To say the Montreal Canadiens
entered the Stanley Cup Playoffs with a fragile psyche would be an understatement.
So it's not surprising that coach Bob Gainey would try to identify some positives to pass on to his team after Thursday night's 4-2 loss at TD Banknorth Garden to open the best-of-7 Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series against top-seeded Boston.
He delivered those messages during a spirited 45-minute practice Friday afternoon at the Garden.
"Our team has to make strides toward complete games and more consistency in our play and drawing more players into the competition level that is required," Gainey said. "We can't do that in one jump. We do sometimes take note of small improvements and small changes and gather them in and recognize them."
Montreal did do some things well in Thursday's opening game. They competed physically throughout the night after Boston successfully ran them out of this same building during a regular-season game a week ago. In fact, Montreal had eight more hits -- 31 to 23 -- than the Bruins in Game 1. Montreal also blocked shots, stopping nine Boston attempts, many from the blue line, a place where the Bruins like to start their attack with the offensive trio of Zdeno Chara
, Dennis Wideman
and Matt Hunwick
teeing up the puck.
The Canadiens also were good in the faceoff circle, winning 52 percent of the 71 faceoffs contested. Plus, there was no question that Montreal owned the second period, pinning Boston in its own for long stretches and outshooting the home team 13-10 in the middle frame.
None of that went unnoticed in the Montreal room as players look for positives to hang their helmets on as they gear up for Saturday's Game 2 (8 p.m. ET, VERSUS, CBC, RDS).
"We did a lot of good things," defenseman Josh Gorges
said. "We didn't get the start we wanted, we were a little bit flat-footed and took some penalties early and got ourselves behind, but I thought we did a great job of coming back and we didn't give up.
"We were good on the forecheck. I thought we put the puck in good spots and then when we did have the puck down low, we did a good job of sustaining pressure and cycling the puck low and I thought we did a good job of getting back to the puck in our zone and moving the puck quick out of our zone. That's something we can build on."
Fourth-line checker Chris Higgins
, who scored Montreal's first goal in Game 1, believes the key to Game 2 will be pinning the Bruins in their own end, something that happened regularly in the second period of Game 1.
He says that if Montreal can do that, mainly by executing good dump-ins, as well as limiting the amount of turnovers, it can exploit one of the areas in which the Canadiens believe they have a decided advantage
"We have to keep using our speed," Higgins said. "We have the ability to wear them down. I think we are a better skating team than they are.
Plus, by forcing the Bruins to attack out of their own end repeatedly, it puts undue pressure on Boston's transition game.
"If we can make their team go 200 feet every time they get the puck, it will be an advantage for us. When they are starting with the puck every time in their own end, it is tough to generate offense."
Gainey would love to see his team do all that Saturday night. But, the thing he wants to see most is his team protecting a lead. In Game 1, Montreal was down 2-0 before the contest was 15 minutes old and the Canadiens' flurry of dominance only translated into a 2-2 tie in the third; a deadlock broken by Chara's power-play goal midway through the third.
"We played from behind and never had the lead in the game and that would be a place for us to establish how the game would unfold if we could find ourselves with a lead," the coach said.