One game into the 2015-16 season, Habs fans can be confident of one thing that has not been true in some time: this team's offence is no longer one-dimensional.
This new balance was on display on Wednesday, as the team's two goals were split between each of the top two lines. Better yet, both groups did well to push the play, giving the Habs a big advantage on possession while they were on the ice. The Canadiens will seek to reprise this type of performance against a Boston team whose offence has historically revolved around the lines centred by David Krejci and Patrice Bergeron, laying the groundwork for a power-on-power matchup. The difference, however, may be the scoring prowess of Montreal's third line.
Tomas Fleischmann, David Desharnais, and Dale Weise were hemmed in frequently, but despite failing to consistently protect their zone, they did manage to make some advances on the Toronto goal. The fourth line, in contrast, failed to generate much of anything.
In Boston, things could be different. If given the opportunity, perhaps Paul Byron could add a dash of dynamism to Montreal's depth. Alternatively, perhaps a decimated Boston d-corps will allow the bottom six enough space to cash in on some of those chances.
If the Habs are to be a better team this year, they'll need production from their depth. With the Bruins' upheaval spilling over into the early parts of the season, game #2 should be a good chance to get started.
How to Watch
Start time: 7:00 PM ET
In Canada (French): TVA
In Canada (English): Sportsnet
In the Bruins region: NESN
Elsewhere: NHL GameCenter, NHL Center Ice
Tale of the Tape
|47.2||5v5 Corsi %||51.9
|INFINITY||5v5 Goal Ratio||0.25
Know Your Enemy
For almost a decade, the Boston Bruins have been a pillar of consistency in the NHL's eastern conference. This past summer, all of that came crashing down.
General manager Peter Chiarelli was sent packing, and Don Sweeney was appointed to his former post. A series of unconventional draft selections followed, not to mention a retooling of the Bruins' roster. Milan Lucic, as much a part of the Bruins identity as anyone, was dealt to Los Angeles. Dougie Hamilton, the ostensible replacement for Zdeno Chara as the team's anchor defenceman, was traded as well. Throw in a bizarre trade for enforcer Zac Rinaldo, and you have a boatload of questions surrounding what has been one of the league's more predictable outfits.
Of course, it's not all bad. Matt Beleskey was signed to a surprisingly sane contract, and can likely replace most of Lucic's offensive contribution. Bergeron and Krejci, an excellent 1-2 centre combo, are supplemented by a quick-developing David Pastrnak in the Bruins forward group. And despite the likely loss of some of the structure and support that has benefited him in years past, Tuuka Rask is still one of the game's strongest goaltenders.
On Thursday, all of that added up to a 6-2 loss to the Winnipeg Jets. On Saturday, the Bruins will try to regroup against a team that's had their number.
Last Time Out
The Canadiens swept the Bruins last year, finishing up with a 3-1 win last February. Their dominance goes back even further, as the Habs are 14-5 in their last 19 encounters with Boston, including a postseason series victory two years ago.
Many of those games involved the Habs finding a way to navigate Boston's staunch defence and strong physical play, but tonight may feel different. The loss of Hamilton and fellow top-4 man Johnny Boychuk in the last two offseasons has left the Bruin defence understaffed. Compounded by injuries to Dennis Seidenberg and Chara, Boston may end up with three pairs that represent a significant departure from what Canadiens fans have become accustomed to in recent years.
When the Habs and Bruins played last, Montreal got their three goals from Dale Weise, Max Pacioretty, and Andrei Markov. All three - at the time - were top line players. Tonight, they'll look for their depth to get on the scoresheet, too, and overpower the bottom of a Boston lineup still trying to find its place.