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Cullen: Price, Subban give Habs Game One win

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Scott Cullen
5/2/2014 1:31:31 AM
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The Montreal Canadiens received a spectacular goaltender effort from Carey Price in Game One at Boston. Scott Cullen has notes on Price, Tuukka Rask, P.K. Subban, Rene Bourque and more.

HABS STEAL GAME ONE

Despite being soundly outplayed by the hometown Boston Bruins, the Montreal Canadiens emerged from Game One with a 4-3 double-overtime win, thanks to G Carey Price, who stopped 48 of the 51 shots that he faced.

Price had a career-best .927 save percentage this season, but he had a .904 save percentage in the first round sweep over Tampa Bay, so it's not like this game was standard fare. During the regular season, Price had a dozen games during which he recorded at least 35 saves, ranking fifth in the league. What is important for the Canadiens, though, is that Price is capable of stealing games like this because that's likely what is going to be required if Montreal is going to upset a superior puck possession team.

At the other end, Vezina Trophy favourite Tuukka Rask stopped 29 of 33 shots and he was critical of his own performance. Maybe a little hard on himself, as goalies can be, but it could also reflect some frustration. For as great as Rask has been to this point in his career -- he has the best save percentage in the league since 2009-2010 -- but has had his problems with Montreal, including a .908 save percentage in 17 regular-season games against the Habs and has yet to beat the Canadiens in Boston, now 0-9 after Game One.

Montreal got a pair of goals -- their first and last -- from D P.K. Subban, who played a game-high 33:49 in Game One and now has seven points in five playoff games this season.

Likely the most pleasant surprise of this postseason for the Habs has been LW Rene Bourque, who scored three goals against Tampa Bay in the first round and came up with a goal and an assist against Boston.

The Bruins controlled play so thoroughly that LW Daniel Paille had their worst possession numbers, and he was still on for 51.9% of 5-on-5 shot attempts. Defencemen Dougie Hamilton and Zdeno Chara as well as C Patrice Bergeron and RW Reilly Smith were all on for better than 70% of shot attempts.

There was an interesting allocation at the bottom of the Habs' puck possession chart for this game. LW Travis Moen (17.4%) was at the very bottom, but the next four, all under 26%, were the shortest Habs -- RW Brendan Gallagher, C David Desharnais, C Daniel Briere and D Mike Weaver. The only two Canadiens over 50% in shot attempts were Bourque and Lars Eller. It's just one game, so this could mean nothing at all, but it might be worth watching to see if the Canadiens' smaller players continue to have possession problems as the series progresses.

Credit to Eller, by the way, for coming up with positive possession stats while starting with one offensive zone face-off compared to 17 in the defensive zone (5.6%) in Game One.

One of the subplots of the game, from Montreal's perspective, is that head coach Michel Therrien demoted RW Thomas Vanek from the first line to the fourth line from a point early in the second period until midway through the third period. Vanek finished the game with 18:58 of ice time, which ranked ninth among Montreal forwards.

Certainly getting a Game One win on the road is favourable under any circumstances, but getting it in a game in which they were so thoroughly dominated is especially good for the Canadiens, who had to lean so heavily on their goaltending to even have a chance. Now, can they close the possession gap and try to take Game Two in Boston without requiring Price to deliver another out-of-this-world performance?

Scott Cullen can be reached at Scott.Cullen@bellmedia.ca and followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/tsnscottcullen. For more, check out TSN Fantasy on Facebook.

Carey Price (Photo: The Canadian Press)

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(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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