Its been stated here and everywhere else in the universe this playoff season – that scoring the first goal has been imperative to the success of teams this playoff season. Frankly, in my opinion it has been overstated. I’ve said it before on this site that I’m very wary of patterns. Any time the hockey community reaches a consensus on a subject – you’re likely to see the opposite happen.
Boston was supposed to win in 4. They had figured out how to beat the Habs. Then, Montreal won the first 2 games in Boston and all of a sudden the consensus was that Boston was finished. Montreal owned the B’s. All of it complete BS. The reality is that in every NHL game the outcome is dependent on a few factors that will vary by the minute. Hard work. Skill. Luck. Refereeing.. etc.
Montreal did not look bad (in the admittedly short time) before the first goal Boston scored its first goal in Game 3. Montreal had a powerplay and some early chances. Of course a great play by the Bruins at the other end of the ice tipped momentum in their favour. Turnaround is fair-play. Then with some hustle and bounces – they were able to build a 3-0 lead. Even so, with a good bounce in Montreal’s direction on any one of the 5 or so good chances towards the end of the game – we could be talking about an entirely different result. The exact same could be said about the Bruins loss in Game 1.
Scoring the first goal is a huge advantage – but the team who gives up that first goal should not lay down and die. Detroit didn’t last night and swept the Coyotes out of their building (and maybe Phoenix?). Montreal will need to learn how to harness that spirit if this playoff run is to last any longer than this one series. We saw a team push hard at the end of Game 3. So much though that many people are suggesting that they’re back on track for Game 4. That could be, but even if they score the first one – there will be much work left.
I bring this up because I’ve seen too many games between Montreal and Boston in which a weird bounce or great play has led to an early goal – and a win. The complexion of the Bell Centre will dramatically change should the Habs relinquish the first goal of the game – and yet the Habs should know by now, that a goal or three is not an insurmountable deficit. Nor is the one game that Boston currently trails the Habs in the series.
I’m looking for a team that makes quick transition plays tonight. If they can continue to turn strong defensive play into offensive chances from the transition game Montreal has a great chance tonight. If they can manage to score a powerplay goal – the building will explode.
This is the best time of the year! Go Habs Go!!!!