Playing the odds
Despite coming out on the wrong side of a 4-1 decision against the Boston Bruins at the Bell Centre on Wednesday night, one cannot say that the Habs’ best scorers were bashful against the Atlantic Division-leading team. Leading goal-getter Max Pacioretty managed six shots on net, Thomas Vanek added five and the rest of the Canadiens roster combined to challenge Bruins netminder Tuukka Rask on 25 other occasions. Overall, the Habs’ smooth transition game and well-honed cycle allowed the squad to outshoot Boston 36-32.
Despite the Habs tilting the ice in their favour with superior puck possession, the Bruins won the day by being more opportunistic with their scoring chances. Carl Soderberg scored unassisted early in the second frame on a broken play. Patrice Bergeron, Milan Lucic and Zdeno Chara also beat Peter Budaj to put their teams up by four before David Desharnais scored the lone Montreal goal early in the third.
“We have to be ready right away; we can’t ease into a period. It gets you into trouble when that happens,” insisted captain Brian Gionta, who saw his team allow Soderberg’s goal at 1:33 of the second period and Chara’s at 0:23 in the third.
“The atmosphere was good. Overall I thought our effort was really good. We created shots, we created scoring chances but we just couldn’t get the first goal. Boston is just a team which knows how to win. They’ve won the Cup and have been to the final, and they found a way,” acknowledged Vanek, the first-ever Austrian to suit up for the Habs. Ever-productive against the Bruins, he now has 61 points against the Bostonians and 542 in his 648-game NHL career.
“It’s a bit different playing with Vanek than with a guy like Brendan Gallagher,” commented David Desharnais, who spent most of the third period with number 20 as his right winger. “Thomas is a guy who has a great eye for opportunities and who can create on the fly. There will be an adjustment period, but it could be a great experience. It will also allow an aggressive, hard working player like Gallagher to help another line generate offense.”
For Vanek, who has 271 regular season goals to his credit, getting chances in bunches is the name of the game. A hot goalie or an unlucky bounce can nullify a sure goal, but over time, nothing beats putting the puck on net from the slot on a regular basis. In his nine-year pro career, Vanek has directed 1831 pucks at opposing goaltenders.
“In the first two periods with Gionta and Plekanec, we had a lot of chances and could have had one or two goals. In the third Desharnais, Pacioretty and I had some good chemistry going as well, and there were a couple of near-misses,” reflected the former 40 goal scorer. “This game is not about getting points. We all want to score goals and put up numbers. If you don’t, you’re probably in the wrong profession. But at the end of the day, it’s not something to focus on. Whichever line I play with, it’s about creating chances. The more you create, the more you get rewarded.”
Jack Han is a writer for canadiens.com.