SUN Hockey Pool

Bruins' bodies, confidence feeling effects

AL STRACHAN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 2:00 PM ET


 MONTREAL -- Even though the Montreal Canadiens trail 2-1 in their playoff series against the Boston Bruins, they're the ones with confidence.

 Go into the Montreal room and the quotes are along the lines of: "We had a bad opening game, should have won Game 2 and did win Game 3. We know what we can do."

 In the Boston room, the attitude is different, something like, "We're not playing well. We had one good game and two bad ones. We have to get back to our game."

 Examples of both stances are plentiful, but the words themselves aren't really important. It's what going on behind the quotes that matters.

 The Boston players know that injuries are killing them. Joe Thornton is playing despite a rib ailment that normally requires an absence of up to six weeks.

 He's not his normally effective self and as a result the vaunted 700-pound Line of Thornton, Glen Murray and Mike Knuble is ineffective.

 The second line, which was involved in every Boston goal in the first two games, was invisible in Game 3, largely because Mikael Nylander allegedly had the flu.

 You may remember that the New Jersey Devils initially listed Scott Stevens as being out with flu. The National Hockey League doesn't have revenue sharing, but it does have deception sharing.

 Insiders say that Nylander has a head injury and whether it gets officially classified as a concussion remains to be seen.

 Also, ace penalty killer Ted Donato is out indefinitely with a broken foot and P.J. Axelsson took a hard whack on Sunday.

 On top of that, there are references to "smart play" in the Boston room. The translation of that is that there are too many ill-advised pinches by Boston defencemen and too many careless passes that get picked off in the neutral zone and lead to odd-man rushes.

 But over on the Montreal side, they know that they're using their speed so effectively that they're making the Bruins look bad. They also know that although the Boston defencemen are huge, they're not very fast.

 On the manicured Bell Centre ice, the Canadiens can use their precision passing to their advantage, something they couldn't do in the first two games at the Fleet Center, where the surface was chopped up as a result of overuse.

 But there is one area in which the Boston players exhibit extreme confidence. That's the goaltending.

 Andrew Raycroft has been nothing short of magnificent, whereas the Canadiens' Jose Theodore has been shaky.

 There is no way to sugar-coat it. The past three goals that Theodore has allowed -- two on Sunday and the overtime goal on Friday -- have been weak.

 Theodore himself knows this and, to his credit, doesn't back down from addressing the situation.

 "I made two mistakes," he said on Sunday. "We should have won 3-0 because we dominated the game from beginning to end. For sure, they are the kind of goals that can hurt you."

 But he said that, as far as he is concerned, any current deficiencies are not a permanent affliction.

 "My confidence has never wavered," he said resolutely.

 In fact, he said, he's already on the comeback trail. Brian Rolston scored early in Sunday's third period to make the score 3-2 and suddenly, a game that had been dominated by the Canadiens, was close.

 "I didn't let that bother me," Theodore said. "I just made sure that there weren't any more.

 He certainly did -- even though some of the shots he faced at that point were among the most difficult of the game.

 "I'm really happy that the series is 2-1," he said. "You win as a team and you lose as a team. I allowed two goals but the other guys on the team got three."

 And right now, the Canadiens firmly believe they can win as a team.


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