For this Saturday night tussle, the Canadiens headed to Boston to meet their archenemies, the Boston Bruins. While not as dominant as early in the season, the Bruins still sit atop the Eastern Conference with a 27-8-9 record and 6-1-3 in their last 10 games. The bleu, blanc, et rouge arrived in town on a 4-4-2 stretch, a .500 points percentage, the same mark that they have hovered around all season.
In spite of the shot totals, the teams were fairly evenly matched through the first half of the game, but the Bruins eventually romped to a blow-out score, taking full advantage of the Habs’ defensive miscues in the second and third periods to win by a 9-4 score, with Cayden Primeau taking over from Samuel Montembeault for the last 11 minutes (and one goal).
Caufield – Suzuki – Slafkovsky
Roy – Monahan – Armia
Anderson – Evans – Gallagher
Harvey-Pinard – Stephens – Pezzetta
Matheson – Savard
Struble – Guhle
Harris – Barron
1) An extended pregame ceremony saw the introduction of the team that “broke the jinx”–the 1987-88 team, which beat the Canadiens in the Adams Division finals after a 45-year period of futility that saw the Bruins drop 18 playoff series to the Habs. There was naturally much Bruins victory video, but, to their credit, the video started with an extensive view of the Habs’ 1970s playoff victories.
2) Eight minutes in, Danton Heinen had a spectacular scoring chance in front of the Montreal goal, but Montembeault made a quick right pad save. Joel Armia got the puck to Joshua Roy, though, and he found Sean Monahan. Monahan got to the front of the net, and while Linus Ullmark made a pad save, Kevin Shattenkirk was called for slashing on the play. The ensuing Habs power play looked good, with control and movement. The Bruins’ penalty kill is very aggressive, with the forwards trying to strip the puck away from the power play unit, but that leaves openings as well, allowing the attackers to get closer to the net. And after Mike Matheson made a save at the blue line to keep the play in the zone, Monahan was able to get close for the shot. Ullmark made the save, but Cole Caufield, parked by the post, flipped the puck into the net for the opening goal.
3) With some eight minutes left in the first period, Trent Frederic carried the puck into the Montreal zone on the left-hand boards. Brandon Carlo trailed Frederic to his right, and as Frederic made the pass, Carlo fought off Jordan Harris to get a clean scoring opportunity and tipped the puck into the net to tie up the game.
4) The Habs’ forwards had a front-row seat to that Boston goal, and apparently they took notes, as it took only two and a half minutes for the Habs to respond. Sean Monahan and Roy stripped the Boston attack of the puck at the Habs’ blue line, and Roy–a reputed slow skater–dashed off toward the Boston end near the left-side boards. Meanwhile, Armia fought off Carlo and tipped the puck past Ullmark for his eighth goal of the season to restore the Habs’ lead.
5) But if Carlo followed his goal with a weak play, so did Armia. About three minutes after the Armia goal, Jayden Struble beat Jake DeBrusk on the end boards, but Kaiden Guhle lost his battle to James van Riemsdyk. With Struble returning from the boards slower than DeBrusk, van Riemsdyk got the pass past Armia to DeBrusk, who one-timed it into the net to tie the game up again.
6) A goal at the end of the period is bad enough, but two? A minute later, Matt Grzelcyk took a shot from the top of the circle, and this time it was David Savard falling down on the job, as Danton Heinen was free to deflect the puck past Montembeault from the edge of the blue ice. A third goal against was an unjust reward for all the tough saves Montembeault made during the period, but with the Montreal defence allowing three tipped shots from short distance, there was not much blame on him for those three. And then there was also the hard shot on the mask that he took, just before the Bruins’ second goal.
7) In the second, the Canadiens managed to survive another Bruins power play–after Josh Anderson tussled with Trent Frederic–but got caught less than a minute later, as Struble pinched into the offensive zone, without anyone covering. Jesper Boqvist got the puck to Heinen, who broke in on a two-on-one with Matthew Poitras. With only Guhle back, Heinen played it well, and Montembeault was fooled on the play. Bruins got the lead back, and then, 49 seconds later, David Pastrnak found Charlie Coyle open in front of the net, and the latter tipped the puck past Montembeault, for the fourth tip-in goal of the night, stretching the Boston lead to two.
8) The second-period scoring wasn’t quite done yet, though, as Montreal’s third line pressed in the Boston zone. Brendan Gallagher, hanging out in his office in front of the Boston net, had several scoring chances, missing the net and then an Ullmark save, but the third time did the trick. Rafael Harvey-Pinard won a puck battle on the left-side boards, and Gallagher got the puck in front of the net. As he got ready to shoot, Ullmark stretched out his pad, blocked Gallagher’s shot–and then Hampus Lindholm, trying to tuck the loose puck under the pad, slipped it entirely under the pad and into the net, gifting the Habs a fourth goal.
9) Turnovers and poor defensive decisions plagued the Habs throughout the game, but never more than in the third period. David Pastrnak broke in alone and tapped in his own rebound; Brad Marchand, standing at the hash marks with no one covering him, one-timed a puck into the net; and Pavel Zacha, ineffectively covered by Evans, took a cross-ice pass from the other side of the net and simply tapped it into the net for an 8-4 lead.
10) Montembeault was released from his night of punishment 9:13 into the third period, but it took little more than a minute for the Bruins, on a power play after a Suzuki slashing penalty, to score on Primeau, too. Morgan Geekie, near the left goal post, passed to the right post, where Jordan Harris was unable to prevent a one-timer by Heinen. 9-4 Bruins, then, after a fourth unanswered goal. The sad save percentages are on the goaltenders, but the mistake-filled defensive game certainly did not make their nights easier. And did the hard shot on the mask affect Montembeault’s play, too?
HW Habs Three Stars
1) Sean Monahan (0g, 3a, +0, 17:42 TOI) had a primary assist on both of the Habs’ power play goals and a secondary on the Armia goal. Solid play throughout, the best of the Montreal centres. He continues to excel on the power play, but without him, the Roy-Monahan-Armia second would certainly not be the same.
2) Joel Armia (1g, 0a, +0, 14:27 TOI) not only scored on a perfect tip from Rafael Harvey-Pinard, but the big Finn was also solid all night, only on the ice for one of the Boston goals. Full credit to his linemates, Monahan and Harvey-Pinard, and it will be a shame to see that line broken up once Tanner Pearson and Jesse Ylonen return to the lineup.
3) Brendan Gallagher (1g, 0a, -2, 14:15 TOI) had a more torrid time, but he was working hard, like the Gallagher of old, fighting for the puck in front of the opposing goaltender and blocking shots in his own end. Not the best of results, but at least he had little responsibility for the goals against while he was on the ice.