The monkey on the Bruins’ backs has turned into a gorilla.
For the third time in four tries, the Montreal Canadiens have beaten the Boston Bruins by one goal, and in doing so have taken the season series from the Bruins and now surge ahead in the Northeast Division standings.
But just as importantly, The Canadiens have not allowed the Bruins to exact revenge for the now infamous Embellishment game – a 4-3 loss to the Canadiens back on March 3rd in which Montreal came back from a 3-2 deficit in the 3rd period, thanks to what Bruin’s head coach Claude Julien implied was the Habs’ practice of embellishment, or trying to sell penalties to the referees by flopping to the ice on contact – a game which determined a course for each team this season.
For Montreal, they took Julien’s accusations of the Canadiens “Flopping” to gain a competitive advantage as a compliment to their skill and their ability to frustrate the Bruins and, apparently, their coach…
…while the Bruins have resorted to calendar watching, focusing on each approaching game with the Habs while seemingly overlooking their other opponents and sleepwalking through the rest of their schedule, particularly early in games.
The Canadiens are in the Bruins’ heads, and Boston missed their last opportunity to fore check them out from in front of their consciousness…and it had nothing to do with flopping this time, but had everything to do with Boston’s seeming inability to clear the defensive zone cleanly.
Both of Montreal’s goals came courtesy of sluggish efforts to clear the defensive zone, which repeatedly left goal tender Tukkaa Rask exposed to point blank opportunities for the Habs, but the only two that got through were Alex Galchenyuk’s tip in off Boston defenseman Steve Bartkowski and Michael Ryder’s power play blast deflected off Dennis Seidenberg as the Canadiens again beat Boston by a score of 2-1.
Daniel Paille scored Boston’s lone goal, a nifty tip in of a Johnny Boychuck rocket, but what opportunities the offense did create for itself resulted in poor fortune, missing open nets or, in the case of Boston’s sole power play, failed to register a shot on goal.
Tuukka Rask made 27 saves for the Bruins, who fell to 24-9-4, and Carey Price made 26 for Montreal, their record standing at a 25-8-5 mark, good enough for the lead in the Northeast Division by three points over Boston.
“Every time we play this team it’s the most important game,” Canadiens defenseman Josh Gorges said. “We played a full 60 minutes, and that’s what was impressive. They had some good push. That’s a good hockey team over there, but we held our ground and played hard.”
The Canadiens’ grip on the division is tenuous, however, as Boston has the clear advantage in their remaining schedule.
While Montreal has 6 of their remaining 10 games on the road, including a 3 game roadie to end the season at New Jersey, Winnipeg and Toronto, the Bruins have 7 of their final 11 games at TD Center in Boston, the highlight of which is a four game homestand against the Senators, Sabres, Penguins and Panthers, a stretch which will ultimately determine the Bruins’ playoff destiny.
But none of that is going to matter if the Bruins can’t figure out a way to offset their difficulties in their defensive zone.