BOSTON- At 6-foot-3 and 253 pounds, Georges Laraque doesn't go unnoticed very often, but that didn't prevent the Canadiens tough guy from being Bob Gainey's secret weapon in Game 1 against the Bruins.
After surprising many by lining up Laraque alongside Saku Koivu and Alex Kovalev in the regular season finale, Gainey did the same to open the playoffs. The Habs GM and head coach, however, waited until the very last moment before having the unlikely line taking the opening faceoff.
"I actually knew I would be playing with Sak and Kovy since we played Boston last week," admitted Laraque. "It was one of the tricks Bob had up his sleeve. I think things went pretty well for us as a line considering that I hadn't played with them very much until tonight."
The plan was simple: nullify giant Zdeno Chara.
"We knew that the Bruins were going to use Chara against our top line," continued Laraque, who picked up a pair of shots on goal. "I was there to give them more space out there. Chara always plays a lot of minutes and our plan was for those not to be easy ones. It's important to counter him with a physical presence."
Alongside his two new linemates who needed no introduction, Laraque logged 13:12 of ice time, far from his usual workload. The game marked only the seventh time in his playoff career that Laraque had been as called upon as often. The last time he played as much was back on April 19, 2003 while with the Oilers, when he hit 15:50 against the Dallas Stars.
With the ace up his sleeve now revealed, Gainey was pleased with his experiment.
"I thought Georges handled the puck well," assessed Gainey. "He didn't make any mistakes and even got a few shots away. He presented the Bruins with a good challenge when he parked himself in front of the net. I don't think he held his linemates back, either. What he did offensively was just a bonus."
Alexandre Harvey is a writer for canadiens.com. Translated by Manny Almela.
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