Gone and forgotten
MONTREAL – One game does not a best-of-seven playoff series make.
That was the consensus inside the Candiens’ locker room after Michel Therrien’s troops were downed 7-2 by the New York Rangers on Saturday afternoon in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals at the Bell Centre.
Following a lackluster effort on home turf, Rene Bourque didn’t mince words when it came to explaining why the Habs were manhandled in the series-opener just days removed from sending the Presidents’ Trophy winning Bruins packing in dramatic fashion in Round 2.
“We got our asses kicked all over the ice. Plain and simple. They came out strong. We just weren’t sharp. We weren’t sharp anywhere,” offered Bourque, who scored his fifth goal of the playoffs in the loss. “I don’t think anyone really played well. When it came to loose pucks, they outcompeted us. We took some penalties, and they capitalized. That’s basically what happened.
“I think there was a bit of an emotional letdown after the Boston series. We talked about that going into the game,” added the Lac La Biche, AB native, who now sits tied for the team lead in goals during the postseason alongside Lars Eller and Thomas Vanek. “Obviously, it didn’t click. We’ll forget about this game and move on.”
That being said, Therrien insists the lopsided defeat will ultimately force his contingent to take a long look in the mirror heading into Game 2 on Monday night in La Belle Province.
“We weren’t ready mentally or physically to play this game. It showed right from the start. We were making mistakes and we didn’t compete, and that’s the result of it,” stressed the Canadiens’ bench boss, who, like Bourque, admitted the Rangers outplayed them in every aspect of the game on Saturday afternoon.
“You never want to lose a game, but it’s going to bring us back to earth. It will force us as a group to make sure that we have to be ready to compete and play every night to give us a chance to win,” continued Therrien. “We’ll put that game behind us. We’re going to move forward from this. It’s a good lesson.”
It’s safe to say the Canadiens were taught multiple lessons in Game 1, the most important of which was that taking Alain Vigneault’s squad lightly would be a costly mistake. The Rangers are riding high after eliminating the Penguins in the Eastern Conference Semifinals, and have clearly rallied around star forward Martin St. Louis following the sudden loss of his mother on May 8.
“The Rangers are a good hockey team. They just beat the Pittsburgh Penguins. They’re one of the best teams in the league, too,” praised Therrien, before putting the onus on his players to use the defeat as motivation to turn things around in short order. “The bottom line is that we didn’t play our game. That’s the most important thing. We didn’t give ourselves a chance in this hockey game. We’re going to regroup, and make sure that come next game we’ll compete a lot harder and be more alert.”
Fortunately, the Canadiens escaped the tilt with a healthy Carey Price in tow after Rangers forward Chris Kreider accidentally collided with the three-time All-Star in the second period. Price closed out the frame, but backup Peter Budaj was between the pipes to start the third period. In his post-game press conference, Therrien insisted the move wasn’t injury-related, pointing out that the Canadiens were down 4-1 through 40 minutes of play and the game was simply out of reach which made the choice to go with Budaj an easy one.
Scheduled to get back to work on Sunday morning at the Bell Sports Complex in Brossard, the Habs know full well that they’re capable of a lot more than they showed their fans in Game 1.
“We know we can be a lot better than that,” confessed P.K. Subban. “We’ll be ready to play next game. There’s so much hockey left to play in this series. We’ve already put this one behind us.”
Matt Cudzinowski is a writer for canadiens.com.
The Numbers Game - Game #1 - May 17, 2014