Every game in every playoff series has it’s own identity. No two games are exactly alike, no two teams performance level is the same. What happened in game one is unlikely to happen in game two as teams adjust through tactics, venue change, energy and injury. For one reason or the other game three of the Canadiens-Bruins series bore little resemblance to game two for at least three of those reasons.
Monday night the Canadiens were caught flatfooted; unready to compete against a team that was desperate. The coaching staff and some of the players saw it coming as early as the morning skate when it was clear they didn’t have their game-face on. The Canadiens gave up a goal on the first shot of the game and you know the rest. 3-0 leads stastically give a team a 95% chance of winning.
Still, the Canadiens did get their act together and give themselves a chance to beat those long odds.
I’m always leary of shots-on-goal totals, especially when they’re posted by a team that’s trailing a game against a team that’s content to collapse and let the opposition come to them. Basically it’s a “territorial” stat rather than an accurate description of the work of a teams defense and goaltender.
So the question is, were the Canadiens as good as the 15-5 third period shots on goal advantage, or were the Bruins just doing their own version of the Canadiens rope-a-dope?
One feature of the Canadiens shutdown mode is their ability to limit scoring chances. Not shots-on-goal – scoring chances.
Taking away scoring chances was not the strong point of the Bruins game Monday night. Starting with the Kostitsyn goal that made it 3-1 the Canadiens outshot the Bruins 25-11 and “outchanced” them 9-5 through the final 33 minutes of the game. Tim Thomas let in a couple of bad goals, but he also had to make some outstanding saves especially in the third period on Darche and Gomez and twice on Kostitsyn.
By the same token, in game two in Boston, in the thirty-three minutes from the time Patrice Bergeron narrowed the score to 2-1 to the end of the game, the Bruins were given only five scoring chances. The Canadiens had four. In the third period Montreal was outshot 11-3 but only three of Boston’s eleven were deemed quality shots.
We know the Bruins defence may be big, but it is slow. It means they need a lot of help from their forwards to be successful. They weren’t getting a lot of it. It’s also interesting that Zdeno Chara and Dennis Seidenberg were on the ice for six of those nine Canadiens scoring chances. The Canadiens fell short because they had dug too big a hole for themselves and the hockey-gods weren’t smiling on them.
What it seems to mean is, all things being equal, that is both teams playing well, the Canadiens should prevail against the Bruins.
We’ll all see about that.
What is a “scoring chance”? – It is not an official league statistic. The best source for the statistic, comes from Olivier at enattendantlesnordiques.blogspot.com. The best description of a scoring chance – “An attempt or shot taken from a “home-plate shaped area” that goes from the top of the faceoff circles, through the faceoff dots, then angled to the goal posts. Another possible definition of a scoring chance can be any shot that is taken by an attacking team on an odd-man rush, such as a 2-on-1 or 3-on-2 break.”