Canadiens not satisfied with Bruins series stalemate

Montreal Canadiens goalie Carey Price makes a save against Boston Bruins right winger Matt Fraser...

Montreal Canadiens goalie Carey Price makes a save against Boston Bruins right winger Matt Fraser during the third period in Game 4 at the Bell Centre. (Jean-Yves Ahern/USA TODAY Sports)

CHRIS STEVENSON, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 4:29 PM ET

It might seem like a weird way to look at it: An underdog team tied 2-2 with the Presidents’ Trophy winner in the second round of the NHL playoffs is about to finally face some adversity.

You’d think the Montreal Canadiens, even with the top-seeded Boston Bruins heading into Game 5 at TD Garden Saturday night, are in a good spot.

But you can’t escape the feeling the Habs have let the Bruins up off the mat one too many times in this series, blowing two-goal leads three times in the first three games and then dropping Game 4 at home by a 1-0 score.

Montreal missed their chance to climb ahead; they missed their chance to make the series 3-1 in their favour.

“The way the games have gone, I don’t know if we should be satisfied with it. But we’re not in a bad position, not disappointed over it,” Canadiens defenceman Douglas Murray said. “It’s a best out of three series now and we just have to get the job done.”

“We expect a long series,” centre Tomas Plekanec added. “It’s not a surprise it’s 2-2. Now we’re going to their building and I think it’s pressure on them. They’re playing at home and they need that game.”

The Canadiens swept the Tampa Bay Lightning in the first round and haven’t trailed in this series -- but now it gets interesting.

The Bruins are not the Lightning, who were without Vezina Trophy-nominated goaltender Ben Bishop.

Bruins netminder Tuukka Rask has struggled against the Canadiens in his career, but he’s the guy who got the shutout when Boston needed a win. Instead, it was Montreal's Carey Price who wound up getting beaten on a funny bounce off the end boards 79 seconds into overtime.

The Canadiens power play went 2-for-13 against Tampa and was 4-for-9 in the first two games of this series.

Since then, however, the man advantage opportunities have dried up. The Canadiens had just two power plays in the two games in Montreal, while the Bruins were awarded three.

If that trend continues as the venue shifts, this is going to be a battle at 5-on-5 -- something that has traditionally favoured the Bruins, a top even strength squad in these playoffs and the best in the regular season.

The Canadiens have shown improvement in that area in the post-season -- sixth going into Friday -- after finishing 16th in the regular season.

“Our 5-on-5 play improved in Game 3, when we were more productive offensively, and even in (Thursday)’s game, I thought we were good at 5-on-5,” Canadiens coach Michel Therrien said in Montreal on Friday before the Habs left town.

“It’s something we wanted to improve in our game when we came back from Boston and I find we accomplished that.”

It’s tough to believe the Canadiens are going to win this series with Lars Eller being their best forward. Not impossible, just tough to believe.

The top lines on both teams have struggled, but moreso on the Canadiens side where David Desharnais between Max Pacioretty and Thomas Vanek (changed up at times over the last two games) have but one even-strength point between them (Vanek’s assist on Tomas Plekanec’s goal in Game 3) in this series.

“I want our best players to be able to perform and to contribute to the success of the team offensively," Therrien said. "What I take from it is that if you look at the playoffs from the start, there are certain players that are having some trouble contributing offensively. These types of players need to adjust to the intensity of the playoffs."

“Yes, they are being checked very tightly, we’re aware of it on both sides. But there’s an intensity to the beginning of the season, an intensity to the middle of the season and there’s an intensity to the end of the regular season. But when you get to the playoffs, it’s another type of intensity. Those types of players need to adapt to that challenge.”

One of the ways this series was billed was Canadiens speed against Bruins brawn. Yet, Montreal has been just as physical.

“I try not to pay attention too much to what the media says,” said Murray, who leveled Bruins banger Shawn Thornton. “I think from top to bottom our team has done a great job of playing hard. We might not be the most physical team in the league, but there’s different ways to be physical, too. There’s competing, winning puck battles, going to the net. We’ve done a good job of that. I think we’ve matched their intensity and exceeded it at times.”

Like the coach said, there’s different levels of intensity at different points in the season.

As we’ve seen, there’s different levels even in the course of a series.

It changed Thursday night's Game 4. It’s going to change again for Game 5 Saturday night.

“I’m not pointing my finger at anyone. There’s a group of players that need to perform and bring us some more offence,” Therrien said. “This is an adjustment for them, and they have to find that adjustment as quick as they can.”

'IT PISSES YOU OFF'

Douglas Murray replayed the play a few times before going to sleep.

“It pisses you off,” said the Montreal Canadiens defenceman, who lost his check on Boston Bruins forward Matt Fraser in overtime Thursday night, resulting in a 1-0 Bruins win.

The puck bounced off the back boards, eluding Canadiens goaltender Carey Price as well as defenceman Mike Weaver before Fraser, playing in his first playoff game, swatted it home, tying the series 2-2.

“I had no idea where the puck was. I followed my guy behind the net and I think I had been told after it went off the boards there and bounced up,” Murray said.

“I’m coming back in front and all I see is (Price) and (Weaver) down and I don’t see the puck. All of a sudden it comes out and my guy puts it in. I got to have to have that guy’s stick. I just had no idea where the puck was.”

It was a tough end to the game for Murray, a favourite whipping boy of the advanced stats advocates. And justifiably so.

In Game 4, he was on the ice for 10 shots against and just one by the Habs at even strength.

Canadiens coach Michel Therrien -- who should be questioned for putting his third pair on the ice early in the overtime, especially with the way they had their hands full with the Fraser-Carl Soderberg-Loui Eriksson line most of the night -- stood by their play.

“I thought they played really well. I thought they were physical, they were blocking shots, they contained really well for most of the game. A guy like Douglas Murray, he’s a tough customer. He’s tough to play against, he’s physical and certainly he’s a presence out there for us. I thought Weaver and Murray did a fantastic job for us,” he said.

Players are more than their stats -- Murray has pointed out in the past there are good and bad stats for every player -- and he threw his 240 pounds around effectively Thursday night, leveling Bruins forward Shawn Thornton.

Was it his type of game?

“Up until the last second," Murray said. "It was a good game, freaky play in the end and that’s what happens in the playoffs.” 


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