How much were you worried about this game? The Canadiens, escaping with two narrow wins over New Jersey while being totally, completely outplayed, were about to face their chief rivals and the class of the East in the Boston Bruins, who had a nice five day rest since their last game, a win over Columbus.
Whatever expectations there were for the game came to a grinding halt just under 4.5 minutes in, as a hit by Max Pacioretty sent Johnny Boychuk awkwardly into the boards behind the Canadiens' net. Boychuk remained on the ice for around 10 minutes, wincing in pain as he was carefully put on a stretcher and carried off the ice, then brought to the Montreal General Hospital.
Pacioretty said after the game that he was rattled by the result of the hit, and found it difficult to get back into the game. Clearly, he feared that a hit he had laid had ended in a similar injury that he has suffered at the hands of Bruins captain Zdeno Chara in 2011, but luckily Boychuk seems to be alright. He was released from the hospital late last night and joined his teammates on their flight.
The Bruins took advantage of the sleepy Canadiens early, dominating the first period and capitalizing on a brutal play by Andrei Markov to catch P.K. Subban flatfooted off the rush, with Milan Lucic sending a nice pass to Gregory Campbell on a 2-on-1 that he tipped past Carey Price.
That wouldn't be the last defensive miscue by the Canadiens on the night, but it was the last time that the Bruins would beat Carey Price, who was typically phenomenal between the pipes.
Montreal came out of the gates in the second period with renewed vigour, shaking off their poor first period and putting the Bruins on their heals. A brilliant little play by Brian Gionta had him in all alone on Tuukka Rask, but he fired the shot wide. Josh Gorges stopped the puck at the point though, and sent a cross seam pass to Tomas Plekanec, who managed to beat Rask from an impossible angle.
The Habs kept their foot on the gas for the rest of the period, and an excellent play by Raphael Diaz caused complete chaos in front of the Bruins' net, and although he wasn't able to finish, Pacioretty found the loose puck and backhanded it into the net.
From then on, the Canadiens played prevention style hockey, and Carey Price kept them in it in spite of some amazing pressure by the Bruins, and a second straight poor game from the Markov/Subban pairing.
After this streak where the Habs have gone 10-1-2, it's probably a little unnecessary to pick on negatives, but I have a couple of things I wanted to note anyway.
Brian Gionta has taken a ton of heat this season for his lack of production, but his 16 points in 29 games is the exact same production level as the unassailable Brendan Gallagher. A lot has been made of Gallagher "sparking" Pacioretty and David Desharnais since being reunited as a trio, but the truth is that since that decision was made, Gallagher has just 1 goal in 11 games.
Gallagher isn't the straw that stirs the drink on that line, as much as many pundits like to pretend that he is, and although it won't happen until a couple of losses pile up, I think he's far better suited to playing with Lars Eller and Alex Galchenyuk.
With all these wins against tough opponents, Montreal sees a lighter schedule coming up, starting with a game against Buffalo, followed by the Flyers, Islanders, Panthers, and Coyotes. If the Canadiens can continue to pad their point totals against weaker competition, they'll be an exceptional position by the end of December, even with their possession numbers looking unimpressive.
Check out reaction from the losing side at Stanley Cup of Chowder.