Canadiens’ cause aided by shot blocking

Montreal skaters have been making it a point to get in the path of Bruins shots. Francois Laplante/Getty Images
Francois Laplante/Getty Images
Montreal skaters have been making it a point to get in the path of Bruins shots.

MONTREAL — One of the Bruins’ strengths has been their defensemen’s ability to get shots to the net from the points. One of the Canadiens’ strengths has been to limit that and, at times, take it away.

Through three games of the best-of-seven second-round playoff series, two of the Bruins’ better shooters — Zdeno Chara and Johnny Boychuk — had combined for a total of just 12 shots.

Montreal had found a way to block 76 shots in that span, to 48 by Boston. Habs defensemen Mike Weaver, Josh Gorges, and Alexei Emelin had accounted for 33 of those blocks.


In Game 3 Tuesday, Weaver’s block of an Andrej Meszaros shot led to the winning goal by Dale Weise.

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“That’s what we get paid for — we get paid for sacrificing our bodies,’’ said Weaver, who has a goal and an assist in the series. “Our [role] is to get bruises and lose our teeth. It’s basically not really caring about things. If I don’t get a bruise, I feel like I wasn’t involved in the game.

“It’s a mind-set. It seems like most of my assists are from shot blocking. It’s great on this team that every guy you pass it to or kick it to actually have an opportunity to score.’’

In the Bruins’ 1-0 overtime victory in Game 4 Thursday night, the Canadiens continued to block shots, registering a 20- 12 edge over the Bruins. Emelin led the way with six.

The Canadiens know that by making it difficult for the Bruins to get pucks to the net, it increases their chance of success. But Weaver also expects the Bruins to adjust to the Habs’ defensive strategy.


“They’re all professionals over there,’’ he said. “I know they’re pretty confident and they’re a team that’s going to play every shift like it’s their last. We’ve got to be ready at all times.’’

In Game 3, only one Bruins defenseman had more than one shot on net: Torey Krug.

“It’s a testament to what we’re doing right now, but the first three games, they’re over with now and you’ve got to move on,’’ said Weaver. “They always bring it. They’re a hard-nosed team and they built their team around strength and finishing checks and skill.

“I think, for us, we’ve just got to worry about our game and focus on the little things we do and what we’re working on.’’

The Canadiens scored the first two goals in both Game 1 and Game 3. And it’s much easier to play with a lead than it is to come from behind.


“We’re working at it throughout every single shift and getting pucks to the net,’’ said Weaver. “They’ve got a great goalie in net, they’ve got great defensemen. They’ve got pretty good structure. Last game we were able to jump on those opportunities.’’

Weaver, 36, had played in only 11 postseason contests before this year, all in the first round. He said it’s hard to describe the excitement surrounding this series.

“Montreal is a different ballpark — it’s crazy,’’ he said. “The media pays attention to small little things. It’s recognized more.’’

The Subban spark

The most noticeable player on the Canadiens in this series has been defenseman P.K. Subban. Heading into Game 4, Subban had three goals and three assists.

“He’s playing great for us,’’ said forward Brendan Gallagher. “That’s what we expect from him and he’s certainly delivering. He’s one of our best players. We expect him to show up and he’s done that in the playoffs so far.

“He’s a game-changer, and for him to play with emotion and keep those emotions in check has been big for him, and he’s just giving us a lot of energy right now and you see how much he’s enjoying it, so it’s a lot of fun to be a part of.’’

Subban even scored on a breakaway in Game 3 after coming out of the penalty box.

“I’ve never actually seen him on a breakaway,’’ marveled Gallagher. “He looked pretty comfortable. He looked like he knew what he was doing. He made a good move.’’

Looking out for No. 1

Coach Michel Therrien would like to see more from his top line of Max Pacioretty, David Desharnais, and Brendan Gallagher, who combined for four shots on net in Game 4. “They got better [as the game went on],’’ said Therrien. “Obviously, you want your No. 1 line to be more productive, but if they keep working, good things are going to happen.’’ . . . Playing with a lead would seem to be easier than trying to come back from a deficit, but Gallagher said both circumstances require a great deal of energy. “I can’t say it’s more exhausting to be behind or up,’’ he said. “It’s always the same and the work ethic is always there.” With a lead, said Gallagher, “certainly you can settle into your comfort zone a little more and play the way you need to. You don’t need to push it. When you are behind, you definitely take a couple of more chances and try to score that goal. Everyone has dealt with it and knows how to handle that situation.’’ . . . Therrien went with the same lineup as Game 3, with defenseman Francis Bouillon and forward Brandon Prust on the sideline.

Nancy Marrapese-Burrell can be reached at