When Michel Therrien announced that Peter Budaj would be starting on Thursday night against the Boston Bruins, most Montreal Canadiens fans gave up on the notion of sneaking out of Beantown with two points. However, resting Carey Price for the two weekend matinees may prove to be the right decision after all.
I have been hard on Therrien the last few weeks. However, maybe he saw an opportunity in Thursday’s game. The Canadiens have been a mess defensively and hanging Price out to dry. Maybe he thought the team had to tighten up with Budaj between the pipes to avoid being outright embarrassed against their biggest rival.
You could also argue that it was just bad planning for Therrien when looking at the schedule. Either way, Budaj was up to the task and the Canadiens played one of their best games of the month and have now defeated both Stanley Cup finalists in regulation time.
The numbers even back up that the Canadiens played a better game. They were actually being outshot at 5 on 5 when the game was close (37-27 BOS), but looking at 5 on 5 numbers for the whole game and they are pretty even (53-49 BOS) despite the Canadiens having a multiple goal lead for most of the second half of the game.
Key players in this one include Daniel Briere – who had two points in the first two periods despite playing seven shifts and under eight minutes. Also Douglas Murray and Nathan Beaulieu who, despite being on the road, both had positive possession numbers. For Murray, just not being the worst defenceman on the night is an accomplishment.
Another positive was the downright dominance of the Max Pacioretty, Brandon Gallagher and David Desharnais line. They were positive possession players at 5 on 5 despite being matched up against Zdeno Chara most of the game.
It’s hard to get a feel for this Canadiens team and whether this is a Chicago-mirage or the start of a turn around. The Canadiens have success against the Bruins mostly because they play their speed game against them – similar to the approach they took against the Blackhawks.
Hopefully it becomes apparent that that’s the way this team is going to be successful, even with Murray and George Parros in the lineup.