That one stings. What was looking like a solid win quickly turned into a heart breaking loss.
After being dominated in the late periods of game one, Montreal put forth a much better performance this time around. Although part of that performance relied on their success on the power play, Montreal did create slight more scoring chances while playing at even strength. It definitely wasn't as bad as the 5 on 5 slaughter that we saw on Thursday.
However the numbers at ES were not particularly pretty:
There's no denying it, Boston is a good team. Nay, they're a great team. So far they've done a reasonably good job at keeping their cool, exploiting Montreal's system and not allowing an exuberant amount of scoring chances against.
The Habs can make life a little more difficult on the Bruins by closing down the cross-zone highway that the Bruins are endlessly speeding down. Boston knows they can use this passing lane to set up top notch scoring chances, and they're using it to their advantage whenever possible.
Another issue with Montreal's defensive zone play is how they allow the Bruins to gain access without impunity.
Boston carried the puck into Montreal's zone approximately 455 times (*estimate may not be accurate), and seemed to create a scoring chance on most shifts. To their credit, Montreal did do a good job of collapsing in front of Price, thus negating a fair amount of secondary scoring chances.
The good news is that Price has only been beaten by shots he either can't see, that got deflected or don't abide to the laws of physics. He's on his game, however Montreal would be wise not to depend on him in game 3. Getting bombarded at 5 on 5 and counting on your goalie to bail you out is a quick way to lose a series.
This was Mike Weaver and Francis Bouillon's worst game as a pairing in these playoffs, by far. Bouillon's struggles lead me to assume there might be some changes in the back end, meaning that the S.S. Murray may steam back into the Habs port.
Bouillon knows he didn't play a great game, and it showed.
Josh Gorges and P.K. Subban on the other hand were great, as per usual. They're doing a great job shutting down Boston's forwards, and quickly moving the puck up the ice.
Subban also avoided getting boarded by Shawn Thornton, and by doing so made Thornton injure himself against the boards. Thornton got really mad, had to be carried off the ice by a team of doctors, and was back on the bench approximately 17 seconds later. I'm not sure what was up with that, but Thornton should be upset at himself for almost getting hurt, not the guy who avoided the elbow.
Once again the Chara/Bergeron combo did a great job at negating Montreal's top line, and we can only hope that Therrien keeps them the hell away from Chargeron in game three. Although I wouldn't hold my breath, because as Therrien himself said, he's "not a huge fan of line matching". Eriksson and Soderberg also did a great job in terms of puck possession, at the expense of Montreal's second line. Together they were on the ice for 10 shots for, and 0 against.
What needs to improve? Lots. Let's face it, Montreal could be leaving Boston with a two game deficit. Yet some timely goals and some stellar goaltending almost afforded them a two game lead.
Montreal did put forth some impressive forecheck late in the game, sending three men deep to hem the Bruins in their own zone a few times, however that quickly gave way to the ole "Let's sit on this lead and hope the Bruins don't score twice, because that doesn't happen in the playoffs..." strategy.
If Montreal hopes to succeed in the coming games they'll have to get much better puck support from their forwards in the defensive zone. As it stands the forwards are struggling in their transition from zone to zone, which puts even more pressure on the over-taxed defense.
Brandon Prust has been awful, in a perfect world he would sit until he's able to contribute. Ryan White should probably be the go-to player as a substitute.
Montreal can only hope to disrupt the Bruins in game three a little more than they have in the first two games. A focused and non flustered Boston Bruins team will beat most NHL teams nine times out of ten.
Although the vibe around Habs fans at the moment seems to be quite grim, I think it's a little much considering where we're at.
In the grand scheme of things the Habs find themselves in a decent situation. They're tied, heading back to Montreal holding home ice advantage in a 5 game series. Things could definitely be worse.
We sometimes forget that hockey is a two team game. Yes, the Habs could be playing better as a whole, but the reality is Boston is a ridiculously good team. From top to bottom they're loaded with talent and skill, which is unfortunately often overshadowed by their penchant for goonery.
Besides, you really didn't think the Habs would sail through the playoffs undefeated, did you?
If the Bruins need a goal that defies the laws of physics to beat Price, Montreal is in a decent position going forward.
The narrative after this game will definitely be that Montreal "has to be better", and that's easy to say. However putting it in application against a team like Boston is quite the feat.
Home ice will help, as will some time to review the tape, but Habs fans definitely should not abandon hope. This game could have gone either way.