In this busy eight-day segment in the Canadiens’ schedule, they made their way to Boston to face the Bruins for a second time in five days, hoping to get some retribution after Saturday’s 4-3 shootout loss. While there were no changes in personnel, there was an important roster shuffle, as Jonathan Drouin found himself on the wing with Alex Galchenyuk to start the game, as Jacob de la Rose was assigned the task of being the defensive conscience on the unit. As for the action on the ice, the idea of retribution for recent losses appeared lost on this group. They were flat on this night, allowing Carey Price to easily make up for his subpar performance on Monday night. The listless Canadiens were outscored 4-1, but it honestly could have been a score far uglier.
Fans who showed up fashionably late were punished on this night, as Charles Hudon and Jakub Jerabek completed back-to-back spin-o-ramas, with Jerabek’s shot bouncing off some bodies and finding the back of the net. Although not a pretty goal, this one would count as Jerabek’s first in the NHL, a nice reward for the young defenceman who has picked up his play nicely of late. Soon after, Max Pacioretty created an excellent scoring chance for Hudon on a nice rush. This would be all the attack generated by the Canadiens in the first period as the Bruins really hemmed the Habs in their zone, forcing Carey Price into action all period long.
The Bruins would tie the game with 13:10 left in the period. It was quite an unfortunate play because while coverage appeared adequate, Jeff Petry’s stick was stuck between two panes of glass which allowed David Pastrnak to get to the front of the net unchallenged. He was found easily by Patrice Bergeron and deposited the puck into the open net. After the Boston goal, the game was played mostly in the neutral zone with both teams concentrating on not committing defensive mistakes after two quick goals. Despite the lack of scoring chances, it was clear that Boston was dictating play as Montreal struggled to maintain control of the puck. Specifically, Jordie Benn had a terrible period, committing a list of turnovers (even if they don’t show up on the scoresheet) through failed clearing attempts. If Montreal was unfortunate in the results of the last two games, they were clearly lucky to escape the opening period in a tie game on this night.
The second offered much of the same type of play as the first. A terrible backpass by de la Rose with only two minutes expired in the period led to an odd-man rush for the Bruins. Ryan Spooner shovelled the puck to the front of the net, as it would bounce off Drouin to get through Price for a 2-1 Bruins lead. After this giveaway, de la Rose was swiftly removed from his position on the line, as he returned to the fourth line. Nicolas Deslauriers would take over next to Drouin and Galchenyuk with Drouin returning to centre. The change within the lineup didn’t change much in momentum as Boston continued to completely dominate the Canadiens.
Perhaps the word dominate is a little strong. Boston continued to circle on the outside of the zone, never really feeling the need to attack Price’s net. The Montreal defenders were too slow to keep up with them anyway, so it appeared Boston was satisfied with taking no chances and simply holding on to the puck for the rest of the game. To be clear, the Bruins weren’t exactly putting on an offensive clinic as the game was mostly watching ten players skating around the ice, with very little happening in terms of excitement. Montreal was offered some power play chances, including a 5-on-3, but their play was completely broken and didn’t threaten Tuukka Rask nearly enough considering this golden opportunity to get back in the game. With 1:12 to play, Byron Froese was to the penalty box for slashing, but Boston also wasn’t able to capitalize on their chance.
The third period started with the carryover power play for the Bruins that didn’t amount to much. As play returned to even strength, Victor Mete got a shot through some bodies that was deflected by Deslauriers to create a rare scoring chance for Montreal. On the next shift, de la Rose’s nightmare of a night continued as he lost a puck battle and reacted by taking an offensive zone penalty. This is simply unacceptable from a player that contributes little offensively.
The Bruins’ man advantage looked much better than their first as Price was forced to make a beautiful glove save. Still on the power play, the Bruins were able to pass it around the box when a Ryan Spooner point shot was blocked by Petry. Petry softly tried to clear the puck. The attempt was easily stopped, which allowed the Bruins to play tic-tac-toe around Price who was completely left hanging by his teammates on that goal.
With roughly 12 minutes to play, the line of Deslauriers, Drouin, and Galchenyuk decided that they wanted to attempt to make a comeback. They dominated for an extended shift, buzzing around the Boston zone and getting some shots toward the net. Unfortunately for them, the momentum would not last since Froese took an absolutely horrendous penalty in the offensive zone on the very next shift. The Bruins got incredibly lucky on the power play as the puck bounced all over the zone to find a Boston player all alone in front of Price, who flopped around a la Dominik Hasek. The puck hit the post and then the shot was missed as Price got away with the spectacular attempts. Montreal would push back slightly as the period progressed, but with Price gone to the bench with just over three minutes to go, an errant pass came to Mete who tried to control the pass with his skate. He was unable to do so and the Bruins ended the game with the empty net goal.
Observation of the Night
Watching the Bruins become a power in the Eastern Conference as they trust players like Danton Heinen, Charlie McAvoy, and Jake DeBrusk illustrates what drives me absolutely crazy about the Montreal Canadiens organization. In a season that is all but lost, Nikita Scherbak remains in Laval with his 25 points in 20 games. Same thing on the point as Victor Mete is kept from junior hockey and the Olympics to play less than 14 minutes. The veteran presence on this team clearly hasn’t been able to get the job done, so why continue to beat the dead horse? Let’s take the remaining games to find out what the team has in the pipeline. How much less would it hurt to trade Pacioretty if Scherbak were to be called up and started producing? Mete might commit some mistakes, but at least he’ll also create some plays offensively. So long as he creates more than he causes, he’s worth the gamble (which is more than we can say about Benn, Alzner, Petry, and Morrow right now). I’m not saying the Habs’ youth holds the same quality as that of the Bruins. I’m saying there is nothing to lose by trying it at this point and time in the season. Even two discoveries of youths that are ready to play would perhaps be enough to give these Habs one last kick at the playoff can (and even that is likely a stretch at this point).
HabsWorld Habs 3 Stars of the Night
1st Star – Carey Price
He was all alone tonight, and though the stats won’t show a spectacular effort on his part, he was the lone hope this team had to keep this game from being a complete laugher for the Bruins so it was a spectacular effort.
Stats: 28 saves, 903 SV %, 3 GAA, 56:41 T.O.I.
2nd Star – Jakub Jerabek
One of the only players for the Habs to be able to clear his zone. He also scored his first career NHL goal 30 seconds into the game. That wound up being the highlight of the night for the Habs.
Stats: 1 goal, +1, 2 shots, 2 hits, 20:32 T.O.I.
3rd Star – Brendan Gallagher
He may not have produced, but he was the only forward who looked like he cared tonight. Well, perhaps Deslauriers did too. Gallagher and his consistency really stand out in a game like this when the rest of the team was completely asleep at the wheel.
Stats: 0 points, 0 (+/-), 2 shots, 1 hits, 15:00 T.O.I.