|How much has first goal mattered in Bruins-Canadiens series?||05.14.14 at 1:40 pm ET|
The team that scores the first goal Wednesday night will win Game 7 and advance to the Eastern Conference finals, provided it is a 1-0 game.
Aside from that, the first goal, for all the hype that comes with it, has by no means been a ticket to victory. Though the team that’s scored the first goal has won each of the first six games this series, two of those games involved the winning team relinquishing their lead before winning the game later.
The Canadiens scored first in Game 1 and took a 2-0 lead before the B’s came back in the third to tie the game. The Habs eventually won in overtime. In Game 2, Boston scored first but allowed three straight goals before coming back with four in a row in the third.
Playing with a lead is extremely important, but it isn’t until a team has a two or three goal lead — especially if its early — that they can smother the opponent by sitting back and relying on the counterattack.
“I don’t think you can really pack it in at any point of the game,” Mike Weaver said Wednesday morning. “Boston’s notorious for coming back, even with six minutes left. They’re a team that keeps on coming at you, and you can’t let your foot off the pedal at any point in the game.”
Another good example of this is Game 6. The Canadiens took a 1-0 lead in the opening minute of the game on a Lars Eller goal, yet it wasn’t until they got a pair of goals late in the second period that they were able to put the B’s away. Much of the first two periods — especially early in the second — saw the Bruins match or outplay the Habs and generate plenty of chances.
“The scoring chances were there,” Daniel Paille said of how the B’s played down a goal. “It’s more about bearing down and not getting frustrated. We know that goals can come and some nights they don’t go in, but for us, it is key to maintain composure and not stay too frustrated.”
There was no comeback for the Bruins in that game. There were comebacks in the first two games of the series, and though Weaver said there was no lesson to be learned in those games, it did serve as a reminder that playing with the lead isn’t always a run-out-the-clock situation.
“I think we got away from our game,” Weaver said of the Bruins’ comebacks. “It’s something that, you’ve got to play a full 60. Especially with what has happened in the playoffs. You guys remind of stats that kind of happen through all the playoffs, not just this series. You have that in the back of your mind that you have to keep on going, keep on pushing.”
Matt Fraser provided the most memorable “first goal” of the series with the overtime winner in Game 4, with Nathan Horton‘s goal in Game 7 of the 2011 conference finals standing as perhaps the most memorable in recent history. That game was played 5-on-5 the whole way, with no penalties taken on either side.
The first goal can obviously be a difference-maker, and the later it is, the better. This series has shown that it’s that second goal that matters more.
Teams come up with different ways to psych themselves up for big moments. The Canadiens are using the Bruins’ lack of respect of them — regardless of whether there’s actually a lack of respect — as fuel heading into Game 7.
On Tuesday, it was Brandon Prust, saying that when it came to the Bruins dissin’ his crew, the Habs wouldn’t “stoop to their level.” After Wednesday’s morning skate, Mike Weaver weighed in.
“I think they play the same way, whatever way they’re playing,” Weaver said. “Obviously we’ve got to earn our respect, too. That’s Boston for you.”
It’s all so vague, and at face value, it seems like a team stretching to come up with motivation. Disrespect? The teams don’t like each other, sure, but are the Bruins stealing cabs from Canadiens players around Boston or something?
Perhaps it’s the muscle-flexing, the water-bottle-squirting, the participation in scrums. Much of what happened late in Game 6, which started this whole weird narrative, was the result of a David Desharnais slew-foot and an Andrei Markov stick to Zdeno Chara‘s groin that went uncalled.
So what are the Canadiens talking about when they say they’re being disrespected?
“Well, watch the clips. The whole entire series you can see little things out there,” Weaver said. “But I think that’s their game. Our game is just playing. The other stuff isn’t really a factor.”
Claude Julien said after Game 6 that he wasn’t saying the Bruins were innocent, but said that the idea that the Bruins are the bad guys and the Canadiens are good guys is overstated. Both teams pull stunts, which is true. Shawn Thornton shouldn’t have squirted P.K. Subban, but Subban shouldn’t have put Thornton in a dangerous spot in Game 2.
The mocking has gone both ways. Dale Weise has now mocked the Bruins twice — once by pounding his chest (a Bruins celebration) in Game 3 and once by flexing (like Milan Lucic) in Game 6.
Is that “disrespectful?” Maybe, but who cares? The Weise stuff is hilarious, and it’s more of a “we won’t take any guff” statement than anything else.
There’s an important game to be played Wednesday, and unless bad penalties are taken, manners will have nothing to do with it.