For a long time now, games between the Montreal Canadiens and Boston Bruins have followed the same general script. This one was a little bit different because for once, the Canadiens didn't do any damage on the powerplay, and Tuukka Rask was actually very good, but it still checked quite a few of the usual boxes.
As has been the case for essentially his entire career, Carey Price owns the Boston Bruins. Price's ability to get in the heads of Boston's shooters has become all the more evidence ever since Torey Krug announced after the second game of last seasons' playoff series that the Bruins had solved the Habs' netminder. Since that moment, Price has faced the Bruins nine times, won seven times, and posted a .948 save percentage.
It has gotten to the point where Price looks downright casual against Boston, at one point after some miscommunication with Nathan Beaulieu, Price was out of his net and had given the puck away to Loui Eriksson, only to slowly reach out with his stick and block the shot, then glove the puck out of the air as if it was nothing. Earlier in the game, with the Bruins pressing hard, Zdeno Chara was left open in the high slot and was able to get off a quick, hard shot, which Price gloved nonchalantly.
You have to wonder when Price is playing out of his mind and looks bored, how angry does the other team feel? Most times when a goalie is stopping everything imaginable, they at least look a little tired after. Price looked like he could have played a third game in two days.
Ever since Max Pacioretty was called up from the NHL on a permanent basis, he's been an absolute Bruins killer. In his career, Pacioretty has 21 points against Boston in 22 games, and this season, he's taken it up a notch with seven points in four games. After being soundly criticized for being fairly effectively shut down by Zdeno Chara, Pacioretty has exerted his influence on every game against Boston this season, and on Sunday, nearly single-handedly secured the win with a bullet shot that beat Rask but hit the post, only to be put home by Dale Weise, and converting a breakaway with a phenomenally quick wrist shot.
I don't think anyone can really explain how it's all come together for Dale Weise, but the combination of having a career year for on-ice shooting percentage, personal shooting percentage, the percentage of on-ice goals for that he's getting points on, higher quality linemates, and more offensive opportunities, has led to fans believing that Weise is some sort of shot quality magician that will outperform his dismal possession numbers forever.
While that's very unlikely, what can't be denied is that Dale Weise steps up against the Bruins, and he annoys them too. That's nothing to sneeze at, and it's fun to watch as well.
The 'punk test'
Awhile ago, Steve "Dangle" Glynn noticed that the Bruins always seemed to push over the line against teams, to see if there would be push back. Certain teams would react by folding (Lookin' at you, Buffalo), and others would fight back and earn some respect. However, the Canadiens have taken an alternate route over the years. Instead of engaging the Bruins physically, they let the Bruins push, and push, and beat the tar out of them on the powerplay when they inevitably take penalties.
Over time, instead of earning the respect of the Bruins, this seems to have broken them mentally. The Bruins' succeed by stepping over the line and forcing teams to be timid, while the Canadiens just let them, and beat them anyway, all the time. The punk test now, is the rare time when the Habs end up asserting themselves physically, and the Bruins seem to go nuts every time.
Alexei Emelin has been a key factor there, drawing Chara and Milan Lucic into consistent undisciplined penalties that hurt their team, usually after a clean check. Lucic in particular looks like a broken player when he faces Montreal. Whenever Emelin steps up on him, he reacts as if it's against his personal code for anyone to dare hit him and not fight, then he ends up in the box, hurting his team. You can set your watch to it.
The Canadiens saw the Bruins' punk test, raised, and had a better hand. So far, Claude Julien's squad hasn't found an answer. Montreal is 14-5 against the Bruins under Therrien, 10-2 in the regular season.