On Saturday, August 1st, the 2020 Stanley Cup playoffs went underway, and we instantly had a huge upset between Chicago and Edmonton. But the more surprising one was the Montreal Canadiens taking Game 1 against the Penguins. Carey Price played amazing, just the performance the Habs needed from their star goalie. Claude Julien and Mike Sullivan had a coaching battle all night. A great game for Montreal and a ton of momentum to build off of going into Game 2.
Keeping Crosby Quiet
The biggest part of the Canadiens win was the 2nd defensive pairing, the Petry–Kulak pairing was on fire all night, they were very effective in limiting the Penguins top-3. Anytime Crosby went on the ice, he wouldn’t have a chance when Kulak or Petry were there to meet him. They never gave 87 an inch all night, if that meant a 3-minute shift, that’s what they did. In my opinion, the Kulak-Petry pairing was the Habs’ best all season, and they picked up right where they left off in Game 1.
Balancing the Weight
All 3 pairs played outstanding defensively and offensively. Kulak was responsible for starting the sequence that lead to the Habs first marker of the night. Petry had a beautiful play in overtime getting the game winner, they seemed to play two-way all night, if they needed help in the offensive zone, Kulak would be there. Need a shot to get a chance, Petry would launch a cannon from the point. The pair was all over the ice all night and the physicality that the two brought to the game was huge for the Canadiens. Kulak basically shadowed Crosby in the defensive zone. The one time Crosby got a chance on against a different pairing, he scored a beautiful goal to get the team rolling. Very good performance from Kulak and Petry, and the entire Habs defence on Saturday
Handling the Danger
The Habs top pair was very strong in game 1 as well. They were responsible for keeping the Malkin line down. Almost every player on the Habs played amazing. I loved the way Julien was matching the defensive pairing with the Penguins top lines. Sheary-Crosby-Guentzel was matched with Kulak-Petry. The 3 fastest forwards against the Habs two smartest strongest Defensemen. Rust–Malkin–Zucker vs Chiarot–Weber. The Pens’ three strongest forwards against the Habs’ two biggest defensemen. Julien out coached Sullivan in this one. For the first time all year, Julien changed his strategy after a terrible loss.
Build Around It
The team looked fast and hungry tonight. But they can’t hold onto this performance, they need to move forward and be ready for Monday. Game 2 is the most important game this series, they don’t want to get tied or trailing in this series. If they can build off this performance, another win in Toronto’s bubble is what the Canadiens need in Game 2.
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