Heading into Game 2 of this year's playoff series between the Montreal Canadiens and Boston Bruins, it was thought that the Bruins would have to be much better than they were in their 2-0 loss to the Canadiens in Game 1.
Not only did the Canadiens beat the Bruins on the score sheet in Game 1, they also beat the Bruins in the mental department—turning the other cheek at every opportunity, never allowing the Bruins to flex their muscle or goad the undersized Canadiens into a fight.
They say brains often outmuscles brawn—the Habs' game win was a perfect example of that.
For the Bruins to be successful this evening, they would have to hit more, score more, stay out of the penalty box and beat Carey Price—all without the benefit of Zdeno Chara, who was a game-time scratch due to dehydration.
Fast forward to tonight's tilt and you'll find the Bruins are quickly running out of life.
Canadiens forward Mike Cammalleri opened the scoring less than a minute into the game, followed by another Habs goal at the 02:20 mark of the first period, when Mathieu Darche deposited a nice wrist shot past Bruins netminder Tim Thomas.
When the second period ended, the Bruins were down 2-0, which meant they had now gone four straight periods without scoring a goal.
Boston opened the second period on the power play, but once again were thwarted by the Canadiens—who looked a step ahead of the Bruins all game long.
Bruins forward took a high-sticking call when he caught Montreal Canadiens defenseman (and public enemy No. 1 in Boston) P.K. Subban in the face with his stick.
The Canadiens were unable to score, but they came very close when a poor line change led to a breakaway attempt by Canadiens forward Tomas Plekanec.
Bruins netminder Tim Thomas made the save, but it was all too close for the Bruins and their fans.
Perhaps that breakaway served as a wake-up call or perhaps it was just a matter of time, but shortly after the breakaway attempt, the Bruins finally beat Price for their first goal of the series—a tip-in from Patrice Bergeron (who had six shots on the night already).
For the Bruins, it might just have been the beginning of a comeback. For the Canadiens, simply a bump in the road.
Tempers looked to be flaring as Bruins forward Shane Hnidy reacted to a dangerous hit on Rich Peverley in which Canadiens defenseman James Wisniewski slammed Peverley’s head into the boards.
The result was a Bruins power play at 12:23 of the second period—a power play that scared nobody!
Predictably, the Bruins were unable to score on the power play, which remains zero for the series.
The Bruins continued exactly where they left off before scoring their first goal of the series—playing sloppy hockey.
In a similar play to the first goal, the Bruins gave away the puck on a bad clearing, resulting in three Canadien forwards streaking in on Tim Thomas. He gave up a huge rebound off the initial shot to Yannick Weber, who deposited the puck into a yawning cage.
And just like that, it was 3-1 Montreal, which all but negated the Bruins’ goal as the Canadiens once again had momentum.
The Bruins would hit a goal post with 1:41 left in the second period but they failed to beat Carey Price, who, despite giving up the one goal, has played exceptionally well once again, stopping 23 of 24 Boston shots through two periods.
For the Bruins to pull off the win, they would have to bring a much better compete level— forget about trying to get P.K. Subban and get a little luck from the hockey gods.
Needless to say, it was gut-check time for the Bruins—the question was how they would respond to the adversity that faced them.
Of note, teams that go up 2-0 in a playoff series win 85 percent of the time...gut-check time indeed!
Just as predictably as the Bruins' power play being a total failure, the Bruins failed to mount much of an attack against the Habs in the third period. Boston preferred instead to make a number of questionable passes, settling for poor angle shots and failing to get much (if any) traffic in front of Carey Price.
In the end, the Canadiens took the crowd out of the game, got the Bruins off their game and capitalized on their chances for a 3-1 victory and a 2-0 series lead. Kudos!
Are the Bruins this bad, or are the Canadiens really as good as they appear?
It’s probably a mixture of both.
You cannot dismiss the loss of Zdeno Chara tonight, but the Canadiens look to be poised to pull off a series victory against the Bruins, who look lost, emotionless and frustrated, to say the least.
The Bruins clearly have zero answers for Carey Price. They also have no answer for Tomas Plekanec—who has kept the Bruins top line of Milan Lucic, Nathan Horton and David Krejci off the score board all series long.
One has to believe the Montreal fans will be nothing short of cocky when the Bruins and Habs go at it on Monday night. Perhaps being in another city will wake the Bruins up—clearly they have been asleep at the wheel at home.
The Bruins are 0-26 when trailing a series 2-0 and again, the team that gets up two games to none wins 85 percent of the time...if I am a Bruins fan, I am starting to get real nervous!
***Monday night’s game can be seen on CBC, RDS and NESN, with a start time of 7:30 PM EST.