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Pregame Notebook: Game 6 @ MTL

by Hannah Becker / Boston Bruins

BOSTON – After five games  of grueling, gritty hockey, the first round series between the Boston Bruins and the Northern rival Montreal Canadiens could come to a screeching halt tonight.

Should the Bruins come out on top of tonight’s Game 6 match-up, they would advance to the second round of the playoffs after losing the first two games of their first round series.

It’s not a given though as the two teams have battled it out throughout the first five contests of the series. It took until Boston’s 2-1 OT Game 5 victory before a team won on home-ice and there is the history to consider -- entering tonight, the Bruins are 0-26 when falling in the first two match-ups of a seven game postseason series.

Heroics from Michael Ryder, Nathan Horton and Tim Thomas, along with solid play from much of the rest of the line-up, has allowed the Bruins to battle back and they take a 3-2 series lead into tonight's Game 6.

While the Canadiens shutdown style of play served them well in the first two contests, Boston solved Montreal over the next three games and prevented the Habs from taking early leads, forcing them to take a more offensive approach to the game.

The Canadiens playoff lives hang off the catwalk of the Bell Centre tonight, as the Bruins looks to invade Canada and take all three contests on foreign soil. Should the Bruins complete the feat, tomorrow the page will turn on another chapter of the storied rivalry. Should the Bruins fall, tomorrow will bring a quick turnaround with Game 7 slated for Wednesday night.

Horton’s the hero: Game 5 brought reel of highlights
It was the biggest goal of his life in a moment he will never forget.

Boston Bruins and fans surround right wing Nathan Horton, center facing front, after he scored the game-winning goal against the Montreal Canadiens during the second overtime period in Game 5 of a first-round NHL Stanley Cup hockey playoff series in Boston, Saturday, April 23, 2011. At left is center David Krejci (46) and at right is Johnny Boychuk. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)
Nathan Horton’s double-overtime, game winning, second career playoff goal was arguably the biggest tally for the Bruins this season.

Horton’s snipe came 9:03 into the second overtime period of Game 5 and propelled the Bruins to their first lead of the series, 3-2.

“I saw the rebound, we had control of the puck, and I saw the rebound come out. It was. It was like it’s in slow motion. It was just sitting there. I’ll tell you, it felt good to put that in the net,” Horton said.

“Obviously winning the game, it was a pretty special moment.”

Carey Price made some key saves to keep Montreal in the game, and Tim Thomas did the same for Boston—albeit with a little assistance from Michael Ryder.

The Canadiens broke into a three-on-two rush in the first period and sniped a shot of Thomas’ blocker. Thomas skidded to the ice after making the save as Montreal collected the rebound and shot another one towards the empty Boston net.

But it was Ryder, a former champion ball hockey goaltender, who made the glove save keeping Boston from going down a goal early.

“It was something like a two on one, three on one, and our D went over and they just made a pass in front and I knew Timmy was out of position and I tried blocking any way I can, and ended up getting the glove on it,” Ryder said of the stop.

Heading into overtime, the style of the game didn’t change much as both teams had solid scoring opportunities and both goaltenders continued to stand on their heads.

“Carey [Price] played a very good game, he made some really good saves. My job, like I’ve said it before, I’m not really playing against Carey so to speak,” said Thomas.

“But tonight I was in a way. Just because whenever he made saves, I had to make sure I made the saves because it was such a tight game.”

Perhaps the last defining moment in a game full of highlight-reel caliber plays came early in the second overtime when Thomas sprawled across the crease to make a leg-flying save on a Brian Gionta breakaway.

“I was out pretty far so I had to make sure I started to get my backward momentum going so I could play both the shot and the pass. And I was just barely had enough speed to be able to make that push over on the pass,” Thomas said of the save.

“And I was just fortunate enough to get a leg out and cover that part of the net.”

Chara named finalist for Norris Trophy
The NHL announced yesterday that Boston Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara is one of three finalists for the 2010-11 James Norris Memorial Trophy.

