The Patrice Bergeron line was buzzing early, Daniel Paille got the monkey off his back, and the makeshift lines/pairings once again looked solid. Things were looking good for the Bruins. Despite a fairly lucky Ryan Stanton tally on the Canucks first SOG (Assisted by Jannik Hansen and a weird bounce), the Bruins tilted the ice against the Canucks pretty badly for long stretches of their contest at TD Garden. Outshot 10-8 in the first despite a lot of zone time, the Bruins poured 20 SOG during the second period on Canucks goaltender Eddie Lack.
Naturally, Lack, who who got the nod in place of the injured Ryan Miller, was on his game. Say what you want about luck or good rebound clearance by the Canucks largely anonymous defensive pairings, or the "closing hand on puck" by Ryan Stanton in the late 2nd, Lack had a good game. After awhile, it started to feel like it was going to be too good. And it would be, actually, but a lot of stuff happened between there and here.
This was a weird hockey game. 1-1 after the the first three shots on net (Bruins scored on their second, essentially a rebound of their first, Canucks scored on their first SOG), the first period was actually fairly slow for the next ten minutes. Occasional buzzing by the Bergeron and Soderberg lines notwithstanding, both teams had a hard time finding a way to convert possession into shots. The Bruins had the better of the chances, though, before a late-period Canucks flurry or two. Early on, it seemed as if we might get treated to a kind slow, clog-the-middle type of a game.
However, the second period was a lot more open, as both teams seemed to finish feeling their way into this one. David Pastrnak had a couple electrifying rushes. Ryan Spooner started to heat up his two way game, notably covering for Pasta on one counter-rush. The Bruins, it should be said, actually were not the team taking dumb penalties in this game; the Canucks were clutch-and-grabby all night long, and were suitably called for four different minors. The only Bruins penalty was Milan Lucic hooking Hansen.
The problem was, even if the game was more open, the opposing net had been shut down for business . Whether it was Lack being good (he was), crap luck (it's sort of hard to deny, given how many rebounds sat in the open but were just too far away for a Bruin to reach), or ineffective net crashing (given that Carl Soderberg ended up in the net and not the puck...well, probably some of that, too), Boston simply couldn't break through. The second period would end with the score still 1-1. And you know what? It was more of the same to start the third. I started wondering if, given the weird first two goal-scorers, the Bruins would break through thanks to an unlikely candidate, such as Spooner or Matt Bartkowski or Brian Ferlin or Claude's pet invisible dog that would throw itself onto the ice with four skates and a stick that was tied to its collar.
Alas, it was not to be. Despite (because of?) the fact that the Bruins had another effort that was worthy of a win, and because this season is sort of designed along the same lines of Murphy's Law, Zack Kassian, normally a hilariously overmatched passenger on the Sedin line, blasted a puck from the right circle over Tuukka Rask's shoulder to untie the game 7 minutes into the third. There wasn't even really a bad defensive/goaltending play in the sequence, unless you count allowing a zone entry to a Sedin as a bad play (I'll go with "that'll happen sometimes"), just a guy who normally isn't much of a sniper hitting a spot that was unsaveable for Rask. The Sedins picked up their 40th (Daniel) and 43rd (Henrik) Assists of the season. I guess those guys don't ever actually stop being good, even though it's 2015 and the Canucks roster is barely recognizable around them.
The Bruins certainly didn't give up after falling behind. They essentially turned the last ten minutes into a half-ice game, repeatedly entering the Canucks zone with little difficulty. Repeatedly getting pretty good scoring chances, and repeatedly being denied by some combination of geometry, Swedish Dark Magic, and a trace amount of "shooting the puck into Eddie Lack's stomach." One wonders if the book on Lack was to get a rebound, because he did give up plenty of rebounds. The issue was that none of the rebounds went in after Paille poked home the very first.
In the last 2:02, after pulling Rask, a mad scramble or two ensued, with the best chance being a Torey Krug laser of a wrister after the puck had been loose on the slot. As he did so many times in this game, Lack, got over left-to-right and deflected the shot wide with his blocker. Yeah, I don't know, okay? I don't remember being at a game where there could've have been so many goals AND nothing ever actually paid off. This game was just as likely to be 5-4 as 2-1.
Anyway, after two icings and minimal change in personnel by the B's, the Canucks (possibly aided by an uncalled Too Much Man, as if a paltry 6-on-4 would've stopped whatever Swedish demon-harpy-squid-messiah was possessing Eddie Lack) finally cancelled out the puck against the boards enough to run out the clock. The game ended with not a bang, but, rather, a lack of one.
- For my money, the new lines/d-pairings are actually working pretty well. I think it'd be a mistake to overreact to one dry night, as the Bruins were the better team in terms of generating chances and shots. You simply don't put 40 SOG and only score once that often. The process was good.
- Brad Marchand - Patrice Bergeron- Reilly Smith had another strong game, and their early work with Zdeno Chara and Dougie Hamilton set the tone for a night where the Bruins were monsters at even strength, often pinning down the Canucks for whole shifts.
- Torey Krug played well all-around covering Adam McQuaid questionable pinches twice. McQuaid had his good moments too, in what was a largely uneventful (at even strength).
- The Power Play generated a ton of chances, speaking of Krug. They went for naught. Also, I'm not sure how to feel about the B's suddenly going a few games getting more PP opportunities than their opponents, but I'll take it.
- Carl Soderberg's line, which has been slumping, did well in general, and also potted the only goal when Soderberg's rebound fell to Loui Eriksson, who hacked the pucked loose. Paille picked up the trash, which is, as they say, the way a lot of scoring slumps end. For a guy who last scored before Thanksgiving, it must have felt amazing to light the lamp.
- Possession game: I believe, according to our own Chris Abraham, Chris Kelly was the only one who finished in the possession red. It's not like he was a liability, either -- the revamped fourth line was fine. Play like this most nights, and you'll win plenty of games.
- People are, no doubt, going to be put too much of this game on Tuukka Rask because the goalscorers were Ryan Stanton and Zack Kassian. He was fine, stopping 26 of 28 (.929). Next time just score a goal yourself, Tuukka.
- This is the second straight game a goalie's put the opposing team on the power play. Happily, that came courtesy of Lack tripping Brad Marchand. I'm laughing just typing that sentence.
- Ryan Stanton definitely covering the puck in the crease during a flurry in the second period. By rule, since Ryan Stanton is not Eddie Lack (and the Canucks are prohibited from playing two goalies at the same time), that should have resulted in a Bruins penalty shot. You. Are. Dreaming if you think that the penalty shot would've been a goal--it most likely would've been Milan Lucic shooting the puck into Eddie Lack's chest cavity--but let's not bandy words. The refs did miss that call. It happens. It stunk. It's over.
- Dennis Seidenberg and Matt Bartkowski had their off-moments, but I continue to be impressed with how much of a difference putting a guy who's more comfortable making a breakout pass makes in regard to the 2nd pairing.
- The MBTA was somehow not awful.
The Bruins are 29-22-9, still three points up on the Florida Panthers. The Panthers are in action tonight against the Chicago Blackhawks. The Bruins will hit the road again to take on New Jersey and Arizona on a Fri-Sat back-to-back. Two more winnable games, now we just need to start winning games.