Price proves regular season is 'irrelevant'

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Price proves regular season is 'irrelevant'

By DannyPicard
CSNNE.com

BOSTON -- If you're the gambling type, putting your money on the Bruins' offense over Carey Price at the TD Garden wasn't exactly a painful bet.

The last two times Montreal's top goaltender put on the white jersey and took to the pipes in Boston, he was embarrassed. On Feb. 9, Price allowed eight goals. On March 24, he allowed five before being yanked in the third period.

He latest trip to the Garden, however, wasn't nearly as forgettable. For on Thursday night, Game One of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals, the Canadiens' All-Star picked up his first playoff win since 2008 and his third career postseason shutout.

"Whatever happened in the regular season is pretty irrelevant right now," said Price after Montreal's 2-0 win over Boston. "It's a different season. It's a different kind of hockey. And tonight, like I said, it was an excellent road game."

Price made 31 saves on the night, including a flurry of shots in a second period in which the Bruins outshot the Habs, 18-6. And that shot differential could have been worse had Canadiens players not been diving all over the ice throughout the period, sacrificing their bodies to block Boston's shots.

The combination of the two led to a big fat zero on the scoreboard for the Bruins when Game One was all said and done.

"When you look at the kind of season Price had, he was our most valuable player," said Montreal coach Jacques Martin after the game. "He gave us a chance to win every night. We're very confident in his ability, and it's up to us to give him some help, some good protection. And that's why it should be a good series."

If Price continues to play like he did on Thursday night, it will be exactly why Montreal will continue to be in the series, if not advancing to the next round.

It's Price's game that headlines the blueprint to the Canadiens' success in this series. You just didn't really know what you were going to get out of him, especially at the Garden.

But just as much as his NHL-high 38 wins in the regular season are out the window, come playoffs, so are his second-most 28 losses.

And after being Jaroslav Halak's backup in last year's Eastern Conference Finals run, Price is trying to start a new postseason legacy, one that doesn't include getting swept by the Bruins in the first round, something he experienced as the team's starting goaltender two seasons ago.

So what's changed since his last playoff win, three seasons ago?

"I think I'm just more mature, I guess," said Price after Thursday night's shutout. "I've got an excellent group in front of me. We really play excellent defensively, so that helps me out a lot.

"You can't buy age or experience. I've gone through a lot since my last win in the playoffs."

He's gone from "Jesus" Price (a nickname bestowed upon him by the Habs' faithful) to Halak's backup, to an All-Star goalie who may or may not show up in a big game.

He showed up on Thursday night at the TD Garden, and his current teammates notice a difference.

"I think everybody's seen the maturity level," said Brian Gionta after his two-goal performance. "This time last year . . . he's changed a lot. His work ethic, his mental game really came about, and you saw the maturity starting. He carried it through the summer, and you saw the results through the season."

"He's one of the best in the world now," said Scott Gomez. "He's set that presence. Whether he likes it or not, he set the bar that high. He's been waiting for this.

"He's just an even-keeled guy," added Gomez. "He was a part of it last year. He's just on a different level now. Watch him in practice. Watch his presence. Watch the way he walks. He's been waiting for this. That's one area we're not really concerned with."

After his Game One shutout, everyone in the Montreal dressing room is all in on Price.

Danny Picard is on Twitter at http:twitter.comDannyPicard. You can listen to Danny on hisstreaming radio show I'm Just Sayin' Monday-Friday from9-10 a.m. on CSNNE.com.

Haggerty: Loss of Colin Miller not a significant one for Bruins

Haggerty: Loss of Colin Miller not a significant one for Bruins

There will be some that will absolutely crucify the Bruins for losing Colin Miller in Wednesday night’s expansion draft, and rail against an asset that was lost for nothing. Those people will also miss the absolutely essential point that the whole raison d’etre for an expansion draft is to remove assets from each of the 30 NHL teams, and do it without a cost for the benefit of the new franchise opening up shop in Las Vegas.

It could have been much worse for the Black and Gold as some teams were shipping first round picks to Vegas to shelter their own players from expansion selection, and other teams were losing essential players like James Neal, Marc Methot and David Perron from their respective rosters. The B’s didn’t entertain overpaying simply to avoid losing a useful player, and clearly, they did lose a talented, still undeveloped player in the 24-year-old Miller, who now may be flipped to the Toronto Maple Leafs in a side deal with Vegas.

But let’s be honest here. A whole lot of people are vastly overestimating a player in Miller that’s long on tools and very short on putting them together, and they’re also vastly underestimating Kevan Miller. The younger Miller can skate like the wind and has a bazooka of a shot when he winds up and fires his clapper at the net.

