|Canadiens hope to ride success of third line||05.01.14 at 2:33 pm ET|
One of the most encouraging signs the Canadiens were able to take out of their first-round sweep of the Lightning was the play of Montreal’s third line. The trio of Lars Eller between Rene Bourque and Brian Gionta combined for six goals as the Habs cruised past Tampa.
The question now is what that line will do against stiffer competition and a starting goaltender. Ben Bishop missed the entire series for Tampa, which gave Montreal a bit of an easier path to scoring 16 goals.
Bourque in particular saw the biggest uptick in his game, contributing three goals after scoring just nine goals all regular season. The 32-year-old hasn’t produced at the pace he did in his Calgary days when he scored 27 goals in back-to-back seasons from 2009 to 2011, but he thinks he’s at a point now with the Habs where he’s contributing a deep offensive group that could give the Bruins problems.
“I think we match up great against them depth-wise,” Bourque said Thursday morning. “Obviously they’re a good team, but I think we can play with them.”
Should the third lines play against one another, Bourque will go up against a familiar opponent in Loui Eriksson. The two played against one another often in their days out West, as Bourque played for the Blackhawks and Flames while Eriksson played for the Stars.
Eriksson is one of Boston’s top two-way players, and he and fellow 200-foot skaters Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci were part of an offensive group that aided Boston’s defense tremendously in eliminating the speedy Red Wings in five games in the first round.
Bourque hopes that the Habs can use their speed to their advantage against the Bruins with better success. The aim is to chip pucks behind Boston’s defense and maximize on Montreal’s quickness down low, but Bourque knows it won’t be easy.
“I think every round’s going to get harder,” Bourque said. “Boston’s a big, physical team, especially in front of their net. It’s going to be tough for us to get in front there and get those second and third opportunities. I think we have to sacrifice our bodies and just get to the front of the net. We know they’re going to be physical on us, but that’s where we’re going to score our goals.”
It goes without saying that Montreal’s top line is its most dangerous. The trio of David Desharnais between Max Pacioretty and Thomas Vanek packs an offensive punch, but Bergeron’s line figures to match up against them in Boston. From there, Krejci’s line will likely get Tomas Plekanec‘s line with Brandon Prust and Brandon Gallagher.
Peter Chiarelli said before the first round that top-six forwards often cancel each other out in the playoffs. If that’s the case, it will be interesting to see how the two offensively deep teams fare in the battle for secondary production. After all, Eriksson’s line with center Carl Soderberg and Justin Florek had a superb series against the Red Wings.
“I think they probably are [better defensively than Tampa], but I think that’s what made our team successful the first round, is that every line chipped in with a goal here and there in every game,” Bourque said. “To be successful against Boston, that’s what we’re going to need again because they have a lot of depth up front, a lot of depth on the back end and a good goalie, so I think goals will be hard to be come by, but I think the same could be said for our team.”
|A few minutes with Jarome Iginla||10.29.08 at 10:47 am ET|
The Bruins have a well-deserved day off after taking a second straight 1-0 win along their Western Canada road odyssey, so there isn’t a ton to report on the Spoked B’s other than the notion that Tim Thomas finally seems to have gained the upper hand in goaltending situation. After last night’s second straight shutout, Thomas is leading the NHL with a .943 save percentage and is second in the league after six games with a 1.77 goals against average.
Thomas became the first B’s netminder since Byron Dafoe in 1999 to register back-to-back shutouts after Tuesday night’s 1-0 win in Vancouver. It was also the first time in nine games this season that B’s coach Claude Julien has given the same goaltender the starting nod in two consecutive games.
With the Calgary Flames on the schedule for Thursday night, here’s a few minutes Flames right winger Jarome Iginla courtesy of an NHL conference call from Monday. The rugged, skilled Iginla exploded for 5 goals and 2 assists over three three games before getting shut out against the Colorado Avalanche on Tuesday night.
Iginla is also one of the few elite scoring players in the NHL that’s also willing to drop the gloves, as he’s done numerous times in his career — including this haymaker-throwing donnybrook with Vancouver’s Willie Mitchell.
Containing Iginla will be a large part of the B’s dousing the Flames and going a perfect 3-0 in the Great White Western North of Canada, so here’s a few thoughts with the 31-year-old winger with 6 goals and 4 assists this season:
Q. Fighting is up significantly in the NHL this season. Do you have any theories on why that is?
JAROME IGINLA:No, I don’t. I don’t have any theories. I think it’s definitely still part of the game. I guess the numbers would show it, but I think it’s still part of the game and part of the team and as far as momentum, and also making sure you don’t get intimidated or vice versa. No, I wasn’t aware that it was up or not, but definitely when you play, you know, there’s always that chance you never know if it’s going to be a fight. It’s not out of it, as people are talking.
You guys added a couple of new people in the off-season, and maybe that was part of the reason for the slow start. How hard has it been working in a couple of these new guys this year?
