The Boston Bruins knew they would have their hands full against their hated rival from the North- the Montreal Canadiens- winners of 10 of the previous 12 contests between the clubs. Make it 11 of 13. The B’s gave up an early power play goal, had a man advantage marker of their own wiped off the board in the second period and had some more costly mistakes from a young (and pretty mediocre) defense to drop to 0-2 on the season.
Matt Beleskey found himself in the sin bin for a questionable high hit in the first period and David Desharnais knocked in a rebound to make it 1-0 on a play that was pretty much of a tone-setter, as Joe Morrow turned the wrong way on the shot and Kevan Miller was late getting to Desharnais.
The B’s dug in and finished the period with effective play to keep it a one-score game.
But, things came unraveled a bit in the second period when a bad neutral zone pass by David Pastrnak and bad decision to go for a line change allowed Alexander Semin and Lars Eller to break in on Tuukka Rask. When Matt Irwin and K. Miller converged on Semin, he hit Eller with a pass and he buried it to give the Habs a 2-0 lead. Ellen would strike again with his second goal on a feed from Alexander Galchenyuk (three assists) to make it 3-0.
A turning point in the game happened when the B’s and Loui Eriksson thought he scored his first goal of the season while on the power play on a nice play to redirect a shot past Price. Unfortunately, the referee closest to the play immediately signaled to waive off the goal, citing contact by Patrice Bergeron to goaltender Carey Price. Claude Julien issued a coach’s challenge- the first in Bruins history since the NHL instituted the rule change this season, but the NHL, citing incidental contact by Bergeron, upheld the original decision.
Beleskey later broke through against Price, when his attempted shot hit sliding Montreal defender Jeff Petry and deflected into the net. It was Beleskey’s first marker as a member of the B’s, giving him points in each of his first two games with his new team.
Alas, the B’s had a parade to the penalty box in the third period, including a match penalty and five-minute major assessed to Ryan Spooner on a hit from behind to Massachusetts native Brian Flynn. Boston killed the penalties, but could never really mount much offensive pressure and Tomas Plekanec scored an empty net goal to make it 4-1, his 500th career point. Some late silliness and a Torrey Mitchell slew foot gave the B’s a major power play of their own with less than a minute left and Bergeron tallied for his first goal of the season making it a 4-2 game for the books.
Of greater concern was a head hit that Brad Marchand took late in the third period from Boston nemesis Dale Weise. It did not look like an intentional hit, but Weise caught the shorter Marchand up high and he was down on his knees for a good 5-10 seconds before getting to his feet and struggling to the Boston bench. He did not return. If the B’s lose their top goal scorer and arguably most consistent forward at least in terms of finding the back of the net in the last four seasons, then this group is going to go deeper in the hole. We’ll hope for the best.
At least the B’s didn’t roll over and die as other Boston teams have done in the past, but they did not play well enough against a team that is clearly better than they are. Fans had best be prepared for more games like this as the season goes on.
And now here are our 3 ups and downs:
Matt Beleskey- He scored his first goal in the black and gold and has played hard in his first two games. The guy is not a high-end talent, but despite having pretty average size, he plays bigger, hurling his body into opponents and going directly into traffic to make things happen. He chose Boston when in fact he could have stayed in Anaheim, a much better club on paper than the Bruins are at present. He wants to be here. Unfortunately, in a league where fans get far more up in arms over cap hits and economics, honest, gritty guys like Beleskey often bear the brunt of fan ire if they don’t come in and start scoring right away, so it’s nice to see that he’s been a consistent producer for a team that has scored just four goals in two games.
Colin Miller- The first player acquired in the trade for Milan Lucic to suit up for the Bruins is a keeper. He skates so well and has the vision and poise with the puck to make breakouts look easy. He’s a better defensive player than given credit for, and at least for one night, he looks like a real coup/get for Don Sweeney and Co. Julien would be foolish not to stick with C. Miller going forward and figure out ways to get him the puck. Yes, there will be some growing pains, but Miller does the things this Bruins defense as a whole is so lacking in- you can see it in the way he sees the ice and distributes the puck effortlessly. His first NHL goal/points are not long in coming.
Torey Krug- For the second straight night, Krug played 23+ minutes and played a solid all-around game. Krug is justifying the faith the Bruins have in him and they’ll need him. He posted his first point of the year- assisting on Bergeron’s meaningless late goal, but Krug has not made too many visible mistakes with the increased playing time. In other words, on a defensive unit that has struggled in going 0-2, Krug has been the least of Boston’s worries.
Honorable mention- Max Talbot- In the lineup because Zdeno Chara missed his second game with an upper body injury, Talbot played hard and with the energy of a veteran and a guy who knows he needs to demonstrate value added to this club. His play gave Julien food for thought. Yes, Talbot’s best years are clearly behind him, but he played with some intestinal fortitude tonight, going after Mitchell earlier in the game when he engaged in some shenanigans. The linesmen jumped in, but Talbot showed a willingness to stick up for his mates and this, given Mitchell was running around all night like a jackass.
Matt Irwin- For the second consecutive game, the off-season free agent acquisition played poorly on defense. He was on the ice for two goals against, but Eller’s first of the night was particularly bad, as both Irwin and Kevan Miller miscommunicated and converged on the puck carrier Semin, leaving Eller open for the one-timer into the open side. He was also too slow in getting to the puck when Rask was off for an extra skater, and when the initial Montreal shooter missed the net, it rimmed around to Plekanec who put the game out of reach. You can’t exactly blame Irwin on that one, but his lack of foot speed really showed on that play. You hate to say it, but the guy has been a total train wreck in two games- it’s time for him to take a seat. It might help him to watch a game from press level 9 and see if he can get his head right. Realistically, though, he’s a fringe NHL defenseman who does not look at all capable of an expanded role at this level.
David Pastrnak- His lazy, ill-advised neutral zone pass in a 1-0 game ended up in the back of his own net. Later on, he was guilty of another careless turnover, coughing up the puck to Galchenyuk behind his own net and forcing Rask to make a save in close. That kind of stuff is what Julien will point to when fans clamor for more ice time in Pastrnak’s case, but these are the things you have to live with when you roll with younger players. He’ll learn. On the plus side, when they put him on the power play at the end of the game, he assisted on the Bergeron goal.
Dan O’Rourke and Mark Lemelin- The referees were far too visible in this one for all the wrong reasons and were inconsistent in their calls. They wiped out a goal that probably should have counted, unless the NHL wants to go on record as saying that the defenseman shoving a forward into the goalie is now okay and constitutes valid goaltendender interference. No, we didn’t think so either. And, they blew it in the third period when they ejected Spooner for his hit from behind citing “intent to injure” but then curiously had no issue with Alexei Emelin’s earlier low-bridge (one could certainly call it dirty) hit on Bergeron, that could have been devastating if he connected with the B’s center’s knees. Fans just want consistency and these two didn’t really provide it tonight. Here’s hoping for better luck with the zebras on Monday when the Tampa Bay Lightning come to town.