Eight times in their four-game Eastern Conference quarterfinal sweep of Montreal the Boston Bruins used late-period goals to zap any confidence or momentum the Canadiens had flowing through their veins.
When you factor in the game-sealing empty-netters, Boston owned the final seven minutes of the series’ 12 periods, 10-2. A number of players had varying explanations for Boston’s success when the intermissions and the final horn were drawing near.
“I don’t know, that’s been our focus all year — good starts in a period, you’ve got to be good at the end of a period, be good in the third period,” said winger Chuck Kobasew. “That’s something that we’ve tried to figure out here.”
“I just think we were real patient with Montreal, especially in Montreal, they came out hard both games (at Bell Centre),” noted winger Michael Ryder. “We were just ready and we didn’t panic too much. We just wanted to make sure we stayed patient and we took advantage of their mistakes.”
Head coach Claude Julien echoed Ryder’s thoughts on the subject, but also added on other factor.
“I think a lot of those times it was us being patient, especially in their building. We knew they were going to come out strong and with their fans behind them,” said the bench boss. “They just kind threw everything at us in the first period and it was about being patient and then the minute they kind of let their guard down, we were able to take advantage of some of the miscues. Some of it is about how our team is, some of it is … you’ve got to have a little bit of luck too going your way. There’s no hiding that fact.”
There’s obviously a defensive aspect to this late-period phenomenon. Momentum shifts would’ve been fleeting had the Bruins allowed the Habs to answer. But the Habs were probably too shocked to respond with scores of their own. Continuing to dominate those late-period situations will be crucial for Boston as it moves on in the postseason because being on the other end can be demoralizing.
“Playoffs are all about momentum,” said Kobasew, “and the team that can sustain positive momentum … and if you get down, you have to find a way to bounce right back to have success.”
“If you’re all over them and having a good period (and they score late),” added Ryder, “it just takes all the wind out of your sails.”
So as long as the Bruins stay on the right side of those late-period goal totals, they should find the sailing smooth.