But despite those clear offensive talents, Colin had the same number of points as stay-at-home defenseman Kevan this season despite the bigger, stronger and older Miller playing three less games this season. Kevan also had more goals (five) and more points (18) than Colin did two years ago in his rookie season for Boston.

This isn’t to say that Colin doesn’t have more discernible offensive skill than Kevan when it comes to moving the puck or creating offense. He does, but all that talent hasn’t manifested into real points, real offense or anything else for the Black and Gold over the last couple of seasons. At a certain point, a prospect like Colin needs to put all the tools together into production on the ice if he wants to become the sum of his hockey parts, and that hasn’t happened in two full seasons in Boston.

Instead, Miller continues to struggle with decision-making with the puck, consistency and finding ways to turn the quality skating and shot package into any kind of playmaking on the ice. Miller had his challenges defensively and he was never going to be the most physical guy on the ice, but those could have been overlooked if he was lighting it up in the offensive zone on a regular basis.

Plain and simple that wasn’t happening, and over the last season 20-year-old Brandon Carlo and 19-year-old Charlie McAvoy passed Miller on the organizational depth chart for right shot defenseman, and either Adam McQuaid or Kevan Miller would slot in as the third pairing D-man on the right side. It’s clear at this point that Colin Miller needs more time and patience if he’s ever going to develop as a late-blooming defenseman at the NHL level, and he wasn’t going to get those opportunities to develop in Boston.

So how good can Colin Miller really be if he was about to get buried on a Boston defensive depth chart without much hope of being in the starting six every night unless he was able to magically transform himself into a top-4 guy on the left side?

Clearly, there is risk here as Miller could move on to Toronto, develop into the player that posted 19 goals and 52 points in the AHL a couple of seasons ago and torment the Bruins for the next five-plus years. It would become another arrow in the quiver of those critics looking to hammer GM Don Sweeney and President Cam Neely at every turn, and it would generate massive “Why can’t we get players like that?” homages to the legendary Bob Lobel all across New England.    

But there’s just as good a chance that Kevan Miller will still be throwing hits and soaking up heavy minutes of ice time for the Bruins three years down the road, and that Colin Miller will be out of the league after never harnessing together his considerable talent. Perhaps Sweeney could have been better about securing an asset for Miller ahead of the expansion draft if he knew he was going to lose that player for nothing to Vegas.

The bottom line is that the Bruins were going to lose somebody to Las Vegas in the expansion draft, and the Golden Knights weren’t going to do them any favors by taking on misfit toys like Jimmy Hayes, Malcolm Subban or Matt Beleskey. They did instead lose a player with plenty of raw talent in Colin Miller, but it’s not exactly somebody that’s going to be missed in Boston once Carlo and McAvoy start showing just how bright the B’s future is on the back end starting next season. 

Bergeron makes Bruins history with fourth Selke Trophy

Bergeron makes Bruins history with fourth Selke Trophy

Patrice Bergeron made hockey history on Wednesday night at the NHL Awards Show in easily the best moment of the evening for the Bruins.

That’s right. Boston’s beloved No. 37 won the fourth Selke Trophy of his career at the NHL Awards presentation recognizing the standouts from the 2016-17 season, and in doing so Bergeron became only the second player in NHL history (Bob Gainey) to win the defensive award in four different seasons. The Habs legend Gainey made the presentation of the award to No. 37 at the event, and it certainly felt like the passing of the Selke baton from the best defensive forward of the last generation to the best defensive forward of this generation.  

“I’m humbled. It’s a huge honor. It’s also a huge honor to get [the award] from Mr. Gainey. He’s somebody I looked up to and he was a great role model for kids when I was growing up,” said Bergeron. “It’s a huge honor that I couldn’t do without everybody back home in Boston.”

This particular award had to be extra sweet for the 31-year-old Bergeron after playing injured for the entire season while battling through the discomfort of a sports hernia, and in doing so helping to lead the improving B’s back into the playoffs.

Clearly, Bergeron’s teammates were pumped for him as Brad Marchand tweeted out a little line love after the awards were announced.

Bergeron was the NHL's busiest player in the face-off circle for the third consecutive season, leading the league with 1,812 draws and 1,089 winning face-offs. His draw winning percentage of 60.1% ranked third in the NHL, and he did so while continuing to score high in the puck-possession statistical categories across the league. Bergeron finished with 71 first place votes ahead of second place Ryan Kesler, and third place Mikko Koivu with 28 first place votes.

In the other good news department, Bergeron told reporters in Las Vegas that he’s feeling good physically following surgery and should be healthy and ready to go at the start of next season.