Thursday, November 11, 2010
Rapid Reaction: Habs 3, Bruins 1
By James Murphy
BOSTON -- After one of the most dramatic comebacks in recent memory with their 7-4 win at Pittsburgh on Wednesday, the Bruins' game against Montreal one night later had the potential for a letdown. While that wasn't necessarily the case, the B's definitely didn’t have the jump they had in the third period Wednesday when they scored five unanswered goals, and the result was a 3-1 loss to their rivals the Montreal Canadiens.
Too much time in the sin bin -- The Bruins entered the game with the best penalty kill in the NHL, allowing only four power-play goals on 44 power plays faced for a 90.9 percent success rate. But sooner or later the penalty kill would have to break, and for the first time all season the Bruins allowed more than one power-play goal as the Canadiens went 2-for-5. While there were some questionable calls such as Shawn Thornton’s interference penalty at 9:42 of the second period, the Bruins still lacked discipline. As a result, the penalty kill appeared fatigued and showed some cracks in the armor.
Is the defense in quicksand? For the first month of this season, Tim Thomas was the story but he had plenty of help from the defense in front of him. That has not been the case as of late. Over the last two games the Bruins have allowed 87 shots on net, and while Thomas and Tuukka Rask have played well, the defensemen need to stop looking as if they’re skating in quicksand. Too many defenders are standing around or dropping back and letting shots get through, and while some goals were stoppable, the Bruins need to get back to their stingy ways in their own zone.
Hard-luck Rask -- Tuukka Rask just can’t seem to buy a win this season, and even when he doesn’t start, he still gets a loss -- as he did when he came in to relieve Tim Thomas in the third period of the Bruins' 5-3 loss at Washington on Nov. 5. Rask stopped 12 of 13 shots in that appearance but still took the loss. He then made 34 saves in a 2-1 shootout loss to the Blues last Saturday, and on Thursday Rask looked good again, making 38 saves but still failing to get his first win, falling to 0-4-1. The usually calm and collected Rask won’t show it but this has to be affecting his confidence after such a brilliant rookie campaign.
The Price Is Right At TD Garden -- If the Habs are smart, they will start Carey Price in every game he plays at TD Garden. The Montreal goaltender is now 6-1-1 at TD Garden with the exception of two playoff losses in the 2009 Eastern Conference quarterfinals. Price made 34 saves Thursday and seems to thrive on the road in this rivalry. Price came up huge in the second period on two Bruins power plays and was solid throughout the game for the Canadiens.
Luch rounding into form -- No one has ever questioned if Milan Lucic could play a physical game, but after an injury-riddled season in 2009-10, many wondered if he could show the offensive flair he displayed in 2008-09 when he had 42 points. Well, it appears Lucic has found his offensive side again and is combining it with his physical prowess. Lucic made a beautiful play to set up Zdeno Chara for the Bruins’ first goal 15:49 into the opening frame. The beauty of the play was the way Lucic went around the back of the net fighting off a Habs defenseman and then came out in front to dish the puck across to a pinching Chara, who blasted it by Price. Lucic's puck control has always been great, but his vision and ability to find Chara shows that his game is rounding into form. He now has four (2 goals; 2 assists) points in his last five games.
Chara pinching down low -- Chara usually likes to unleash his cannon from the blue line and either hope for a tip down low or that the puck blazes by the goalie. Usually the latter happens since no one, including his teammates, wants to stand in the way of Chara’s shot. But this season, Chara is trying a new approach -- pinching down low -- and on Thursday night that’s exactly how he scored his goal. As long as Chara’s defensive partner stays back in case the puck goes the other way, he should try this more often. The closer he is when he lets it rip, the better.
Bergeron fitting in on top line -- Patrice Bergeron has always been a versatile player but he has the reputation of a defensive-minded forward. Well, he hasn’t lost that aspect of his game but Bergeron is showing his offensive finesse since being put up on the first line between Lucic and Nathan Horton. He hasn’t scored yet in two games -- he hit four posts though -- but he has three helpers so far and his assist on Thursday was a byproduct of that defensive instinct as he fought hard to keep the puck in the zone and get it to Lucic, who fed it to Chara for the goal.
Pele Halpern denied -- With the game tied 1-1 late in the second period, the Habs broke in 3-on-2 and Jeff Halpern looked to be in the right place at the right time as Tuukka Rask kicked a Benoit Pouliot shot right to him in front of the net. But instead of tapping in the rebound with his stick, Halpern kicked it back in and past Rask. It would’ve been a goal in soccer, but after a lengthy review and call to the video replay crew at the NHL “war room” in Toronto, the goal was waived off and the game stayed at 1-1 after two. Unfortunately the Habs would score two more and the Bruins failed to take momentum from the no-goal.