The Boston Bruins came visiting the Bell Centre on Saturday on a ten-game winning streak against the home team, dating back to the 2019-20 season, and a league-leading 11-1-1 overall record this season. The Canadiens rose to the occasion, though, finally solving the Jeremy Swayman goaltending mystery in the third period, and putting a bow on it in overtime, with Kaiden Guhle scoring his first of the season to give the Habs a 3-2 victory over their longtime rivals.
The starting lineup:
Newhook – Suzuki – Anderson
Slafkovsky – Dvorak – Caufield
Pearson – Monahan – Gallagher
Harvey-Pinard – Evans – Pezzetta
Matheson – Barron
Guhle – Kovacevic
Harris – Xhekaj
1) The Habs started the 2023-24 season with four early opening goals–all scored in the first six minutes–in their first six games but since then the shoe has been on the other foot. In the last eight games, they have now given up the opening goal in the first seven minutes in six of them. Pavel Zacha’s 37-second opener was bettered by Nikita Kucherov two games ago, too.
2) There was little Samuel Montembeault could do on that initial goal. The Bruins jumped onto the ice intending to push hard from the opening faceoff, and they had the bleu, blanc, et rouge scrambling in their own zone immediately. The tip was exactly what the Bruins needed to do to get the puck past Montembeault, and they also had a bit of luck in getting that into the net.
3) Sean Monahan is not only capable of scoring goals, but he also makes other players better. A case in point is Brendan Gallagher, whose expected goals-for percentage was up to 55% for the season entering this game. That’s better than the 2020-21 regular season when he was part of the possession-dominant first line with Phillip Danault and Tomas Tatar. He’s on the third line now, facing less strong opposition, but plays like the Monahan-Gallagher two-on-one show what he can still do with the right linemate.
4) The first period saw only 12 shots in total, a very low number indeed. The Bruins were doing more of the blocking, but they were also keeping the Habs’ opportunities mostly to the outside. Not the most exciting of periods, but the Canadiens actually had the better scoring chances.
5) The Bruins took three consecutive minor penalties in the second period, giving the Canadiens an outstanding opportunity to further hone their power play. The first unit looked good as it has often looked recently, with crisp passing, mobility, and reasonably unpredictable patterns, although no results. The second unit showed some good passing, but that unit has much work to do yet on its mobility, let alone unpredictability.
6) Nick Suzuki kept up the power play’s productivity with a goal 24 seconds into the third, just before the David Pastrnak high-sticking call was due to expire. Not a quick one-timer this time, but, rather, a long-distance wrister that beat Jeremy Swayman thanks in part to Monahan moving about in front of Swayman, giving Suzuki an effective screen for shooting.
7) Gallagher scored just 27 seconds after that, with Pastrnak, Zacha, and Montreal fan favourite Brad Marchand still on the ice after the last one. A classic Gallagher goal if there ever was one, the gritty veteran reached out to tap the rebound into the net behind Swayman as he was falling in front of the goal.
8) After the Habs successfully killed off 90 seconds of a two-man disadvantage, they couldn’t quite do the same with Tanner Pearson’s tripping call, as pest-in-chief Marchand tipped the puck into the net to tie things up. Would we see three-on-three overtime yet tonight?
9) Unusually, the Canadiens were unable to gain effective control of the puck early in the three-on-three overtime. However, Suzuki and Newhook blocked two of the three Boston shot attempts and Montembeault took care of the third.
10) Kaiden Guhle made an outstanding breakout pass on the play that led to the winning goal in overtime, sending Josh Anderson and Alex Newhook into the front of Jeremy Swayman. As Anderson’s shot attempt came back out, Guhle was streaking into the zone and comfortably lifted the puck over the sprawling Swayman.
HW Habs 3 Stars
First Star: Kaiden Guhle (1g, 1a, 2 shots, +2, 21:12 TOI) is playing an impressively mature, effective game, and this time he was rewarded for his work with two points, including his first overtime winner. Could it be time for Martin St-Louis to give him an opportunity on the second power play unit?
Second Star: Samuel Montembeault (27 shots, 25 saves, .926 save percentage) kept his cool after the early setback, and made the saves needed to keep the Canadiens in the game as the Bruins pressed, especially on the two-man advantage.
Third Star: Alex Newhook (0g, 0a, 0 shots, +0, 17:56 TOI) was kept off the scoresheet but looked strong in his newfound position on the top line.