Proud, tenacious Canadiens await next challenge
MONTREAL (AP) — They are hardworking, proud and tenacious.
The Montreal Canadiens also are going to the Eastern Conference finals after eliminating the Boston Bruins in seven games. Next up are the New York Rangers starting Saturday in Montreal.
“It’s definitely a special team and if we didn’t know it before the playoffs, we definitely know it now,” said forward Max Pacioretty, who bounced back from a slow start in the series.
“I said when I got here, I just feel like this is a special team,” added forward Dale Weise, acquired from the Canucks on Feb. 3. “I was on Vancouver the year after they went to the Cup final, we won the Presidents’ Trophy — there’s something about this team that’s just special.
“We’re real resilient. When our backs are against the wall (and) we need a big performance, our big players show up. And we’ve got so much depth. I really like our team.”
Before Game 2, coach Michel Therrien spoke about the team’s heart in words most saw as a prod at Thomas Vanek and other underachieving forwards.
“Work ethic is not negotiable, attitude is not negotiable and competing is not negotiable,” he said. “This is something we ask from every player on our hockey team. We have to make sure that everyone brings those elements to every single shift and every single game.”
Therrien was rightly proud Wednesday.
“This is a great accomplishment from that group. We just beat the best team in the league. We were down 3-2 (in the series) and we showed a lot of character, a lot of passion. To be able to win the series here in Boston, it’s a tough place for teams to come and play here. I’m really proud about the performance of our players.”
He certainly had reason to be proud of goalie Carey Price. His rebound control was exceptional and he declined to bite on any of the moves by the Bruins forwards. He was there to clean up when a mess was left in front of him.
He also had plenty of help. Price faced 230 shots during the series, with his team blocking another 146. Mike Weaver stopped 20 of those — “a human wall,” said Weise.
The Canadiens now face a Rangers team that knocked off the Pittsburgh Penguins in seven games and have a superb goaltender in their own right in Henrik Lundqvist.
Price and Lundqvist met at the Olympic final in Sochi, where the outclassed and depleted Swedes were beaten 3-0.
King Henrik has a 13-11-2 career record against the Canadiens and has struggled in Montreal, where he is 4-5-2 with a 3.87 goals-against average and .876 save percentage.
That may explain why backup Cam Talbot played the two games at Montreal this season. Lundqvist has not played at the Bell Centre since a 4-3 shootout victory in March 2009. His last regulation victory there was a 5-3 decision in February 2008.