Habs to create chaos in crease

MIKE ZEISBERGER, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:48 AM ET

BOSTON -- The Montreal Canadiens arrived in Boston yesterday, a journey they hope will take them directly on to Tim Thomas' doorstep.

Every year come playoff time, teams talk big about creating crease chaos by providing traffic in front of the opposing goalie. And yesterday was no different.

"Thomas? Every time we're in the offensive zone, there should be someone near him, in his face," Canadiens forward Christopher Higgins said after the Habs had completed their morning practice in Montreal.

CHALLENGING

"You've got to make things difficult for him. He likes to challenge. He likes to come out of his crease. If you've got a body there, it keeps him deep in his crease.

"He's not the biggest goalie, so if you keep him deep in his net, you've got more net to shoot at."

A year ago, Thomas got his first career taste of NHL post-season action during the first-round series against the Canadiens. The Habs would end up eliminating Thomas' Bruins in seven hard-fought games, a series in which Thomas was very good at certain times, very poor at others.

This time around, Thomas has been a calm, cool and collected customer in the days leading up to the 2009 installment of the Bruins-Habs rivalry, one which kicks off tonight when the two Original Six foes open up their first-round series at the TD Banknorth Garden.

"I was talking to my brother (Tuesday night) and he asked me if I was ready," Thomas said yesterday. "I told him I'd be ready at 6:59 -- right before it's time to go on to the ice."

Should the Habs get up close and cozy with Thomas, there is no predicting how the Bruins goalie will react. Canadiens goaltender Carey Price said as much the other day, suggesting Thomas can be "squirrelly" at times.

Consider how Thomas snapped during a recent game when New York Rangers superpest Sean Avery clunked him in the back of the helmet with his stick during a TV timeout. Thomas understandably raced after Avery, then smacked another Ranger in the face with his blocker during the ensuing melee.

Besides, if the Habs plan on crowding Thomas, they'll have to get through 6-foot-8 Bruins captain Zdeno Chara.

"The more we make Chara work, the better for us," Higgins said. "He plays half the game and he may play more than that in the playoffs. The more we get him moving his feet, the more tired he'll get."


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