Even a shootout couldn’t trump Thursday night’s showdown between the Bruins and the Blues at the TD Garden.
Both teams came in with a 7-2-1 mark in their last 10, and its safe to say that they both brought the intensity. It was similar to a 15-round heavyweight title fight: when one team delivered a blow, the other team threw a counter punch, and it went on all night.
In the end, the Blues earned the 3-2 decision in, yes, the shootout, which we’ll get to later. In the meantime, here are the three takeaways.
As even as it gets
From top to bottom, these teams provide a solid 20-man roster. They are built on grit, toughness, depth and skill.
That was on display Thursday night in a matchup that was as even as it gets.
Both teams had quality scoring chances. Both teams were physical. Both teams were disciplined combining for only two penalties. And both teams played an entertaining contest.
At the end of the day, the game was worth the hype.
Thursday night was just an example of how these teams are mirror images of each other, with one exception.
“There’s a lot of similarities,” said Blues captain David Backes, who deflected a Kevin Shattenkirk shot from the point for his ninth of the season at 16:04 of the second period.
“I don’t know if we quite have a 6-foot-9 defenseman, but there’s tough to play against forwards and teams that are disciplined and stick to their game plan.”
Bruins defense does better job in front of Tuukka
Coming off a night where they allowed 44 shots on goal, the Bruins defense appeared to have their work cut out for them on paper when they welcomed the second best offensive team in the league. And while the Blues struck twice, the Bruins didn’t make it easy for them.
For much of the night, the Blues entered the offensive zone having to go through layers of Bruins defensemen to get some scoring chances. And, for the brief time that St. Louis found some open shooting lanes, Tuukka Rask was there to shut them down.
All in all, the Bruins blocked 18 shots and only allowed 26 shots on goal to the Blues Thursday night. Not bad for a blue-line that missed Dennis Seidenberg and Adam McQuaid due to injury, both of whom are day-to-day.
“We were structurally a little better,” said Gregory Campbell, who tallied his first of the season at 18:20 of the opening period. “The Rangers game wasn’t our finest game, but we knew it was important against a strong team like St. Louis that we had to be good and play within our system and make very little mistakes.”
Shootout dilemma continues
For any hockey fan, its a little deflating to see a game as evenly matched as Thursday’s contest end in a shootout. Both teams played well enough to win and its safe to say that any hockey fan would love to see this decided in regulation or the five-minute overtime, but not a skills competition.
Sure, the shootout can bring plenty of highlight reel goals from the most skilled players like Evgeni Malkin, Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin and even those who aren’t as talented like Marek Malik (who can forget his goal between the legs in the 2005-06 season as a member of the New York Rangers). But there’s a reason why its a highlight for an All-Star game and not a regular season game.
Yes, the shootout does decide a winner and a loser. On the other hand, there are ways to improve the overtime system like having a 4-on-4 for one five minute session followed by another five minutes of 3-on-3 play if the game is still tied. That is something the league GMs have discussed publicly and could ultimately put in place in the near future.
In the meantime, the flawed shootout session is the subject of ridicule with good reason. And who can blame the Bruins for being a little outspoken about the way things played out.
“It doesn’t matter whether we win or lose in a shootout, we have our opinions about that. I just thought when we played so well like that, I felt it would’ve been easier to say that both teams played a hard fought game and we would’ve been happy,” Julien said. “Right now you come out of it more or less feeling like you lost and in my mind we played well enough to win.”
On the other hand, the way these two teams were playing, the game might have gone on for quite some time.
“I think the game could have gone on all night if we didn’t have a shootout,” Chris Kelly said with a chuckle. “It was a good hockey game by two good teams, and we were just on the short end of it.”