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That was a Statement Game Alright
Posted By Matt Preston On Mar 9 2011 @ 6:12 am In Boston Bruins | No Comments
Wasn’t this supposed to be the Golden Age of the Bruins Power Play?
Wasn’t the whole reason Peter Chiarelli spent nearly two years trying to pry Tomas Kaberle out of Toronto that he was supposed to come to Boston and revitalized a power play that has ranked in the bottom half of the NHL all but one year of the Claude Julien Era?
Wasn’t Kaberle supposed to just show up and turn the Bruins power play unit into one of the best in the league?
The Bruins power play is a tame 1-for-21 in the Kaberle Era, 0-for-16 in their last seven games, with no points for the elusive puck moving defenseman with the man advantage. Boston is converting on just 16.8% of their power plays this season (17th in the NHL) and rank even close to the bottom of the league (24th) in power play goals with 37. Already bolstering the best 5-on-5 offense in the NHL and the league’s second best defense, the Bruins were supposed to become even more of a daunting team with Kaberle now in the fold. While the Bruins have played well in the Kaberle Era, going 6-1-1 in his seven games, the power play is suffering though its longest scoring draught of the season.
The power play is a weapon the Bruins are going to need to polish quickly, as a timely goal on the man advantage can change the tide of any game. Converting on any of their four chances against Montreal certainly could have give the Bruins a much needed swing in momentum and changed the fortunes of Monday night’s game.
After stumbling at home on Saturday when the fell to the Pittsburgh Penguins in overtime, the Boston Bruins went back on the road on Monday looking to continue their six-game road winning streak as they took on the Montreal Canadiens. With the season winding down, the Bruins came into the night with a five point lead over the Canadiens in the Northeast Division with just 17 games to play. A win at the Belle Centre could have gone a long way in propelling the Bruins towards solidifying their spot at the top of the Eastern Conference.
The struggles versus their hated rivals continued for Boston, however, as Montreal embarrassed the Bruins with a disheartening, 4-1 win. Montreal was relentless from the start, while the Bruins and starting goaltender Tuukka Rask just could not find any rhythm.
A pair of defensive breakdowns in the first led to two Montreal goals and the first two-goal game of Lars Eller’s career. After a shot by Montreal’s Paul Mara near the midway point in the first was caught up in the skates of Bruins defenseman Matt Bartkowski in front of the net, Eller managed to poke it home as Rask and Adam McQuaid scrambled to clear the puck. Later in the period, Michael Ryder lost control of a centering pass near the blue line as the Bruins were trying to break out of their zone. Travis Moen stole the puck and fed it to a wide open Eller down low, who had not yet begun to transition out of the zone and was left all alone to victimize Rask.
With the game nearing its midway point, Montreal effectively put the game out of reach in the second as Brian Gionta scored the first of the Canadiens’ two power play goals on the night. Gionta took a shot from the tops of the circles that was initially stopped by Rask. The puck, however, managed to squeeze between Rask’s glove and left pad. As it trickled towards the goal line, defenseman Zdeno Chara was initially able to prevent it from going in the net, but his attempt to pull the puck out of the net banked off his goaltender’s back and into the net to give the Canadiens a 3-0 lead.
The ultimate low point of the contest came in the closing seconds of the second as Chara sent Montreal winger Max Pacioretty head first into the glass that separates the team benches. As both players were chasing down a loose puck Pacioretty had chipped by the Bruins captain along the benches, Chara shoved Pacioretty from behind, propelling him head first into the glass, with the very top of his head making contact at full speed. The hit left Pacioretty motionless on the ice before he was wheeled off on a stretcher.
For as bad as the scene initially looked, it was later reported that Pacioretty was attentive at the hospital and moving all his limbs.
With the devastating hit behind them, the game moved to the third and the Bruins began to show signs of life. Milan Lucic broke up Carey Price’s shutout bid with a blistering shot that beat the Montreal goaltender top shelf at 13:21 of the third. Lucic goal, however, was all the Bruins could get behind Price, who turned in a stellar 30 save performance.
The loss onto itself is certainly not that significant. The Bruins continued poor play against Montreal, however, spell trouble ahead against a team that is not just chasing them in the standings, but could potentially be a first round match up in the playoffs. Since they swept Montreal in the first round of the 2008-2009 playoffs, the Bruins are 2-9 versus the Canadiens, 0-3 at the Belle Centre this season. To make matters worse, Boston continues to be a team that plays some of their worst hockey at their biggest moments. This was another opportunity for the Bruins to step up and set themselves apart from their competition, possibly even put the division away, and they came out rusty, flat and got embarrassed by the team chasing them. When there is a statement to be made, the Bruins are usually not the team making it.
As good as things looked coming into the night with the Bruins were rolling and just two points behind Philadelphia for the lead in the Eastern Conference, a performance like that against Montreal is proof the Bruins have a long way to go before they are as good a team as they seem.
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