The Jets, a decent enough but hardly imposing team played the Canadiens blow for blow, until Lars Eller banged home Jiri Sekac's rebound early in the second period. From there on, the Habs simply survived, earning an insurance marker when Alex Galchenyuk corralled a rebound and icing the match when Tomas Plekanec scored into an open net. The final was a 3-0 Montreal victory, a result not at all reflective of Winnipeg's dominance in the second half of the game.
For Montreal, outside of the consistently positive performance of a few key skaters, it always comes back to Carey Price. In letting go George Parros, Douglas Murray, Francis Bouillon, Travis Moen, and Rene Bourque in the span of a few months, the Habs have dropped so much dead weight so quickly that they must feel like they're playing in space. For all the improvements in talent on the the ice, however, only one talent really seems to matter.
For the Canadiens and their most important player, it's hard to imagine that a date with the Bruins will be any different.
How to Watch
Tale of the Tape
Know Your Enemy
For the second time in a row, the Canadiens will face the Bruins with some serious advantages on their side. The game will again be played on Bell Centre ice. Again, the Bruins are playing on the back half of a back-to-back. Most significantly, the Bruins are weakened by some significant injuries.
Zdeno Chara continues his recovery from a knee injury, which means that David Desharnais, Max Pacioretty, and whoever slots in on the right wing should have some more open ice that they're used to again Boston. Playing roughly half their ice time against the Chara pairing, all three members of the Patches (Brendan Gallagher on that night) line slotted in at the 30-40% ES Fenwick range. Playing the other half of their ice time without having to deal with Chara, no player on that line performed at under 80% ES Fenwick. The sample size is small and Chara's replacement, Dougie Hamilton, is solid, but the Bruins back-end looks much different without the intimidating Slovak playing 27 minutes per night.
In addition to suffering the loss of their best defender, the Bruins are without one of their best forwards in David Krejci. The slick two-way centre aggravated a hip injury that postponed the start of his season, and after missing three games to begin the year, tonight will again mark his third consecutive missed game. His absence has been noticeable, as it precludes him from fulfilling dual role of centering the Bruins top offensive line and justifying Milan Lucic's egregious cap hit. Chris Kelly will step up in Krejci's place.
The Bruins at their best are deep, resilient, and capable of overcoming the losses of important players. At their injured worst, they are the team blown out by the Maple Leafs last night, crashing and burning with their regressing PDO. If the Canadiens know their enemy, they would be wise to enter tonight's game counting on the former.
Last Time Out
In a rematch of a fierce playoff series from last spring, the Canadiens and Bruins played an entertaining and high-scoring game that ended in a Montreal victory.
The Habs endured three first period penalty kills, yielding only a Krejci goal on a point shot. Fortunately, they ended the first period in a tie, as Max Pacioretty and David Desharnais executed the Habs go-to powerplay strategy of, "break two tackles so Max can punch it in on a formless transition play," to perfection.
The Canadiens only mistake, and one they'll wish to avoid tonight, was sitting back after going up 2-1, as the Bruins poured it on for much of the second period. With much credit to their goalkeeper, the Habs stayed close, eventually earning a 6-4 victory as P.A. Parenteau's second of the night sailed into a yawning cage.
No game against this Bruins team is easy, and this one will be no exception. For a Canadiens team that still doesn't quite have their feet under them, however, tonight represents a golden opportunity. The Habs can only keep relying on the convergence of the schedule, injuries, and other random factors for so long. Sooner or later, they need to prove they can do it themselves.