Sunday, May 12
Updated: May 15, 1:31 PM ET
Canes' BBC line at eye of the storm
By Chris Stevenson
Special to ESPN.com
MONTREAL -- They are two Americans and a Canadian with a British-themed nickname and are no doubt being called many things in French.
None of them nice.
The Carolina Hurricanes line of center Rod Brind'Amour and wingers Erik Cole and Bates Battaglia -- nicknamed BBC around Raleigh -- have powered the ’Canes to the Eastern Conference finals, a place the ’Canes, and in their previous incarnation as the Hartford Whalers, have never been.
The Montreal Canadiens were eliminated Monday night in Game 6, losing 8-2 as Cole came up with two quick goals.
Brind’Amour and Battaglia each scored in the 5-1 victory Sunday over the Habs in Game 5.
For the series, the line scored 11 of the 21 Carolina goals. Their combination of size and speed allow them to many times produce shifts that tilt the ice in Carolina's favor.
“They are three guys who don't try and do anything special. They just work,” said Canadiens defenseman Craig Rivet. “They just throw it to the net. We have to be stronger against them.”
Theirs is the one line with which Carolina coach Paul Maurice has not tinkered in this series. With Brind’Amour's faceoff prowess (he’s a dominating 94-56 in the series), the line often has the puck when they are on the ice.
“They just now seem to be coming into their own and doing more than just good, grinding things,” said Maurice. “They’re also moving the puck pretty well with each other. They’ve played together for a month-and-a-half, almost two months and you can start to see those things coming together. They know what they can do on the ice, so now they’re more patient in the defensive zone, they’re more patient in the neutral zone with what they try to do with the puck because they know where their payoff is.”
Brind’Amour scored early in the second period Sunday to put Carolina up 2-0.
“We’re three guys who work hard,” said Brind’Amour, a native of Ottawa. “Cole and Bates are two powerful players. They’re hard to contain. Watch them down low. They’re manhandling guys, they’re so big and strong.”
Cole, 23, is from Oswego in western New York. Battaglia, 26, is from Chicago.
Despite their work, there are times when the puck does find its way into the Carolina zone.
The Canadians have to find a way to beat goaltender Arturs Irbe on Monday. Montreal, despite a series-high 31 shots, couldn’t get a puck behind Irbe until it was too late Sunday.
Irbe made 17 saves in the second period and has now allowed just two goals in the five-plus periods he has worked since coming on in relief of Kevin Weekes in Game 4.
He’ll start Monday.
“They can’t be happy getting yanked in and out,” said Brind’Amour of his club’s goaltending tandem. “Archie has been great. When he’s not playing, he’s the biggest cheerleader out there. We’ve got room for everybody.
“We gave (the Canadiens) a little too much (in the second), but Archie made the saves. That’s what a goaltender will do for you. He made the saves and we didn’t have to change anything. We were able to ride it out.”
Irbe, who was replaced by Weekes in the 'Canes' first round series against the New Jersey Devils, said warming the bench is no fun and he speaks from plenty of experience.
“I've survived a lot of NHL coaches, including Mike Keenan,” said Irbe of the coach known as Dr. Hook for his frequent goaltending changes. “I'm ready for anything.”
The Hurricanes look to be still riding the tremendous emotion generated by their stunning comeback in Game 4 Thursday in which they overcame a 3-0 third-period deficit and won in overtime.
The Canadiens should have anticipated that carryover, but instead of taking the game to the 'Canes in the early going, they were on their heels. That fired the big crowd in the ESA up even more.
The Habs will be able to count on a loud crowd of their own at the Molson Centre on Monday.
Whether they can count on center Yanic Perreault is another matter.
He missed the game Sunday game with the flu or a virus and will likely be a game-time decision.
The Canadiens will need a better start Monday. They were outshot 12-5 in the opening 20 minutes in Game 5 and the Hurricanes continued to have the edge in play early in the second.
The Canadiens rebounded in the second period when they outshot the Hurricanes 17-7, but couldn’t get any pucks behind Irbe.
“He started today as he finished the last game, I thought,” said Maurice. “He didn’t have to do much in the first, but he was very, very good in the second where we struggled with some of the things they were doing. There was no difference in his attitude all week and when he was out. He prepared himself and got himself ready for this chance.”
The Canadiens, who had been riding the excellent goaltending of Jose Theodore in this unexpected playoff run, have now surrendered nine goals in their last four-plus periods. Their season will be over Monday if they don’t do something about that.
Playing more than one period in a game would be a good start.
“There’s one good thing,” said Canadiens center Joe Juneau. “We should have lots of energy for (Monday) because we didn’t burn a lot (Sunday).”
Chris Stevenson covers the NHL for the Ottawa Sun.