1. Welcome back, rivalry.
There had been talk as of late that, with new rosters, perhaps the classic Boston - Montreal rivalry was fading. All notions of that were set aside quickly. In the first period, none other than Alexei Emelin got things started with a clean hipcheck on David Pastrnak. Seconds later, Torrey Krug shouldered a reaching Andrew Shaw in the head. Shaw would miss the rest of the first period, visibly shaken up. Then, unlikely combatant Brendan Gallagher looked to settle the score by dropping the gloves with Krug. The rest of the game was played with a vicious edge that feels all too familiar. History is alive and so is the Habs-Bruins rivalry.
Emelin hit on Pastrnak and Krug hit on Shaw: pic.twitter.com/VcW5Lf42mS— Marc Dumont (@MarcPDumont) December 13, 2016
2. Paul “All-Star” Byron
Even before he scored his 10th of the season (one off his career high - in game 29 of the season, somehow), Byron’s play was Takeaway-worthy. It’s hard to believe the Canadiens claimed him off of waivers from Calgary - that a team couldn’t find a place for someone with the energy, awareness, and speed of Paul Byron. He seems to like playing the Bruins too. His game-tying goal was his 6th in seven games against the Bruins, including two game-winning goals this season.
3. Goaltending Duel
As one could imagine with a 2-1 final after 31 (for the Habs) and 22 (for the Bruins) scoring chances, this game was truly fun to watch. Play moved quickly through the middle but we were treated at each end to spectacular saves (like Tuukka’s two-pad stack in the second period) and just a little luck (like the ping off Price’s post also in the second). For all the longstanding rumours of Rask’s struggles in Montreal, both goalies put on a show this game and Rask emerged the winner.
4. Lehkonen Hype-Train
Michel Therrien, noted relier-on-veterans, seems to love Artturi Lehkonen as much as we do. And why not? The kid has demonstrated hockey smarts at both ends with a strong forecheck and good defensive plays. He goes to the front of the net and has been getting his share of chances. As a rookie in a rough and fast game he didn’t look out of place at all, setting up plays, include two tap-ins in the first period alone.
Therrien trusts Lehkonen - he’s used in high-pressure situations and has been on the penalty kill since day one of the season. Saku Koivu said Lehkonen would make the team out of camp; Koivu was right and Lehkonen hasn’t disappointed.
5. Rallying around Price
Whenever a goal is scored on Carey Price, the first instinct is to look for the deflection that allowed the puck to tip past him. It speaks to his ability and talent, and our collective standard set to him, that we think a mere shot could find its way to the back of his net.
I’m sure his teammates feel similarly and it’s no coincidence that on the rare occasion Price does let in a goal he’d probably like back, it seems to light a fire under the team to pick up the goalie that so often lifts them high.
6. Radulov doing Radulov Things
Max Pacioretty spent the aftermath of a 10-1 drubbing in which is scored 4 goals singing the praises of Alexander Radulov. The reasons why were clearly evident against the Bruins. On more than one occasion, Radulov turned nothing into something, lost pucks into scoring chances, and even upped his physical play, though he wouldn’t bow fully to the taunting by Kevan Miller.
He takes hits and makes hits, all in the name of holding the puck and setting up plays. He draws coverage and sets up tap-ins for linemates. He upped the energy in an already-energetic game. Have the contract extension waiting for him when the clock strikes midnight on January 1, Marc.
Alexei Emelin stirred up a fair bit of controversy in the previous game by laying a clean but big hit late in in the 10-1 victory. Some players may lay low after such an event but Emelin only knows one way to play hockey, especially against the Boston Bruins where Emelin has always played his best hockey. He made his presence known early and often and made the Bruins think twice about how and when to enter the Canadiens’ zone.
Emelin takes our Marchand and continues to single-handedly reignite the rivalry. pic.twitter.com/4RhMgZCJxz— Marc Dumont (@MarcPDumont) December 13, 2016
The Canadiens have had a long-standing reputation of favouring speed over grit. Through Marc Bergevin’s tenure, they’ve trialled a few options to add that elusive “toughness,” notably Brandon Prust and George Parros. But these were single players brought in to perform a role, at the expense of a roster spot.
If this game was a litmus test for toughness, and it feels like Bruins games usually are, it seems that perhaps Bergevin has finally gotten the recipe just right. He has a team of skaters who can make the big hit AND the big play, all while still holding on to that speed element that served the Pittsburgh Penguins so well last season. The Canadiens aren’t a team that backs down.
9. Special Teams
Tonight Boston showed why their penalty kill is ranked 3rd in the league. Habs had 7 chances on the powerplay and struggled to get set up nearly each and every time. Miscued passes and mistimed shots left the Habs 0-for-7 on the night and 1-for-16 since Galchenyuk’s injury.
Having to regain momentum after each powerplay is not the most effective game strategy. An anemic powerplay also isn’t much of a deterrent for a team to not abide by the rules.
10. A Point!
Though they came away with the loss, gracefully accepting just the single point at the end of OT, this felt like a good loss for the Canadiens. They were fast. They were strong. They were hard to play against. They made Rask make some phenomenal saves. They forced the Bruins to make turnovers. They created good scoring chances. I think there might have been a crisp pass or two, but not everything can be perfect.
On the heels of what were perhaps their best two games of the season, they Canadiens managed to step up and produce another quality effort against a quality opponent for the full 60 minutes. This isn’t last year’s Canadiens.