Wow, what a game!
For anyone who didn't watch last night's game, I encourage you to go check out the game highlights at the bottom of this post.
What a match!
The Canadiens and Bruins squared off last night in what was supposed to be a clash of two of the best goaltenders in the league, who happen to play for two of the stingiest teams in the league for goals against.
Instead what we got was some old time rock 'em, sock 'em hockey.
The game started off normal enough with the Bruins scoring two in the first twenty minutes, but the game plan went out the window in the second period. With both teams abandoning their defense-first mentality they left their goaltenders twisting in the wind as the two teams combined for eight, yes eight, second period goals.
As the teams' offense exploded so did their tempers and fights, post-whistle scrums and a little bit chaos took over the game in what seemed more like a classic 80s matchup than one in the post-lockout era.
The goaltenders even got into the action with Tim Thomas skating the length of the ice to engage Carey Price in a light hearted scuffle.
Things got uglier, however, in the dying seconds of the game as the Bruins gooned it up, taking on and pummeling the Habs non-fighters like Roman Hamrlik, Jaroslav Spacek and Tom Pyatt.
In total, there were 187 penalty minutes handed out in this match.
The game became so ridiculous that at one point it seemed like any time either team got a shot on net, they would score a goal.
I think @Sachtradamus, from the Twitterverse, summed it up best when he said:
"This is beyond a hockey game, at this point. I feel like I'm watching two dudes play NHL 11."
All of the acrimony aside, despite tying the game twice the Canadiens were never able to overcome the two goal deficit that they carried into the second period, finally succumbing 8-6 in regulation.
This was the type of game that coaches hate but fans love, so savour it folks because that kind of madness just doesn't happen very often in today's NHL.
Final score: Bruins 8 - Habs 6
Habs' scorers: Brian Gionta (20), P.K. Subban (7), Yannick Weber (1), David Desharnais (4), Max Pacioretty (7, 8).
Bruins' scorers: Brad Marchand (15), Dennis Seidenberg (5), Adam McQuaid (1), Michael Ryder (15, 16), Milan Lucic (22, 23), Nathan Horton (14).
Three stars: 1. Nathan Horton, 2. Milan Lucic, 3. Michael Ryder
1. So much for a goaltending battle.
Before the game started, Carey Price and Tim Thomas were arguably the two best goaltenders in the league.
Thomas was leading the league in all goaltending statistical categories except for wins, which was held by Price with 26.
Before the game started, everyone figured this would be an intense, playoff-like goaltending battle with every inch of ice being contested and where goals would be tough to come by.
Well, it was definitely an intense, hard fought game but, for the most part, the goaltenders were thrown to the wolves.
With the insanity starting in the second period, the teams combined for eight goals and a boatload of penalties, in a piss and vinegar filled period. And, try as they may, the two goalies were sitting ducks as the teams in front of them abandoned their defense-first systems in favour of an open, back and forth goal-scoring fest.
But the crowning moment for both keepers was during a second period melee, where Thomas engaged Price in a fight. You could see that, being pretty good friends, neither of them were really into the fight and as such, the much bigger Price didn't hit Thomas when he lost his balance and fell to the ice.
The two of them even exchanged stick taps at the end of the period, showing how it was all in good fun.
Price finished the night with a .765 save percentage to Thomas' .818. Hardly the stuff of champions but surely performances that we will not see again in the near future.
2. Mathieu Darche and David Desharnais delivered the goods.
Jacques Martin, clearly unhappy with the performances of Darche and Desharnais over recent games, demoted the duo to the fourth line with Tom Pyatt as their linemate.
Benoit Pouliot still got to stay on the third line, with Travis Moen and Jeff Halpern on what looked like a decent checking line.
As for Desharnais and Darche, well, they seemed pretty intent on showing the wise old coach that they were gamers. Their line used speed and grit to setup several scoring chances in the first leading to a second period promotion back to the third line.
