The Boston Bruins came into their showcase matchup against the Montreal Canadiens after one of their best stretches of the season. Having won four straight games, including scoring six goals in their last three wins, it seemed like perfect timing for their original six rivals to head to town. Unfortunately, the Bruins team that took the ice last night played nothing like they had in their previous four games.
The poor play started in the first period when the Bruins appeared unaware they were able to actually enter the offensive zone. Montreal peppered Tuukka Rask with shot after shot as the Boston defensemen were not able to find any open forwards to start a clean breakout.
It did not take long for the Canadiens dominance to translate onto the scoreboard as they grabbed a quick 1-0 lead 02:16 into the game. After Shawn Thornton was not able to clear a blocked shot, the Habs worked the puck out to defenseman Alexei Emelin who fired a slapshot towards a crowded goal. Despite the traffic, Rask appeared to be tracking the puck well, but it snuck through a small opening between his left pad and glove. After the first goal, things did not get any better for Rask.
A turnover by the Bruins sprung Canadiens speedy winger Max Pacioretty for a partial breakaway. With Johnny Boychuck right behind him, Pacioretty made a strong move to the slot right in front of Rask and beat him five hole. Unlike the first goal, there was not much Rask could do on the second. Before the turnover, Boychuck made the mistake of pinching down too far in the offensive zone and drifting towards the center of the ice. The over aggressiveness by Boychuck allowed Pacioretty to fly his own zone and start the breakaway. Also, to be fair to Rask, it looked like Pacioretty’s only option was to keep the puck wide because of the pressure from Boychuck on the inside, but he was strong enough to cut back to the slot and Tuukka was unable to adjust.
After Dougie Hamilton cut the lead to 2-1 shortly after the Pacioretty goal, the Bruins tried carrying that momentum into the second period, but were not able to get even with Montreal. Although they did record the first six shot of the period, they could not beat Peter Budaj and Montreal eventually extended their lead.
The Bruins found themselves on the penalty kill after what was a bad call on Brad Marchand for a double-minor roughing. Marchand gave an extra shove to a Canadiens player who had came in on Rask after a save, sending him into the post. The play was a little aggressive by Marchand, but it was a case where his reputation cost him because the shove was not really that egregious of a penalty to deserve a double-minor. Credit has to be given to Montreal though as they did not waste any time, scoring only 11 seconds into the man advantage.
Montreal’s power-play goal was the last one Tuukka would allow as he was pulled from net for backup Chad
Johnson. Should Rask have been pulled? Yes he should have. Now the second goal he let up to Pacioretty was just a good play by an explosive player, but the first goal he should have had despite the traffic in front of him, and the power-play goal was really soft. The shot came from the top of the right faceoff circle and was tipped, but Rask was still in front of it and it bounced off his right arm and went into the goal.
After the game, Bruins coach Claude Julien was visibly frustrated by his team’s performance and was less than thrilled when asked of his decision to pull Rask. “This isn’t going to be one of those things where we’re going to make a big story out of a pulled goalie,” Julien said angrily. “Our team was poor tonight, ok? So maybe some times you pull the goalie for different reasons. And I don’t feel I have to explain everything to you guys, because there are a lot of decisions I make that are for inside that dressing room and not for everyone to share.” Although his message was to not make it a big deal, his words did precisely that. Julien has been short with reporters after poor performances before, but when you couple his emotions on the subject with Rask’s almost bewilderment to getting pulled, and the question of whether it is a big deal or not comes to mind. Right after the game both Julien and Rask were disappointed about the loss and if there were any lingering feelings of resentment between the two, they would have both sat down together by now and worked it out. In short, is it a big deal? Not really, because both parties need each other to be successful and their comments came in the wake of one of the Bruins worst games of the season.
The Habs put the game away by making it 4-1 only minutes after their last goal had put them up two and chased Rask from the game. It was another defensive breakdown by Boston that led to a clean breakaway for Daniel Briere. Briere held onto the puck with his forehand freezing Johnson and beating him glove side.
The final goal was a fitting end to a game which featured many mistakes by the Bruins defense, offense, and in the case of Rask, its’ goaltending.
It would be easy to overreact to the loss last night. Tuukka Rask’s record against Montreal fell to 2-10-2. The Bruins looked awful for most of the game and it came against a division rival, no thee division rival. The Canadiens are the most hated club in all of hockey in the eyes of Bruins fans and losing to them feels worse than losing to any other team.
If you analyze the game however, it was not any different than what has happened in the previous five matchups against Montreal. The Bruins have lost each game, looking slow and like one of the worst teams in the NHL. Despite their performance however, I do not feel that much worse about the team. I have come to accept the fact that in the regular season, the Canadiens are a bad matchup for the Bruins. Their speed and offensive explosiveness does not allow Boston to get their hitting game going and that makes them an average team. However, if these two teams were to meet in a playoff series, the Bruins would look much better. The playoffs are completely different from the regular season, as Montreal found out when they were eliminated in last year’s playoffs by the number seven seed Ottawa Senators. In a seven game series, Boston would be able to grind Montreal down with their physicality and defense, unlike a single game in the regular season where Montreal can show up and fly around the ice and get the momentum early.
Despite how I feel about these two teams were they to faceoff in the playoffs, there’s no way to feel good after this game if you’re a Bruins fan. Uninterested, lethargic, and mental mistakes are just a few words that can be used to describe the Bruins performance last night and that needs to be remedied.
I am sure coach Julien will remind his team that efforts like the one his team put forth last night are unacceptable and they will be a little tougher to play against come Saturday when they face the Edmonton Oilers at 1 PM.