The final regular-season meeting between the Boston Bruins and Montreal Canadiens wasn’t sparse on theatrics.
Boston welcomed its Canadian rivals into town having played some of its best of hockey of the season. The Black and Gold entered Monday’s tilt having won six of seven, with the sole loss coming in a tightly contested bout with the defending Stanley Cup champion Washington Capitals.
Despite outshooting the Bleu Blanc et Rouge 43-22 Monday night, the Bruins found themselves trailing 2-1 heading into the final minute of regulation. While on the power play, Bruce Cassidy pulled goalie Tuukka Rask to give Boston a 6-on-4 advantage.
David Krejci did the rest. The 32-year-old centerman drifted in from the right wall and sniped the top left corner of the net with 36 seconds left on the clock to send the TD Garden crowd into a frenzy.
Yet the drama didn’t stop there. Jeff Petry swatted a rebound out of mid-air past Rask to send the Habs home with a 3-2 victory just 15 seconds into overtime.
“Well, clearly right now it sucks, especially when it happens that quick,” Cassidy said about the quick overtime defeat. “I thought our guys were here, ready to play. Unfortunately, we just didn’t execute some plays well enough to – until the very end to tie the game the game I thought we had enough action there to score more than just the one goal to the last minute. We just, like I said, didn’t execute it, and some of that’s their goaltender. I thought he played well too.”
Here’s what we learned from the latest installment of the Original Six rivalry.
Old-school jerseys, Old-school hockey
Boston, donning its Winter Classic throwbacks, and Montreal, sporting its traditional home uniforms, turned back the clocks.
That wasn’t the only old-time hockey moment during a gritty low-scoring affair. Another prime example of this came when Kevan Miller humbly accepted Nicolas Deslauriers’ challenge to drop the gloves toward the end of the first period.
“I don’t know, he just asked and I said yes,” Miller said about what sparked the confrontation.
The two — both well over 6-foot, 200-pounds — drifted toward center ice as they prepared for a spirited heavyweight bout. Miller and Deslauriers chucked knuckles and landed some serious shots for the better part of a minute before the Boston defenseman ultimately ended up on top.
“Well, it’s a great scrap,” Cassidy said about the exchange of haymakers. “I think both teams certainly got some emotion out of it.”
Shorthanded goals are still haunting the Bruins
The Bruins have the third-ranked power play in the National Hockey League. Yet despite being an offensive juggernaut, it remains a massive liability on the defensive side.
Boston conceded its league-leading (or in this case league-worst) 10th shorthanded goal of the season at an inopportune time. With just under four minutes remaining in the second period and the score deadlocked at 1-1, Cassidy’s side sent out the power play unit in a prime position to take the lead and momentum into the intermission.
The complete opposite scenario ensued, however, when Paul Byron corralled a loose puck near his own blue line and roofed a shot over Rask’s shoulder — with a fatigued Bergeron backchecking — to give the Canadiens a 2-1 lead.
“We’re just kind of roaming a little bit right now on the power play, we got to be a little bit more structured. If we do that then we’ll get more pucks back and we’ll be in a little better position defensively,” Brad Marchand said about surrendering another shorthanded goal.
“Definitely comes down to respect and we got to play both ends of the rink so. When we don’t have it on the power play we got to make sure we’re working position to get it back and make sure we don’t give opportunities up.”
The never-ending search for a top-six winger
The Bruins have had a multitude of problems this season, yet the one they haven’t been able to fix so far is rounding out their top-six forwards.
The “perfection line” of Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak have been as good as advertised, while David Krejci and Jake DeBrusk have shown a cohesive sense of chemistry.
The problem lies in the second line left winger position. The gauntlet continued on Monday as Cassidy searched for a spark by having different forwards with Krejci and DeBrusk.
Ryan Donato, David Backes and Danton Heinen all got cracks playing on the second line. None of them produced much offensively and forced Cassidy to rotate the trio of forwards by the shift.
“Messages, mixing it up, trying to find… sometimes on a line – we’ll use Krejci as an example. I think he’s played really good hockey for us this year, whoever’s been on his wings, so you don’t want to lose him if say his linemates are going well. So, we mix someone else in there. “Then you get behind and you think well maybe you have to use more offensive-minded, say Donato, who’s scored some goals, who tends to… an offensive player who when gets a chance can bury it,” Cassidy said.
“So, it’s a bit of the thought process in there. And then if we feel like a guy’s just not committed then that’s a message usually to a younger guy.”
None of the younger guns like Donato or Heinen are fully there yet in their development process. This forces GM Don Sweeney’s hand into finding a proven top-six veteran between now and the Feb. 25 trade deadline.
Matt is a recent graduate from the Pennsylvania State University with a degree in sports journalism and a minor in business. He currently reports on the Boston Bruins and writes featured stories and game recaps for both Bruins Daily and Boston.com
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