2014 NHL Playoffs: Bruins self-destruct as Canadiens force Game 7
The French have a phrase for the type of malady that’s thwarting the Boston Bruins. It’s a “mauvais sort.” That translates to “bad thing,” but it implies vexing, hexing and cursing. If your team is getting in its own way, if it gets into position to succeed and then fails, if an inordinate number of things that can go wrong actually do, then it could be bad luck, or -- even worse -- it could be a series of mauvais sorts. It could also be that against the Presidents' Trophy winners who are expected to win this series, the Montreal Canadiens simply got more out of the their game than the Bruins did in Game 6.
At times on Monday night, the B's managed to do some of the things that they did well in their overpowering Game 5 win, but not nearly enough as the Canadiens shut them out, 4-0, and forced a decisive seventh game on Wednesday night by being more resourceful and less self-destructive than their archrivals.
Carey Price made 26 saves and Thomas Vanek scored a pair of insurance goals, the last into an empty net after strikes by Lars Eller and Max Pacioretty as the Canadiens took advantage of the Bruins’ missed opportunities. This will be the ninth time in 34 playoff meetings that the clubs have gone the distance. However they get there, through good fortune or bad, it seems that the sport’s most storied rivalry should always end this way.
Here are some notes and observations from the game:
• The Bruins failed to finish three two-on-ones during the first period and gave the Canadiens a gift goal. Unlike most passes or misplays behind the net, the fault here was in the reception rather than the delivery. Boston blueliner Torey Krug tried to send the puck behind his own goal to partner Kevan Miller, but as the pass hugged the base of the boards, Miller misangled his stick and sent the biscuit bouncing into the slot. Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask had a chance to play it as it rolled through his crease, but he swept his stick over it, allowing Eller to snatch it at the goalmouth and pop it in for a 1-0 Habs lead.
• Both teams were trying to send messages in the first period. The Canadiens were very aggressive against Bruins forward Shawn Thornton, the jokester who squirted Habs defenseman P.K. Subban with a water bottle during Game 5 and was slapped by the league with a $2,820.52 fine. Brandon Prust, Montreal’s most rugged forward, was credited with seven hits in just over 11 minutes on the night.
• The Bruins enjoyed a significant advantage in puck-possession time for much of the second period, a positive sign, but Montreal survived chance after scoring chance, often because Boston couldn’t turn that time into shots. On three power-play opportunities and extended periods of puck possession at even strength, the Bruins were simply guilty of being too cute. Loui Eriksson did clang one off the post and Boston also missed a terrific chance midway through the first period as Milan Lucic got to a free puck right at the doorstep but couldn’t capitalize with Price out of position.
• After squeezing out just two goals in their previous two games, the Canadiens made a couple of changes to ramp up their offense. Playoff stalwart Danny Briere returned to the lineup after his benching and saw five of his 11 shifts on the power play. Nathan Beaulieu, a 21-year-old backliner, appeared in his first playoff game and also saw two minutes of power-play time. Beaulieu had played in 23 regular-season games during cups of coffee the previous two seasons and produced two points, both assists, in those games. He eontributed to Montreal's second goal at 15:24 of the second period after Boston's Dougie Hamilton unloaded a shot from the point. Beaulieu took control of the puck and sent a lead pass to Pacioretty, who outraced Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara, who clearly didn’t want to take a hooking penalty, which might have resulted in a penalty shot, given Pacioretty’s half-step lead. Rask appeared to be caught between charging out to smother the puck and sitting back to set himself and see if Pacioretty would tip his hand. The Habs forward noticed the goalie’s hesitation movement and simply put it between his pads with a single swipe. Hamilton, Chara and Rask all had a hand in what the Bruins surely considered a bad goal.
• Montreal upped its lead to 3-0 two minutes later as Vanek picked up a rebound just outside Rask’s crease with the Habs on the power play. There was a scramble, but Chara, Miller and David Krecji all had a chance to pounce on the puck first or at least tie someone up to prevent the conversion. Those were the kinds of plays that the Canadiens were making for most of the night in front of Rask.
• The Canadiens preserved the shutout with nine minutes to play as the Bruins charged their goal. Lucic and Jarome Iginla emerged from a scrum with arms raised to indicate a goal, but referee Kelly Sutherland gave the washout sign from behind the net. The puck had bounced behind Price, but Montreal forward David Desharnais, on his knees and facing the goal, swept the disc out without actually closing his hand on it, thus preventing a goal while avoiding a penalty shot.
• Where, oh where, is Krecji? The Bruins forward put up 69 points this season, but he has just three points, all assists, in 11 playoff games this spring. He got a pass in the first round against Detroit simply because he wasn’t needed, but unlike earlier games in which he was getting chances and missing the net, he hasn’t been as involved in the play as a frontline guy should be. Granted, Boston has the kind of balance that can overcome subpar play from any one man, but Krejci’s contributions could be game changers in a deciding contest. On the other side, there isn’t a Canadien who has played well below his ability in the series.
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• The Bruins have hit Pacioretty hard in this series, and you sense that it’s more than a case of just finishing their checks. When one team feels it can intimidate an opponent, you know a barrage of abuse will follow. Boston has been doing that to Pacioretty ever since Chara slammed him into the so-called turnbuckle between the benches during a regular-season game three seasons ago.
• At the end of the game, the Bruins were determined to send a return message to the Canadiens, who had an undersized group on the ice. Lucic, Chara and Iginla took some gloved shots and slashes at Mike Weaver and Andrei Markov, and in a lightweight challenge, Krug sent some jabs to the chops of Habs captain Brian Gionta. The Canadiens smartly kept P.K. Subban off the ice as time ran down, in case the Bruins had any ideas of causing trouble with Montreal’s most impactful player in advance of Game 7.
• The B’s sense that they have the better team, but they don’t have the right to say so until their execution matches their capacity. The Canadiens have had to withstand aggression from a bigger, more balanced team that has some playoff baggage at its side and a recent history of winning seventh games on home ice. There will soon be joy in one language and despair in the other. The celebration will be over in a few hours, but the regret will last all summer. The Canadiens and Bruins will meet in Game 7 on Wednesday night in Boston at 7 p.m. (NBCSN, CBC, RDS)