Tonight, they’ll face a very different challenge. The Boston Bruins are the league’s best possession team but have been undermined by a lack of timely scoring and Tuukka Rask’s worst season as a pro. Claude Julien paid the price for those shortcomings, so it’s up to Bruce Cassidy to guide a team that probably deserves to be there into the playoffs.
The Bruins are coming off a 4-3 win over the Vancouver Canucks on Saturday in which they held three separate one-goal leads, including the one David Pastrnak gave them when he scored his 25th of the season with two minutes to play. The win gave Cassidy his second straight victory as Head Coach, and tonight it’ll be up the Habs to stop him from getting to three.
How to watch
Puck drop: 7:30 PM EST / 4:30 PM PST
In Canada: SN (English)
In the Canadiens region: RDS (French)
In the United States: NBCSN
Elsewhere: NHL.tv/NHL Gamecenter Live, NHL Center Ice
Tale of the Tape
|52.78||Score-Adjusted Corsi %||55.5|
|1.28||5v5 Goal Ratio||0.83|
*Statistics do not include Saturday’s games.
With Al Montoya starting against the Blues last night and Anton Khudobin starting in net for the Bruins yesterday, it looks like both coaches have reserved their starters for this potentially significant divisional matchup. The Habs have a healthy lead in their divison and remain a virtual lock for the postseason, but with 25 games still to play, it’s in the Canadiens’ interest to keep their buffer as large as they can.
To do that, they’ll aim to stifle the Boston offence as they did in the teams’ first three contests this season. The Habs have allowed only two goals in each game, scoring four, three, and one respectively in their two wins and one loss.
That Montreal loss was the most recent outing between these rivals, and the game had the contentious feel that had otherwise been on the wane lately. Before either squad found the scoreboard, Alexei Emelin found and eliminated Pastrnak as the latter entered the offensive zone. Moments later, Torey Krug caught Andrew Shaw reaching for a puck and punished him with a concussive blow.
Emelin hit on Pastrnak and Krug hit on Shaw: pic.twitter.com/VcW5Lf42mS— Marc Dumont (@MarcPDumont) December 13, 2016
Brendan Gallagher fought Krug in response, and before long, Alexander Radulov and Kevan Miller were at each other as well. As Namiko observed in recapping the game, the hate was back between the Habs and Bruins.
The Habs burned several powerplay opportunities, and ultimately the Bruins would strike first on an odd man rush. Emelin laid another beautiful hit, but that was as much damage as the Tricolore could muster through two frames.
Emelin takes our Marchand and continues to single-handedly reignite the rivalry. pic.twitter.com/4RhMgZCJxz— Marc Dumont (@MarcPDumont) December 13, 2016
Paul Byron would score late, but those missed powerplays (there were five) would come back to haunt them. The game went to overtime, where Ryan Spooner ended it.
The Habs generated all kinds of shot attempts but with Max Pacioretty and Radulov unable to cause the kind of chaos we’ve become accustomed to over the last couple of months, they simply couldn’t put enough pressure on Rask to break him. The absence of Alex Galchenyuk, who was still among the league’s leading scorers at the time, didn’t help either.
But assuming the well-documented idea that Cassidy cannot simply exhort his team to score more is true, the Canadiens will likely need only two or three goals to put themselves in position to win tonight. If the return of Brendan Gallagher helps the Habs replicate the effort they put forth in December, they should be in good shape to put Cassidy in the loss column for the first time since 2004.