2009 Stanley Cup Playoffs Blog - Conference Quarter-finals
Boston Bruins head coach Claude Julien made his case in defence of Milan Lucic after his team’s 5-1 victory in Game 2 against the Montreal Canadiens, saying Lucic’s glove was what made contact with Maxim Lapierre’s helmet, and not his stick.
The NHL’s chief disciplinarian Colin Campbell appears to have partially agreed, saying “it is unclear whether Lucic’s glove or stick makes contact with Lapierre,” but Campbell suspended Lucic for Game 3 Monday night (CBC, CBCSports.ca, 7 p.m. ET) anyway because “he delivered a reckless and forceful blow to the head of his opponent.”
Julien didn’t know what the league’s decision was when the Bruins charter flight left for Montreal at around 2 p.m. Sunday afternoon, and he still didn’t know when that plane landed about an hour later.
It was only around suppertime that Campbell announced his decision, and one would have to imagine it kind of ruined Julien’s appetite.
But what makes the situation a little more palatable for Julien is his team’s extraordinary depth will make the loss of Lucic a little easier to stomach.
Julien to move Wheeler off fourth line
Julien is expected to move Blake Wheeler off the fourth line and up where he belongs among the top six. Wheeler scored 21 goals this season – four more than Lucic – and even though he’s a rookie, his talents are largely wasted playing with Stephane Yelle and Shawn Thornton on the fourth line.
Wheeler’s played a shade over 10 minutes a game in the playoffs so far, and that number should increase as he slides into Lucic’s spot on a line with David Krejci and Michael Ryder for Game 3.
Meanwhile, Julien can turn to rookie Byron Bitz to grab Wheeler’s spot alongside Yelle and Thornton.
“He’s very reliable, probably one of our most reliable along the wall in our own end at getting pucks out or protecting it,” Julien said of Bitz at the team’s practice facility in suburban Wilmington before flying to Montreal.
“He’s a guy that once we called him up [from the minors] he never went back, because he’s another one of those guys that said, ‘I think I belong here and I’m going to show you guys.’ He forced our hand.”
Game 3 will be the second time in two games that Julien will have to turn to a reserve after calling on Shane Hnidy in Game 2 to come in for rookie defenceman Matt Hunwick, who had to undergo an emergency splenectomy just hours before the game.
“I’m going to tell you the same thing [about Bitz] that I said about Shane Hnidy,” Julien said. “[Hnidy] coming into the lineup didn’t change a ton, and that’s not taking anything away from Matt Hunwick because he’s a great player.”
While it’s true that Boston’s depth should allow the Bruin to absorb the loss of Lucic pretty seamlessly, it does make Game 3 a major opportunity for the Canadiens to get back into the series with a big win at home Monday night.
Lucic brings far more to the table than the 17 goals and 25 assists he had during the regular season. He sets the tone physically for the Bruins and strikes fear into a thin Montreal defence corps every time they have to retrieve a puck in their own end knowing that big No. 17 is barrelling down the ice to come after them.
While players like Chuck Kobasew and Patrice Bergeron have shown a willingness to play a physical game, none of the top nine Bruins forwards bring that same level of intimidation when they step on the ice.
Can Habs rebound?
But can the Canadiens take advantage of the situation?
Hard to say, because all season long this team has shown an inability to bounce back from a tough loss, and they don’t come much tougher than the 5-1 beating they took Saturday night in Boston.
But at the same time, the Canadiens have yet to play at home in one of the most intimidating buildings in the league, and it’s never wise to judge a series until both teams have had a chance to defend home ice. One only needs
to look at Philadelphia's convincing 6-3 victory over Pittsburgh at home Sunday to see that.
“Everyone picked them to win, no one gave us a chance,” Habs defenceman Josh Gorges said Sunday after a team meeting. “If we come out (Monday) and have a good showing and get that win, it changes the dynamic of the series a little bit. Hopefully we can come out and accomplish that and then get on a roll and get going from there.”
In order for that to happen, many things will need to change for the Canadiens, starting with their inability to keep the Bruins power play off the ice.
“We have enough of a problem handling our opponent,” Habs head coach and general manager Bob Gainey said after Game 2. “We can’t injure ourselves by taking penalties or straying away from the plan we have in place.”
Price or Halak
Gainey did not tip his hand on whether or not Carey Price will get a third straight start after allowing five goals on 26 shots through two periods in Game 2, or if it will be Jaroslav Halak, who stopped all five shots thrown at him in the third period of that game, including a scintillating pad stop on P.J. Axelsson on the first shot he faced.
One thing playing in Price’s favour is that he has been a completely different goalie this season when playing at home. On the road, including the two playoff losses in Boston, Price has a 10-14-3 record, .893 save percentage and 3.31 goals against average. At the Bell Centre, Price is 13-4-7 with a .918 save percentage and 2.40 goals against average.
He has also proven to have Gainey’s confidence, despite all the reasons Price has provided this season for that confidence to be shattered, and the head coach absolved his goalie of much of the blame after Game 2 by pointing out the difficult situations his teammates constantly put him in.
So even though Halak likely deserves a shot at the net in Game 3, it wouldn’t shock me to see Price back in.
“It’s Bob’s decision,” Gorges said. “But as players we have to make sure we show up to play and do our job. Whether it’s Carey or Jaro, our frame of mind can’t change.”
Gainey provided no hints as to what kind of lineup changes will be in store for Game 3, but he did not believe it was likely we would see Andrei Markov play, despite the fact he was skating again Sunday morning.
This is simply being added for context, but Gainey also said a day before the Canadiens’ regular season game against Boston on April 9 that defenceman Mathieu Schneider would definitely not play. Yet he was in uniform for that game and hasn’t missed a shift since.
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- Friday, June 12, 2009
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- Friday, June 12, 2009
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