The Montreal Canadiens beat the Boston Bruins 2-1 in a shootout in a game that undoubtedly felt like a playoff game. From the big hits, to intensity, to goaltending it was hard to believe it isn’t even April yet.
But, after that game, you can see what Michel Therrien was thinking starting Peter Budaj. Can you imagine this team coming out flat against Buffalo tonight? I can. That’s what makes Carey Price valuable in the game tonight.
Yes, it was a risk to play Budaj but he answered the call. Tonight, the Canadiens – who will probably be missing both Travis Moen and Dale Weise tonight, likely for Lars Eller and Ryan White – will have their best goaltender available to keep them in the game in case they aren’t up for the Buffalo Sabres like they were against Boston.
Was the win perfect for Montreal? Absolutely not. They allowed way too many chances and took a few stupid penalties (among a few non-penalties that were called that way). However, this was a character win. From Alexei Emelin big check to Mike Weaver coming out party, this Canadiens team stood up to the Bruins and most importantly didn’t lose their cool when Boston lost theirs.
When Chara attacked Emelin, his teammates stood up for him. But they didn’t attack. Same thing for Moen after Weise was hit into the boards. And when Johnny Boychuk tried to goat P.K. Subban into a fight or retaliatory penalty, he just lifted his arms. Except for the lack of power play goals, that’s how you beat the Bruins.
The Canadiens get under their skin and that’s great. It’s fantastic. It’s why Montreal and Boston play such intense games.
One more thought: Brian Gionta might not score for a first line winger, but he is as valuable as anyone on this team. On the penalty kill and even strength, he makes sure that he leads by example. I want Thomas Vanek signed just like most everybody else, but if they don’t keep Gionta they might have a harder time to fill that hole than the scoring hole left by Vanek.