GAME: Boston Bruins at Montreal Canadiens.
PLAYOFF SERIES: Eastern Conference quarterfinals; Bruins lead 2-0.
TIME: Sunday, 7 p.m. EDT.
Andrew Raycroft hasn't had any trouble carrying his strong regular season
play into the playoffs.
His next test comes Sunday with his first postseason road game.
Raycroft and the Boston Bruins look to push the rival Montreal Canadiens to
the brink of elimination when their Eastern Conference quarterfinal series
shifts to the Bell Centre.
While Raycroft is a leading contender for the Calder Trophy as the league's
top rookie, using a first-year goaltender in the playoffs can often be trouble.
Despite Raycroft's excellent regular season, many believed Montreal had the
goaltending edge in this series with Jose Theodore, a former Hart and Vezina
Through two games, however, Raycroft has looked every bit as sharp as he did
during the regular season. He posted a 3-0 shutout in his playoff debut in Game
1 Wednesday, and stopped 25 of 26 shots in a 2-1 overtime win in Game 2 Friday.
Another strong performance by Raycroft on Sunday could move the Bruins one
victory away from advancing to the conference semifinals for the first time
"We've grown to expect it from him because he's done it all year long for
us," Bruins coach Mike Sullivan said. "Whenever we were in a situation where
we needed a victory, he really made the critical saves for us. We may take it
for granted, but we've come to expect it from him."
While playing well at home has given the Bruins a decided advantage in this
series, Raycroft - who grew up a Canadiens' fan - knows playing on the road
will be a different challenge.
"Now we've got to go to Montreal and they're going to be fired up," he
said. "They will have a big crowd and the whole city will be excited. We know
we have a lot of work ahead of us."
Raycroft isn't the only Bruins rookie having a strong series.
Center Patrice Bergeron, who turns 19 on July 24, scored 86 seconds into
overtime Friday to send Boston to Montreal with a 2-0 series lead.
Bergeron has a goal and two assists in this series, figuring in three of
Boston's five goals.
"Bergeron has done nothing but impress us all year long," Sullivan said.
"From Day 1, he just raised eyebrows. He really understands the game for a guy
his age. For most of us, it takes a couple hundred games to figure it out."
During the regular season, Boston's top line of captain Joe Thornton, Glen
Murray and Mike Knuble often carried the team. Thornton, however, is still
bothered by an upper body injury and is clearly not 100 percent.
With the top line limited to one point in two games, the unit of Michael
Nylander, Sergei Samsonov and Bergeron has been the Bruins' most effective one.
That trio has combined for three goals and eight assists in two games.
"They've created a lot of chances," Sullivan said. "We obviously had an
inclination when we put them together that they had the makings of being a
dynamic line. They're three pretty talented hockey players."
The Bruins don't figure to be intimidated playing away from home, since they
had the NHL's best road record during the regular season (23-7-6-5).
Because Montreal has scored just one goal in this series, it's hard to blame
Theodore for his team's position, but he has clearly been outplayed by
Bergeron's winning goal in Game 2 appeared to be stoppable.
"You seldom see nice goals in overtime," Montreal coach Claude Julien
said. "This one hit his glove. It didn't look like a dangerous shot. You need
the breaks in this game. Sometimes you get them, sometimes you don't. What we
have to do now is go home, win one and we're right back in it."
Though Montreal's only goal in this series came on the power play, the
Canadiens are just 2-for-36 with the man advantage in their last 10 games.
Game 4 is Tuesday at Montreal.
HOW THEY GOT HERE: Bruins - 104 points; 2nd seed. Canadiens - 93 points; 7th
PLAYOFF TEAM LEADERS: Bruins - Nylander, 2 goals; Samsonov, 4 assists;
Nylander and Samsonov, 4 points; Thornton, 6 PIM. Canadiens - Patrice
Brisebois, 1 goal; Saku Koivu and Alex Kovalev, 1 assist, Brisebois, Koivu and
Kovalev, 1 point; Koivu, 6 PIM.
PLAYOFF SPECIAL TEAMS: Bruins - Power play: 16.7 percent (2 for 12). Penalty
killing: 90.9 percent (11 for 12). Canadiens - Power play: 9.1 percent (1 for
11). Penalty killing: 83.3 percent (10 for 12).
GOALTENDER: Bruins - Raycroft (2-0, 1 SO, 0.49 GAA); Felix Potvin (no
appearances). Canadiens - Theodore (0-2, 2.47); Mathieu Garon (no appearances)