What to expect in tonight’s Game 5 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals between Boston and Montreal? It is impossible to tell, as neither team has played with any consistency and home ice seems to have no impact on the result.
The momentum, however, appears to be with the Bruins, who will look to take control of the series with a win at TD Bank Garden tonight. Montreal has played better the majority of the series, but inconsistency has hurt the Habs as well.
Boston’s Keys to Victory
1. The first line needs to play like a first line: While Nathan Horton has been hustling and trying to create opportunities, his linemates have not really helped out. Milan Lucic looks like his skates are stuck in cement, and has been so invisible many fans are convinced he has to be hurt. David Krejci, meanwhile, has missed two golden opportunities, one in Game 2 and another in Game 4, which would have tied the game. Both need to pick up their game if Boston is going to go anywhere in the postseason.
2. Tim Thomas needs to play like a Vezina finalist: Yes, Thomas was the best goalie during the regular season. Yes he will likely win his second Vezina. And yes, his story is Hollywood-esque. The fact remains, however, that he has not delivered in the post-season. He has been brilliant at times, but he has also given up huge rebounds and too many soft goals.
3. Chara needs to take control: I’m willing to give Zdeno Chara the benefit of the
doubt that the flu he suffered from had an effect through Games 3 and 4. That being said, it’s time to step up and play like the Bruins’ captain (and highest-paid player). If he does, the Bruins can win this series and move on – if not, it will be tough to hold off the speedy Canadiens’ forwards.
Montreal’s Keys to Victory
1. Carey Price needs to play better: Price was huge in Games 1 and 2, but has looked suspect since. If he even played an average game on Thursday, Montreal is looking to close Boston out tonight rather than playing a pivotal Game 5.
2. Block shots: The Habs won the first two games because they blocked almost as many shots as Price stopped. Montreal is at its best when it is playing stifling defense and stopping shots from even getting to Price.
3. Get the lead: Despite the multiple collapses in Game 4, it is no secret that the Canadiens play their best with the lead. They can play that dump and chase style and stet up their defensive forecheck. Of course, to get the lead, they will need to be aggressive against the Bruins defense, which has been turnover-prone in this series.
The Story Behind the Story
Look, Andrew Ference should not have flipped off the Montreal crowd after scoring in Game 4, but he did. Anyone who has played the game has gotten caught up in the heat of the moment, and let’s be honest, many fans deserve to be flipped off. Though I wish he did not give the crowd the bird, I can understand and appreciate why it happened. My issue with Ference isn’t his actions on the ice, it was his actions off of it. Saying he had an issue with his equipment and didn’t mean to do it was an out-and-out lie. He should have said he got caught up in the emotion of the moment and was truly sorry for the gesture, then paid the fine and moved on.
Goals: Chris Kelly, Patrice Bergeron, Michael Ryder 2
Assists: Bergeron, Mark Recchi 3
Points: Bergeron 5
Shots: Bergeron 16
Plus-Minus: Bergeron, Kelly (plus-3)
Goals: Mike Cammalleri, Brian Gionta 2
Assists: Cammalleri 3
Points: Cammalleri 7
Shots: Gionta 16
Plus-Minus: Roman Hamrlik (plus-3)
Prediction: Thomas finally earns his playoff stripes with a brilliant performance in a 3-1 Boston win.