The Boston Bruins are on a roll. The Montreal Canadiens are winning, but there are some obvious issues.
The Habs’ archrivals have won four of their last five games, improving their standing in the Atlantic division in the process. In fact, outside of a couple of unfortunate run-ins with that red-hot New York Rangers squad, the Bruins have been just about unbeatable for a week and a half.
The wins have come on the back of solid possession play, sturdy defence, and a healthy dose of Tuukka Rask. The Bruins’ goalkeeper sits just behind his Montreal counterpart in even strength save percentage, stopping just under 96% of the shots that reach him. The Bruins have doubled down on that advantage by keeping his workload small, as the B’s are just outside the league’s top five when it comes to suppressing shot attempts.
How to watch
Puck drop: 7:30 PM ET/4:30 PM PT
In the Canadiens’ region: SNE (English), RDS (French)
Elsewhere: NHL Gamecenter Live, NHL Center Ice
Tale of the tape
On the flip side, Boston’s offence has been below average, not to mention totally one-dimensional. If the Bruins have produced a goal this season, it’s a decent bet that Brad Marchand was somehow involved. The winger has continued his run of success from the World Cup of Hockey, and has 14 points in 12 games to show for it. Boston’s other weapon is David Pastrnak, the highly-skilled 20-year-old who’s outmatched every defenceman he’s faced this season but Stephane Quintal.
|49.09||Score-Adjusted Corsi %||52.53|
|1.63||5v5 Goal Ratio||0.90|
The powerplay that was so lethal last season is sputtering to start this one, and it may be vulnerable to quick counter-attacks, but a cursory glance shows that much of the same puck movement that made the Bruins’ man advantage successful a year ago is still present. The goals have been harder to come by, but Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci won’t be held down forever, up a man or playing at evens. And with Rask dominating, it buys the players Claude Julien is depending on to score more time to get warmed up.
At the other end of the ice, Michel Therrien will be depending on Carey Price to do his magic act. For at least three games now, everything in front of the Habs’ crease has been in disarray, made salvageable only through Price’s heroics and the not-so-scary calibre of Montreal’s recent opponents.
It’s hard to remember the last time Montreal set up a high quality scoring chance based on sustained offensive zone time, doing most of their damage in transition instead. As our own Jack Han illustrates, the Habs are playing with fire. Perhaps the presence of Daniel Carr’s Gallagher-like attention to the puck can help to turn things around.
No matter what happens tonight, it’s not 2015-16 and the Tricolore will still sit atop their division with plenty of time to find their game. But even though the manic quality that characterized games between the Canadiens and Bruins for a few years may be starting to wane, these contests still mean something. Whether you’re looking ahead or thinking in the present, another sloppy loss tonight would be pretty tough to take.