So yesterday afternoon I was filling in a good buddy of mine about the Habs' progress, or lack of such, over the last few weeks because he was out of town. Ultimately, the conversation concluded with my assertion that the game later that night against the Bruins was exactly what the Habs needed as a team.
Tim Thomas of the Boston Bruins watches as the puck flies past him to give the Montreal Canadiens a 3-2 OT win last night in Montreal. AP
What's that you say? Well hey! I've been watching the Habs somehow shaft the Bruins year after year. Sure there are blips, like the playoffs a couple of season's back. But if you know hockey, even if you're not a Habs fan, would you ever bet against the Habs when they play the Bruins??? I think not.
We agreed the only team in the NHL that does this for the Habs is the Bruins. We used to have two teams like this, when the Nordiques were in Quebec and the hate was strong between the two squads. Now with the team in Denver, the only team that boils the Canadiens' soup to a fiery red are dem Boo-ins. We agreed that this is why the Habs have a tough time with the Leafs, because although they have a long and storied rivalry, they just don't have that hate element that can push a team to the high of highs and exciting, nail-biting finishes that end up in the Habs' favour.
I also told my buddy that the team was stymied offensively. And although he's done some good things so far, especially in mixing it up with Gionta and Gomez, that Max Paciorretty had yet to score a "clean" one. What I meant by that is the two goals he scored to that point were kind of flukey, and he had yet to score a good one.
Funny how this would all come to the fore at about 9:45pm last night.
For 50 minutes it seemed the Habs were going to mosey on into the sunset without a whimper. I thought to myself "Boy, some Bruins fan is probably thinking 'Haha, Not Tonight Habs!'"
Well my imaginary Bruins fan friend yes. Yes tonight!!!!
The Habs literally pulled one out of their posteriors to eke out an exciting 3-2 OT win over the Bruins last night in Montreal. Down 2-0 and to that point unable to generate any serious offence, the Habs caught a break with less than 3 minutes remaining when former Hab Michael Ryder took a bad penalty to start the Bruins' meltdown. Thanks man.
And still, it looked like the Habs would blow this generous opportunity handed to them by the hockey gods because they weren't generating any real scoring chances. Alas, the gods said "Enough!" and coaxed a weak Gomez pass attempt through a bunch of sticks and skates, finally glazing off of big Chara's oversized skate past a clueless Timmy Thomas. 2-1 and the Canadiens had life.
Cue to pull the goalie. Price, who was solid last night if not that busy, sat on the bench for the extra player. Now, the Habs could smell the blood in the water. But they couldn't break through. It's less than a minute remaining and the Bruins just iced the puck. Faceoff deep in the Bruins' zone.
Habs win the faceoff. Back to the Wiz. Bruins keeping a close eye on him, he pulls off a little bit of deception -- exactly the kind of offensive play I've been calling for -- fakes a shot, swings past the swimming Bruins defender who was now on the ice after trying to block the shot, and moved into the open ice to wrist a shot towards the net. Gionta, ever the one to go to the net, tries to block Thomas' view and gets rewarded by having the puck graze his skate and past a stunned Timmy Thomas.
Canadiens celebrate tying goal in 3rd period of last night's action. AP
And we're going to OT. And if you were one who was going to bet against the Habs, you should be ashamed that you don't pay attention to history. We can learn from the past to predict the future, folks.
When the Bruins took a bad penalty in the Habs zone 10 seconds into OT, the feeling in me just got stronger. But the Habs couldn't break through 4-on-3. WTF! Guess it'll have to wait for the shootout.
This is where I borrow some infomercial language: "But wait! There's more!"
Oh yes, there was more. My man MaxPac, who had yet to score a "clean one" in my words, took a nice pass from P.K. Subban and confidently made his way into the Bruins zone to zing a snapshot through a bunch of defenders, against the grain, to beat Thomas stickside. Habs win, 3-2.
Unfortunately, there was one glitch. As the rook made his way to the corner to celebrate, he pushed Chara out of the way!!!! Chara didn't take kindly to this and made his way to the scrum. What I don't like about this is that it provides additional fodder and motivation to the Bruins, and we don't need to giving them anything. So we'll see how things pan out when they play eachother next time, which won't be very long.
Habs now go to 3-0 against the Bruins this year. And the last two games, both times the Habs have scored more goals than Thomas' goals allowed average so far this year. Funny, no matter how good Thomas is, the Habs always seem to beat him.
Well my friend, don't blame yourself, blame the sweater you're wearing.
A few other notes. Mike Cammellari left the game in the 2nd period but I heard it was due to a virus... he was probably throwing up etc. So it'll be game to game for him.
After the game, Bruins coach Claude Julien put this to a lack of concentration and focus, which is unacceptable. Great to have the seed of doubt move from the Habs dressing room to the Bruins.
Funny how you can spin things one way or the other. No matter their recent struggles and offensive liabilities of late, the Habs have now earned 7 of a possible 8 points. The Bruins hold onto the 3rd spot in the Eastern Conference because they have two games in hand. Both teams now have 49 points.
Next up for the Habs is a Tuesday night tilt at Madison Square Gardens to face the Rangers.