In addition, Darche setup the Weber goal on a diving play to get the puck back to the point while Desharnais scored on the PP from the side of the net.
With most of the team finished the night as minuses, it was nice to see Desharnais and Darche both finish the game even. Desharnais had a goal and an assist in 13:08 of ice time and Darche had one assist with 15:16 played.
Hopefully the one period demotion was just a minor blip in an otherwise upward trajectory for this duo, because they bring a constant scoring threat to the third line. And, with Scott Gomez's line continuing to be missing in action, the Habs could sure use some secondary scoring.
3. The second line is an unmitigated disaster.
Turnover after turnover, missed assignment after missed assignment, Gomez, Andrei Kostitsyn and Lars Eller put together one of their worst combined efforts of the season.
Scott Gomez, in particular, was abysmal and looked more like a ball and chain than a player who could elevate the second line. His turnovers and missed assignments resulted in at least two Bruins' goals as his line was ineffective in all three zones.
The Gomez problem has been a topic of discussion all season long and, ridiculously inflated salary aside, he simply has got to bring more to the rink.
They say that when you are not scoring goals or getting points you should focus on the small details, be strong defensively and, as a result, your game will get back in line by itself. But right now, Gomez doesn't seem to be able to do anything right and he continues to make any player on his line worse.
We are talking about a 31-year-old player who is fast, has good vision and excellent passing skills. As such, there really is no reason for him to be this bad and this ineffective night in and night out.
I'm not sure if he is suffering from some kind of injury that we don't know about or if things are simply not working between his two ears, but finishing the night a minus-4 and 0-7 in the faceoff circle, is simply unacceptable.
Gomez is now a team worst minus-14 for the season.
Perhaps now is the time for Jacques Martin to put Desharnais on the second line with Pacioretty and move Gomez to the third line. The Canadiens need points right now and cannot afford to play favorites anymore.
4. The power play came to life.
Believe it or not, the Habs scored on the power play.
Not once, not twice, but four times on eight occasions. That marks the first time in five games and 21 opportunities that the Habs have scored a power play goal.
In a match where James Wizniewski was back in the lineup I guess a better PP was to be expected, but I will hold judgment on pronouncing the PP as "back" until I see it clicking for a few more games.
Considering the lack of defense and porous goaltending last night, it is hardly a good atmosphere in which to accurately judge their play with the man-advantage.
That being said, goals are goals, regardless of the context, so hopefully the Canadiens can carry some of that momentum into tonight's game against the Islanders.
5. Now that was an entertaining game!
Last night's game was the type of game that coaches hate but fans love, and how can you blame them?
Goals, hits, more goals, fights, goalie fights, more goals, more fights and more goals.
What's not to love?
The NHL needs to continue fostering rivalries like this because they are good for the exposure of the game. Every now and then it's nice to see a game that harkens back to the 70s and 80s. The days of lots of goals, a ton of fights and very little defense.
The only thing that was missing from last night's game was an all out bench clearing brawl, but I'll settle for the sight of five Habs and six Bruins in their respective penalty boxes during the second period.
That was absolutely gold!
An interesting data point for all of you out there that loved the game and want to see more: if the playoffs started today, with the Bruins in third and the Habs in sixth, they would face each other in the playoffs.
After last night's game, you kind of want that to happen too.
Standings and Next Game
The loss is the Habs second in a row after winning three straight, and leaves them stalled in sixth place in the East with 65 points. The Bruins, on the other hand, now have a four point buffer on the Canadiens with one game in hand.
Behind Montreal in the standings are the suddenly skidding Rangers, losers of five straight games, with 62 points and one more game played, and the Hurricanes with 59 points and one game in hand.
There is no rest for the wicked as the Canadiens fly back to Montreal to take on the Islanders tonight at the Bell Centre. With such an emotionally charged game the night before it will be interesting to see if Montreal has anything left in the tank.
Scoring the first goal would go a long way towards pulling out a victory and snapping their losing streak.
Wow, what a game!