Habs intent on improving effort, discipline

Updated: April 9, 2004, 12:11 PM ET
By Sherry Skalko | ESPN.com

BOSTON -- After the Boston Bruins pasted a convincing 3-0 shutout on the Montreal Canadiens in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals on Wednesday, a lone sound of hope echoed in the losers' dressing room.

Thank God there's Friday.

"The only positive thing is we get to play them again," said Canadiens defenseman Sheldon Souray. "They really took the play to us.

"It was pretty plain and simple: We just did not show up. They had their way with us."

While the Bruins dominated the Canadiens in pretty much every facet of the game -- on the forecheck, power play, penalty kill, down low, along the boards ... everywhere except the faceoff dots -- the Canadiens didn't alter any of their line combinations during practice on Thursday.

Canadiens coach Claude Julien left open the possibility of changes being made before the puck is dropped on Game 2 on Friday at the FleetCenter. However, since the final buzzer sounded on Game 1, whenever anyone affiliated with le blue, blanc et rouge was asked what hurt them most, the answer was the same: effort and discipline.

Besides being outshot 23-9 in the first period, the Canadiens also were called for needless back-to-back penalties, which center Joe Juneau said "killed our tempo."

With five seconds to go in Alexei Kovalev's penalty for slashing P.J. Axelsson, Steve Begin was whistled for crosschecking defenseman Sergei Gonchar, who had just released a shot that beat goaltender Jose Theodore high on his stick side.

"I think we're expecting a lot more out of our team, and I think the players are expecting a lot more out of themselves," Julien said. "I don't think it's the time to panic. We don't play until tomorrow night so we have all day to think about certain things. I don't think one practice, if we make changes, is going to make a difference. Right now, it's status quo, but we'll re-evaluate it as the day goes on."

As a result of their "standing around and watching," as Souray put it, the Canadiens lagged behind in the puck-possession department. It wasn't until the third period that the Canadiens' offensive blips developed into full-fledged pressure, but by that time, it was too late.

The Canadiens' top defensive line of Jim Dowd, Juneau and Begin earned its keep at even strength by occupying Boston's big, physical line of Mike Knuble, Joe Thornton and Glen Murray and limiting it to five shots -- four of them by Murray. But the rest of the lineup struggled mightily against Boston's second and more creative line of Sergei Samsonov, Patrice Bergeron and Michael Nylander. The trio combined for 12 shots and five points (one goal, four assists).

"They're tough to defend against and they have the ability to possess the puck for a long period of time so they can control territory," Bruins coach Mike Sullivan said of his charges. "We think to have that line and to have Joe's line -- two complete different styles of play -- I think it makes our team all that more difficult to defend against."

Or as Julien said, in reference to his own team: "Every team is better when they have the puck on their stick."

The Bruins and Canadiens each have been here before -- together. Two years ago, when Boston was the first seed in the Eastern Conference and Montreal was the eighth, the bigger Bruins allowed the smaller Canadiens to dictate the style of play. Frustrated, the Bruins continually took stupid penalties and lost the series in six games.

The Bruins aren't about to let that happen again, said winger Martin LaPointe.

"It's a big key to the series, to play with a lot of emotion, but controlled," LaPointe said. "Whoever is going to be most disciplined is going to with the games."

So what kind of Canadiens team do the Bruins expect to see in Game 2?

"I'm sure they'll take the tape out and regroup, and figure out how they can take advantage of us," Knuble said. "I don't know. I'm glad I don't have to figure that one out. It's up to them."

Sullivan, one non-Canadien whose job it is to figure that out, said the Bruins know how good their division rivals can be.

"I expect a team that will come out even harder than they came out the last game," he said. "We know it's going to be harder the next game than the previous one we played, and we're going to make sure out guys are prepared for it."

Sherry Skalko is the NHL Editor for ESPN.com.

SPONSORED HEADLINES

ALSO SEE

MORE NHL HEADLINES

MOST SENT STORIES ON ESPN.COM