Boston's scoring ability will be enough to outlast archrival Montreal
Posted: Monday April 12, 2004 6:03PM; Updated: Monday April 12, 2004 7:48PM
No. 2Boston vs. No. 7Montreal
STORY OF THE SERIES
Bruins captain Joe Thornton practices Monday in Montreal while battling an always mysterious "upper body injury."
Bruins rookie goaltender Andrew Raycroft has shown no signs of being intimidated by the playoffs or by the sight of Canadiens veteran Jose Theodore between the pipes at the other end of the ice. Raycroft allowed only a 5-on-3 goal over the first two games, both Bruins victories. He even played strong in Boston's 3-2 loss in Game 3.
SURPRISE OF THE SERIES
Easily Alex Kovalev of the Canadiens, who potted two goals in the first period of Game 3 after mustering only two shots on goal in the first two games combined. Kovalev can be one of the game's most complete forwards, a player who can create scoring chances with little daylight and is very strong on his skates. But he's also given to long stretches of lethargic play and to making poor decisions with the puck. He entered these playoffs after a dismal season, most of it spent with the Rangers, which makes the mini-renaissance all the more surprising.
CANADIENS WIN IF...
Theodore can settle down and stop letting in soft goals as he has all series, including allowing the overtime game winner go off his glove in Game 2. The Canadiens will also need continued production from Kovalev, one of the few Montreal forwards who can stand up to the Bruins' size.
BRUINS WIN IF...
They can get some production from Joe Thornton, their ailing star center. Thornton's mere presence inspired the team in its first two games -- he's got what the team calls an "upper body injury" that may actually be a damaged rib -- but his tentative play is starting to take a toll, seriously downgrading Boston's best line. The Bruins would also be helped by a return to the ice by center Michael Nylander, who missed Game 3 with the flu after being the team's offensive sparkplug in the first two games. Raycroft just needs to stay solid.
It was Boston before the series, and it's still Boston. Even if Theodore gets sharp, the Bruins can score. Bruins in six.
Sports Illustrated senior writer Kostya Kennedy takes sides each week at SI.com.