postgame scrums.
Shauna Denis is a writer for canadiens.com.
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