After combining to score 18 goals over the last three games, the Boston Bruins once again peppered the oppositions goaltender, firing 35 shots-on-goal. However, on Thursday night against their arch-rivals from Montreal, the Bruins offense ran into hot goaltending.
To the surprise of just about any breathing hockey soul, Canadiens head coach Michel Therrien turned to backup goaltender Peter Budaj to start on the road in Boston. Backboned by several key saves fired within the hash marks, Budaj stood tall, allowing only one goal- Dougie Hamilton’s fifth of the season- en route to the 4-1 victory while snapping the Bruins’ four-game winning streak.
Here are three takeaways from Thursday night’s loss:
Montreal continuing to dominate Rask
With the loss, the 26-year-old netminder drops to 2-10-2 in his career against the Canadiens, but it’s also important to remember that Tim Thomas also endured his own fair share of struggles during his reign in Boston. The loss marks the 13th on the season for Rask and the fourth overall time in which Rask has been yanked from the net by Claude Julien.
After allowing three goals on 18 shots, it was a bit strange to see Julien make the move to Chad Johnson so early, but the team remained lethargic throughout the night and a shake up wasn’t going to hurt. What’s more concerning is the steady decline in all statistical goaltending categories in every month this season. I’m not saying the Bruins need to trade their franchise goaltender, a mere plea to GM Peter Chiarelli to acquire a body to contribute on the back end.
The perfect recipe for disaster against the Canadiens, the Bruins defensemen often found themselves pinching at the wrong time or unable to back track into their defensive zone quick enough to prevent, what seemed like, consistent odd-man rushes. It’s tough to pin the loss solely on the shoulders of the goaltender and I won’t, but Rask and the Bruins will continue to struggle against upper-echelon teams with their current state of defensive affairs.
Hamilton nets one, shines throughout
Thursday night marked the 2013-14 coming out party for the Muppet formerly known as Beaker, as he found the back of the net for the only Bruins goal of the night. Well before the goal, it was evident from the onset that Hamilton was finally completely healthy, using his speed to generate separation for the Boston forwards in the offensive zone.
Maybe Hamilton was operating at his normal playing speed while the majority of the team played like children burnt out from overloading on a sport? Maybe.
Either way, his presence on the ice at both ends of the ice was a rare and special treat to watch, leading all Bruins skaters with six shots on goal, while logging close to 20-minutes of ice time.
In his four games since returning from a concussion, Hamilton’s tallied a goal and assist each, a plus-3 rating, while firing ten shots on goal. The importance of Hamilton elevating his game and increasing his time-on-ice will be crucial to the success of the Bruins throughout this season, especially if Peter Chiarelli doesn’t acquire a defenseman before the deadline. Based on his current play, it won’t be long until Hamilton scorches opponents for a five-to-seven point week.
With Groundhog’s nearing soon, it was almost fitting that the Canadiens utilized the same offensive ways that led them to a period of continued success against the tougher Bruins teams of yesteryear.
In the words of famous NFL broadcaster and head coach John Madden, “Speed, kills.”
Just like all the pesky, buzzing Montreal teams of the past, the Habs constantly harassed the normally stable Bruins defenseman with a relentless forecheck, leading to several defensive turnovers. And it’s not just turnovers, it’s the mindset that accompanies playing a team like Montreal that you’re naturally speeding your clock up a half second-to-second quicker than normal, leading to sloppy transitions in the defensive and neutral zone areas.
Overall, the Bruins seemed like a group that were satisfied with the accomplishments of the past three games. I’m sure Claude Julien will remind the team of that.
See what Zdeno Chara, Milan Lucic and a feisty Claude Julien had to say about Thursday’s loss to the Habs.