The Habs extended their winning streak to four games, and I'm not sure if it was in spite of, or because of their oddest lineup this season. To wit they gave a 40-year-old defenseman over 20 minutes, played one of their best young defensemen under seven minutes, and continued to do their best to keep one of their most consistently dangerous offensive forwards away from the power play. Regardless the Habs won, and they won in convincing fashion.
Tuukka Rask had been rumoured to start, and his exposed frailties following an early Leafs exit the night before had Canadiens fans clamouring for a blowout against a favourite Habs victim. Alas it was Niklas Svedberg who got the start, and for about 22 minutes he looked like the anti-Rask.
The Habs came out flying against the Bruins with Max Pacioretty applying pressure early and Dale Weise mixing it up with Gregory Campbell in the first. The results didn't match the effort and the Habs were down 1-0 after 20 minutes of play. It was easy to find scapegoats in the first - Sergei Gonchar was second among D in ice time, Nathan Beaulieu saw very little ice time, and the ice time he did see was at forward. Outshot 11-6, it wasn't the prettiest of periods for Montreal or Michel Therrien.
Dougie Hamilton continues to be a pain. I respect him as a player and I am sure he will develop into the type of player I would one day like to draft in the first four rounds of a fantasy draft, but at this moment he is a Bruin, his name is Dougie and not Doug, and he scored a goal against the Canadiens that in the first period seemed deflating.
The second period showcased Dutch Gretzky, as Dale Weise picked up a goal and an assist in a most efficient manner. Weise, who was limited to under five minutes of ice time through the first two periods, scored on a penalty shot, and then picked up an assist on Max Pacioretty's seventh goal of the season. He was able to increase his season's points total by 50% and complete a Gordie Howe hat trick in in four minutes and 17 seconds of play. Dale Weise was clearly making the most of his last night on Earth.
How do you have a second period without a Lars Eller goal? If you're Montreal, you don't. In a game that seems to be about doing more with less (ice time), Lars Eller shines through. The Sekac-Eller-Prust line has made believers out of us all, but some of us were already believers (Marc Dumont). From a fancy stats perspective or from a traditional hockey view, Montreal's most consistent line over the last four games has been the SEPtic line (I swear that'll catch on). I haven't always been a fan of Brandon Prust, but he has been a solid component of that line and he's due for a goal.
I'd be remiss if I didn't mention that Nathan Beaulieu laid another solid beatdown in this game, this time on Matt Fraser. Beaulieu picked up almost as many penalty minutes (five) as he did time on the ice (6:29). I love that regardless of what role he's thrust into he's making things interesting. I'd prefer if it wasn't in the capacity where he could damage his precious hands, but it's nice to see Beaulieu making a name for himself - even if it's doing some of the wrong things (and in the third he'd do some of the right things). Whether you're at a wedding or at the game, don't start with Nathan Beaulieu.
In the second period the Habs seemed to right the ship outshooting the Bruins 16-5 and outscoring the Bruins 3-1.
The third period cemented the fact that this was the Canadiens most convincing win of the season. Pacioretty and the much maligned David Desharnais teamed up on a goal five minutes into the third putting the Canadiens up 4-1. Desharnais has had some hard luck moments when it comes to goal scoring this year and while it initially looked like a DD goal, it was ultimately credited to Max Pacioretty.
I anticipate a lot of conversation on this site and twitter about the next goal and what it means. Sekac, Eller, and Beaulieu played under three minutes on the power play and came up with Montreal's fourth power play goal of the season. All three have been shelved or benched at various points during the season, but have responded with key offensive (and defensive) contributions. When you have a PP that simply isn't working and is ranked only slightly above Buffalo's, why is that Eller (or Sekac or Beaulieu) isn't seeing more time on it just to shake things up? However one of the many positives out of this game is that the power play finally seems to be rounding into a shape - instead of an amorphous blob.
One of the longest running rivalries in sport, and the Canadiens showed that regardless of who is in net, they can make a Bruins goalie feel just awful about his choices in life. An NHL-leading 25 points (tied with Anaheim) is Montreal's reward. Let's hope this isn't the last 5-1 beatdown we see.