Well it wasn't the classic Habs-Bruins matchup that we were expecting, but it was an entertaining game never-the-less. With both teams fighting for their playoff lives this four-point, head-to-head game was massively important for both teams.
Sergei Kostitsyn led the charge for the Habs scoring two goals, including the eventual game winner. As Rask came out to play the puck behind the net and missed, SK74 was there to dump it into an empty net to make it a 3-1 game.
Andrei Markov was the other goal scorer for the Habs, as he continued his streak of getting at least one point over the last six games.
The Bruins responded with goals from Milan Lucic and Blake Wheeler but ultimately their pop-gun offense--playing without Marc Savard, their offensive catalyst--wasn't able to mount enough of a challenge for the Habs.
Final score: Habs 3 - Bruins 2
1. Halak didn't have to stand on his head. If there is one trend that has taken shape over the Habs' five-game winning streak, it is that their goaltenders do not have to be the first star in order for the team to win.
Last night the trend continued as Halak faced only eleven shots over the first two periods and 23 on the night. Halak was sharp in the third, however, as the Bruins brought their best effort to make it a one-goal game.
While the Habs have the best one-two punch in nets in the league with Halak and Price, it is nice to see them not relying so heavily on their goaltenders for wins.
2. Scoring by committee rules the day. Another interesting and very healthy trend for the Habs since the Olympic break, is that they are getting contributions from every line on the team.
When it comes to scoring, it seems that a differnt player steps up and plays the role of hero every night. Spreading the scoring across all four lines is giving the Habs the kind of balanced scoring that makes teams extremely difficult to defend against.
Interesting note: The Habs third and fourth lines total 11 of the Habs last 27 goals.
3. Speaking of third and fourth lines, both seem to be clicking for the Habs at the right time. Even if they don't always put points up on the board, they seem to be spending the majority of the game in the opposition's zone.
The result of their tenacious, grinding play is that the opposition's D is spending much more time in their own end on the defensive side of the puck. The result is that opposing defensemen will often be more tired by the time the third period rolls around.
While this might not seem like a big deal in a regular season game, it can have a huge accumulating factor over the course of a playoff series.
4. Sergei and Andrei Kostitsyn are rounding into form. With three goals, two assists and a plus-3 rating over the last two games, Sergei seems to have rediscovered his outstanding Olympic form.
Andrei, on the other hand, is still struggling to find the back of the net but he does have two assists and a plus-1 rating over the last two games. Interestingly though, Andrei is starting to get physically involved in games by throwing his weight around to great effect.
While he seemed on the cusp of breaking out of his scoring slump last night, one of the biggest plays was his crushing shoulder-to-shoulder hit on Milan Lucic with less than three minutes left in the third.
Lucic, who passed the puck to his teammate, was stuck admiring his pass as AK46 put his shoulder into him. Lucic was absolutely flattened by the Kostitsyn hit and neither he nor the Bruins players liked it.
I understand that the Bruins players have a sensitivity to having their players knocked out, in light of the Savard hit. But I'm sorry, that play was clean.
Standings and Game Notes
With five wins in a row and six wins in their last seven games, the Habs have 76 points in the standings having played a league leading 70 games.
The Habs are tied for points with Philly who has three games in hand. The win puts them four points ahead of Boston who has 72 with three games in hand.
Despite the games in hand, the Habs have now put some buffer room behind them with the Ranger (69 points, two games in hand), Tampa Bay (68 points, three games in hand) and Atlanta (66 points, three games in hand).
As I have said before, a game in hand only counts if you win it and the Habs currently winning streak is putting pressure on their competition to win.
The Habs now enter a week where they play only two games--Tuesday versus the Rangers and Saturday versus Toronto. In addition to the light schedule, each of the Habs competitors plays three or four games this week in making up games in hand.
It will be interesting to see what the playoff standings look like next weekend.
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