JAROME IGINLA: It’s been great. I think that we made changes in the off-season, as most teams do, and up front I think we’ve gotten a lot quicker. I think that [Todd] Bertuzzi has come in and played really, really well for us, and that’s been a big part of our power play.
[Mike] Cammalleri has fit in really nicely, and we added [Rene] Bourque and [Curtis] Glencross with their speed. I wouldn’t say that the start that we had was slow. We had a good preseason. We were playing pretty well and things were going good, and we just got off to a tough start. We had a bad first game against Vancouver, and then we lost a few one-goal games in a row where defensively our game wasn’t very sharp, and we were still right there in the one-goal games and we were having terrible second periods.
So I wouldn’t say it was like getting used to everyone. It didn’t really feel like that. It was just that we kind of just went into a little bit of a funk and got a little bit away from what we wanted to do and weren’t moving the puck very well or playing very strong defensively. We tried to change those things. It’s all the things you talk about. And fortunately this last week was a lot better for us.
Q. And looking at your team, you mentioned Todd Bertuzzi. Can you talk about how he fit in and the strong start he’s gotten off to for you guys?
JAROME IGINLA: Yeah, he’s been really, really good for us. He’s come in and he’s playing really hard. He’s having a lot of fun. Talking to him, he’s really enjoying himself. He’s one of the older guys on the team, so he’s been a leader in our dressing room.
He’s come in on the power play. I think our power play has been really coming on, and he’s a big part of that. He grabs a lot of attention in front of the net. He moves the puck well still. So on the power play, we wanted to win, we want to be a better team in the league and we’ve got to get our power play up there, too, and he’s been a big reason why it’s been improving.
Q. This is sort of a league issue. I was going to talk about the new injury disclosure policy in which the league has really tightened what the teams can release publicly about injuries. I wanted to just talk a little bit about the rationale. Have you ever been targeted by an opponent who may have known you were injured any time in your career? Did you ever feel that that was a threat?
JAROME IGINLA: I personally haven’t been. You know, I can see the one side where it sounds like you don’t want anyone to know if a guy has maybe a bad hand and you’re going to start slashing his hand. But I don’t think that’s going to happen regularly.
I know when we hear a guy with an injury, we just played [Jason] Arnott. We knew he came back in Nashville, and we knew he came back from a finger injury. We’re trying to be hard on him obviously because it’s his first game back and he plays so well against us, but no one made one comment about let’s go slash his hands or anything like that. I mean, maybe playoff time things heat up even more. But no, we’ve never really talked like that at all.
Q. And just one quick follow-up. There’s been some comparisons drawn with the NFL only because it’s a pretty physical sport, as well, and guys try to take advantage of every piece of intelligence that they have. They have the most transparent policy, in which every Wednesday and Friday there’s a report that comes out on each injured player, where he’s hurt, what he’s been able to do. There’s a big reason for that, and that’s in Las Vegas with the wagering and whatnot. But I’m just curious, if the NFL can be that transparent, why can’t the NHL?
JAROME IGINLA: Well, yeah, I think it’s obviously a very physical sport, too. I mean, we’re trying to not say a guy has a shoulder injury. Say we’re playing another team and one of their top guys has a shoulder injury. Well, we’re probably trying to hit him anyway, but we’re trying to hit him as much as we can.
And if it’s an ankle injury, there’s nothing a guy is really doing to another guy’s ankle. I guess it would be a hand would come to mind that you might see more, but refs are on that and see that anyway. So yeah, most of them are like yeah, I’m not that personally, obviously, I’m not that worried about it because usually I feel like they’re trying to hit me anyway, or playing against another team’s defensemen and they’re trying to run me into a corner whether my shoulder is good or not. No, I could see why it could be more transparent.
Q. I want to ask you, you’ve been captain in Calgary for five years. Did you feel any more pressure to put the team up on your shoulders? You had such a great week this week. Since you’re the captain and the leader, did you maybe send out the message to the rest of the guys about how everybody needs to pick up their play a little bit more and if they see the captain doing it they’ll try to do what they can to try to follow your lead?
JAROME IGINLA: Well, I mean, we had a lot of talk before this week about the fact that we definitely want to turn it around, but that’s something that happens when you’re not winning as a team. Yeah, I personally want to be better, but every guy wants to be better in the room.
I think if you went around and you asked Dion [Phaneuf] and Kipper and Bertuzzi, and you went to our young guys, [Dustin] Boydie, it’s something that it’s every single guy. There’s not many that feel good and they just want to keep going. Every guy thinks when you’re not winning that you can do just a bit more and you want to be a little bit sharper. I don’t think it’s because I’m a captain or anything. I think partly I’m a veteran and have been here, and I thankfully play a good amount of minutes and I’m out there, but I think it’s just something that’s part of a team that every guy does look at himself and see how he can contribute and collectively be better as a group.