If there's one thing I can say about Bruins-Habs, it's that it's almost always a play-off atmosphere. It'd been too long since I got a chance to experience the rivalry firsthand, at TD Garden, and the crowd was absolutely electric tonight. Every big hit--and there were quite a few on both sides, though the Bruins probably came out on top in that category--was cheered. The Habs best skater, PK Subban, was relentlessly booed whenever he touched the puck. A small, but vocal minority of Canadiens fans was shouted down whenever they tried to start a chant. If you've never been, I fully recommend biting the bullet at some point and seeing Bruins-Habs. It's pretty great, and it's a rivalry that actually deserves the billing.
That all said, the Bruins didn't play their best game tonight. Whereas it's a significant positive that they destroyed the Habs at even strength, outshooting them 20-5(!) at 5-on-5, Boston spent too much time shorthanded in the first and second periods, racking up six minor penalties and two fighting majors in forty minutes of ice time. As we've seen before, one of the few ways to beat this Bruins team is to turn the game into more of a special teams battle, and Montreal was successful in that. Give Michel Therrien credit for one thing, even if his coaching style appears to have significantly decayed a Montreal team that was legitimately good last year (this year it's mainly been Carey Price and some forwards managing to shine through Therrien's dump-and-lose system), he always seems to have the team ready to play, and the annoy the heck out of, the Bruins.
The scoring was pretty limited. Alexei Emelin pissed off Chara and Lucic. Kevan Miller took a penalty six minutes and change into the game, had to fight because of it, and the Habs scored on the resulting Power Play. After that goal stood for almost 40 minutes, Dougie Hamilton's point shot deflected off Patrice Bergeron and in. In-between, a lot of dumb stuff happened, including accusations of embellishment (some founded, but it's always overstated in this match-up by both sides), the Bruins playing almost 8 minutes of the second period shorthanded. Did I mention bad discipline hurt Boston's ability to play and, obviously, take over this game at even strength? Don't take my word for it, ask this year's dark horse Lady Byng Candidate, #63.
Marchand: "we have to be more disciplined than that" ^CS— Boston Bruins (@NHLBruins) March 25, 2014
That's your Tweet of the Night, by the way. If Brad Marchand's suggesting that, it might be a good idea to reign things in next time an opposing team starts playing to get under the Bruins skin. The fact that they didn't really do until the third period pretty much sums up the evening. The game was equal parts fun, exciting, aggravating, and ultimately disappointing, with an ending that probably resulted in the destruction of a local milk crate factory. Alex Galchenyuk, after four Bruins shooters had come up empty against Peter Budaj, and three Habs had failed versus Rask, netted the winning goal in the shootout.
The Highlights in GIF form:
Emelin's hit on Lucic started the unpleasantries. Chara decided it was worth a roughing minor to let him know that wasn't okay. In Z's defense here, it's harder to tell what's clean and what's dirty. For the record, I thought it was a clean hit (though, I had the benefit of an overhead view and not being on the receiving end). Milan Lucic disagrees, though after this I somewhat doubt his objectivity.
The only non-shootout shot good enough to beat Tuukka Rask was a point shot from the aforemention Emelin, which was unfortunately deflected by Chris Kelly. Not picking on Kelly, here -- this is another example of the Bruins seldom-used, incredibly ineffective blocking tactic known as "not making up your mind between blocking or getting the hell out of the lane."
Tuukka's nifty blocker save on a BOMB from the right circle.
Thomas Vanek is so magical against the Bruins, he can somehow play while carrying a broken stick and not get called for a penalty.
I love me some Johnny Boychuk, but I'm not sure what he's thinking here. Yes, Subban pissed him off. That's of sort of what PK Subban does, in addition to being good at Hockey. But no, that's not really an excuse for what could've been a misconduct.
A wild stick appears. Dougie Hamilton's too cool to care.
The Bruins tie the game on the deflection of Hamilton's shot. Patrice Bergeron on the tip. Dougie's pumped.
In a play that typified the 3rd period and OT, Brad Marchand made the Habs look silly, but had no way to finish the play.
- After a couple games that were a little closer than usual in terms of even strength play, the Bruins were clearly the better team when they weren't in the penalty box. Their Fenwick Close events in this game? 26 to the Habs 9.
- The Habs had only a single player who was over 50% CF at EV. Francis Bouillon? Fancystats: go home, you're drunk. The Bruins had one player who wasn't over 50% CF at evens, Matt Bartkowski, who broke even. Actually nevermind, this makes perfect sense.
- Tuukka Rask, who, along with every other Bruins starting goalie in recent memory, has developed a reputation for struggling with the Habs, notched his second straight good start against them, making 22 saves.
- The defense, lacking the Warlock tonight, nevertheless looked pretty airtight at evens. Frankly, despite Emelin's PPG, they looked alright on the PK as well.
- Discipline. Too many penalties through the first two periods. Too many dumb overreactions plays. Look, it shouldn't be discounted that standing up for your teammates is something that Hockey players value, even if that effect isn't something we can measure, or that physicality is part of the Bruins style of play, but there comes a point where spending so much time shorthanded is just not a smart way to play.
- In that same vein, it was clear that Canadiens were definitely gearing to get under the Bruins skin in this game. Emelin, in particular, seems to have something about him that annoys the everloving everything out of Zdeno Chara. For far too much of tonight's game, the Habs succeeded in getting the Bruins to react to their tomfoolery.
- Peter Budaj. Just stop. Please.
- The Bruins 12-game winning streak ended with this loss.
- We shouldn't overstate the importance of this loss. The Bruins still picked up a point, going back ahead of the St. Louis Blues in the President's Trophy race.
- Seven hundred comments in the third period thread?! I'm sure there's a lot of fun reading to catch up on.
- Boychuk's overreaction to Subban's instigating probably takes the cake here. There were also a couple questionable hits thrown by Lucic and Weaver. Weise was injured on a hit from Miller, and Moen was injured in the ensuing fight. Man, actually, this list could go on, but this recap is too long.
- You know what? I'll say it: the whole game was pretty ugly. It was entertaining as hell in its own way, and it had its awesome moments, but this was an ugly, messy Hockey game.
Note: thanks to Steph for the GIFs!
We have chosen not to GIF the sad ending in an effort not to anger the Mighty Tuukka -- the milk crate shortage on the East Coast is already hitting critical levels. Regardless, Chicago's here on Thursday, so let's hope the Bruins don't get too down thanks to this one game losing streak.