Habs are getting to Raycroft

AL STRACHAN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 12:58 PM ET

 Here's one of those mind-benders that you can use to keep the kids amused.

 In the arithmetical progression 0, 1, 3, 3, 5 ... what comes next?

  Depending on how you work it out, the answer might be nine. Then again, it might not.

 The Montreal Canadiens will provide the answer tonight, because it's not really an arithmetical progression, it's the number of goals the Canadiens have scored on Boston Bruins goaltender Andrew Raycroft in the first five games of their playoff series.

 When this series began, there were two large question marks looming over the Bruins' hopes. First, could they win with a rookie goalie? Second, was Joe Thornton healthy enough to make a significant contribution?

 Raycroft has certainly had some brilliant moments. He stole Game 2 for the Bruins and was the reason the Bruins were still around in overtime to win Game 4.

 But as that numerical progression clearly shows, the Canadiens are starting to solve him. They're going high with their shots and, as a result, are finding the back of the net with increasing frequency.

 Two years ago, the last time the Canadiens and Bruins met in a playoff series, Montreal goalie Jose Theodore was only average for the first four games.

 But his teammates laid the foundation and when Theodore was spectacular in Games 5 and 6, the Canadiens advanced.

 One game does not a trend make, but it's interesting to note that on Thursday, after four average games, Theodore was outstanding and for the first time in the series, clearly outplayed Raycroft.

 This time, the Canadiens can't win the series in six games. They'll need seven, if they do it at all. But if the goaltending disparity that existed on Thursday continues, they will indeed win.

 That brings us to Thornton, who has all of one assist to show for his season against the Canadiens -- and it came during the six regular-season games, not any of the five in the playoffs.

 That he's hurt is indisputable. But even taking the injury into account, he's doing the Bruins more harm than good.

 It can't be a lack of focus. Thornton is so focused that he can't meet the media on game days. Perhaps that's why Martin Brodeur has only three Stanley Cup rings. He'll talk at any time.

 But the Canadiens play Thornton well. They know that he not only likes a physical game, he dominates it. So they move in on him in numbers, but they avoid physical contact and use stick checks. That way, Thornton can't take his checker out of the play with his body.

 FRUSTRATED

 He's getting frustrated and has taken no fewer than seven minor penalties. The Canadiens have scored only three power-play goals in the series, but two of them have come with Thornton in the box.

 Also, the Canadiens are countering the Bruins' size with speed.

 No one ever suggested that the Canadiens' top line of Saku Koivu, Alex Kovalev and Richard Zednik should be called the 700-pound Line. They'd have to live on a chocolate diet for a month even to hit 500 pounds.

 But as these two lines consistently go head to head, it is the Canadiens who are coming out on top. With Thornton not up to par, Glen Murray has two goals and Mike Knuble has one -- but he didn't get it playing with Thornton and Murray. So that's only two for the 700-pound Line as a unit.

 But the Montreal line has six. Koivu has one, Zednik has one and Kovalev has four.

 As a result of all this, the Canadiens enter tonight's game confident and at home.

 Of course, they were in the same situation on Tuesday -- and they lost.


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