BOSTON (CBS) -- During their last playoff series, the Montreal Canadiens rallied around the idea that the Boston Bruins did not respect them. The mentality helped the Habs beat their rivals in seven games.
After one game against the Rangers in the Eastern Conference finals, it appears that Montreal's strategy is to paint Chris Kreider as the bad guy.
Kreider, the speedy winger who gave the Canadiens fits in New York's 7-2 victory in Game 1, crashed into goaltender Carey Price early in the second period on Saturday. Price stayed in the game but did not play in the third period, and he was absent at Montreal's practice on Sunday and at the morning skate on Monday, and Monday morning, Montreal's worst fears were realized: The team announced that Price will not be able to return this series.
The Canadiens are not likely to go far without Price, and they were rightfully not happy about the prospect of losing their starting netminder.
That being said, they've gone on a rather bizarre offensive in blaming Kreider for the crash.
"Everybody says it's accidental, but it's accidental on purpose," Brandon Prust, per the Toronto Star. "He did nothing to really avoid him. We're in the NHL. We know how to fall, how to not put our skates first when we fall. He did the same thing against [Marc-Andre] Fleury in the last series. I mean, he's not doing anything to avoid him. It's not totally intentional, but he doesn't do anything to lighten it up a bit.
"He knows how to fall. ... I don't think he's a real dirty player, but he went skates-first into [Price's] leg," Prust added, per Newsday.
"I reviewed the incident, and obviously it was accidental contact, but let's put it this way: He didn't make much effort to avoid the contact," Montreal head coach Michel Therrien said a day after the loss.
Therrien added on Monday: "It's a reckless play. That's the truth. And Kreider, this is not the first time that he's going at goalies."
"He was falling, and he knew he was going to hit Pricer, and he was like, 'Oh, well, I'll hit him," said Brendan Gallagher.
Backup goaltender Peter Budaj, who "filled in" for Price by allowing three goals on eight shots in the third period and now stands to be thrust into the spotlight with Price out, said that Kreider has been running goalies "all playoffs."
All of this is well and good, except ... the Canadiens are making these claims under the assumption that we are all unable to watch video of the play. Because the video of the play doesn't show a player trying to hurt a goalie. The video shows a player skating full speed in an effort to score a goal in what was at the time a close playoff game. And the video shows a desperate Alexei Emelin, who was burned badly by Kreider's self pass, diving at Kreider from behind and hitting Kreider in the right skate with his stick.
The play happened at 100 mph, but when slowed down, it's clear that Emelin did enough to throw Kreider off balance when the Rangers winger was about 8 feet from Price's crease. It looked like Kreider's plan was to dig his edges into the ice and pull up in front of Price, but when his back foot was contacted by Emelin's stick, Kreider's plans went awry.
Anyone who's ever skated at full speed knows that the slightest disruption in the lower body could lead to very dangerous consequences. And surely, Prust, Gallagher and Co. have all been tripped up while going full-bore in an attempt to score a goal.
Yet Prust spent his time in the third period exacting some "revenge" on Kreider by spearing him in the groin, cross-checking him in the back and slashing him in the back of the knee. That oughtta teach Kreider to not have the audacity to try to score a goal again.
The bottom line is that Carey Price hurt his right knee, and that stinks. Injuries are lousy, and when a team loses its starting goaltender and arguably its MVP, the players are rightfully going to be upset.
But blaming Kreider when it's clear Emelin caused the whole incident is just foolish.
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