Montreal Canadiens' Tomas Plekanec, left, is taken out from in front of the net by Boston Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara during the second period of Game 4 of a first-round NHL Stanley Cup playoff series on Thursday, April 21, 2011, in Montreal. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Paul Chiasson)
The Norris Trophy has been awarded annually since 1953 “to the defense player who demonstrates throughout the season the greatest all-around ability in the position.”

“It’s obviously a big honor and I’m very humbled and very thankful. It’s, especially after you consider how many guys had such a great season, a breakout season, I’m just very thankful that people who did vote recognized the definition of the Norris Trophy award,” Chara said yesterday.

“And obviously a big thank you goes to all the people who helped me to get there, especially my teammates, all the organization, and obviously my family and fans.”

The other finalists for the award are Detroit’s Nicklas Lidstrom and Nashville’s Shea Weber.

“I think obviously he’s a well-deserving player,” Julien said of Chara’s nomination. “There are a lot of reasons, I think everyone who knows him here knows he plays lots of minutes, he also always plays against other team’s top lines. He’s utilized as a shutdown D against the top players on other teams.”

“If you’re talking about Norris and talking about a defenseman that bring a lot, he’s certainly one of them. And I don’t think there are many players in this league who will raise their hand and say they really enjoy playing against him.”

Charged with skating against the opposition’s top offensive line each game, Chara led the NHL this season with a plus/minus rating of plus-33, tying a career-high for the 34-year-old Slovakian. He also led the Bruins, the NHL’s third-best defensive team, in average time on ice with a mark of 25:26. He finished the season with 14-30-44 totals, and his 8 power play goals tied Michael Ryder for the most on the Bruins. Chara took a team-high 264 shots, and also chipped in 153 hits, 111 blocked shots and 32 takeaways in 81 games.

While his offensive numbers are good, they are not as good as his competitors. The puck-moving Lindstrom had 16-16-62 totals this year while Weber collected a 16-32-48 scoring line.

But the Norris isn’t an award for the best offensive defenseman, it’s an all-around defensive award and Chara felt that by receiving the nomination, the league had recognized the merit of the award.

“I’m very competitive, I’m very motivated to play against top lines and the best players every night. I take a lot of pride in that, and I just want to help the team as much as I can to win,” said Chara.

“I know I’m not the extremely skilled defenseman who’s going to put probably 70 points on the board every year. But I know that if I play my game, I give my team a good chance to win hockey games. That’s all I can do.”

This is Chara’s fourth time being named a Norris Trophy finalist. He won the award in 2008-09 as a Bruin, and was a finalist in 2003-04 with Ottawa and 2007-08 with Boston.
 
The time is now for Bruins
The Boston Bruins are not looking at Game 7 as a possible fall-back option.

Julien
Instead, for Boston, the time is now.

“Just to talk about something else right now I don’t think is the right approach, it’s also a waste of energy and time,” said Bruins head coach Claude Julien.

After falling behind 2-0 in the series, the Bruins have won three straight to take their first series lead 3-2. Tomorrow night they are looking to cap off the comeback by winning their fourth game in a row, closing the series out on six games.

“As a team right now, we’re not thinking about game seven, we’re thinking about game six. And that is what is on our mind that is what should be on our mind. And we realize how important it is to come play probably our best game of the series,” said Julien.

“And that’s basically where our focus is right now.”

Should Boston come back to clinch the series, it would be the first time the franchise has won a seven game series after losing the first two games.

“We have to focus on the moment. And you hear a lot of coaches and you hear a lot of players talking about the moment, and that’s what he have to focus on is the moment,” Julien said.

“The moment is tomorrow, us being ready to play game six.”

Despite Boston taking both games played in the Bell Centre thus far this series, the Bruins are prepared for a tough match-up and will look back on Game 3 and Game 4 as a blueprint for success in the usually daunting building.

“Well we know what the crowd is like, we know how good they are at home, we know how they come out with a lot of jump, and we understand that whole situation,” Julien said.

“Our determination has got to be there because they’re going to come out with some desperation. They’re going to come out hard and we have to be ready for that and we got to be ready to push back.”

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