Carey Price’s .931 save percentage and Montreal’s special teams play say that the Habs win Game Seven tonight, but the series’ pattern says it’s a Bruins victory all the way.
Here’s why: The Bruins have rebounded spectacularly in Round Two.
After coming up short by proverbial inches in Game One’s overtime loss, Boston made sure it got out of the Game Two in regulation with not two but three goals in the third period, capping the afternoon with an empty netter to make it a 5-3 Boston win. It may have been a more thrilling victory than a practical one, but the Bruins found a way to spark their offense after a disappointing first game.
Then there was Game Three. Rask gave up two breakaways, something he hasn’t been prone to in the regular season. In addition, Bruins defensemen didn’t know quite where to be on the ice. Thomas Vanek’s perfect pass may have been unpreventable, but Tomas Plekanec’s presence could have been snuffed out if Kevan Miller hadn’t left him alone to score the game’s first goal. Dougie Hamilton, too, pinched on the Subban goal, leaving the Hab defenseman miles of ice to break for the goal. You know how the rest of the game went. Jerome Iginla rings one off the post. Habs make it 3-0 with another breakaway. It all made for a messy Game Three.
And yet, somehow, Rask pitched a shutout in Game Four. Turns out, maybe he really was just a little distracted by the birth of his child in Game Two like people said after all. To keep the momentum going, the Bruins owned Game Five with a 4-2 victory, the second Montreal goal coming with less than three minutes remaining.
So then you have Game Six. The Bruins played sloppy. Firstly, they gave up eight penalties, resulting in one power play goal. Secondly, they gave the Habs a lot of scoring chances that shouldn’t have taken place. Lars Eller should have never seen the puck 2:11 into the first period, but Kevan Miller just couldn’t keep it from floating out in front of Rask despite have several yards of space to himself. Additionally, Max Pacioretty’s breakaway goal with 4:36 remaining in the second period should have been prevented by (A) Zdeno Chara, who could have chopped the Hab down in the slot and taken the penalty before he could shoot the puck, or (B) Rask, who uncharacteristically couldn’t figure out which way Pacioretty was heading and, in his state of indecision, left his five-hole open. If you’d watched the previous game, you’d be wondering what happened to the Bruins, especially Rask.
Another problem for the Bruins in Game Six was how on-fire the Canadiens were. When neither Chara nor Rask failed to stop Pacioretty as he skated in for a shot, he killed it. Same with Eller when Miller misplayed the puck. In addition to capitalizing on opportunities, there were stretches of time where the Canadiens walled the Bruins into their own zone. In the minutes following Eller’s goal in the first period, it seemed like the Bruins would never get the puck out of their end, every clearing attempt knocked back by a Montreal stick. It was the roughest day in the Bruins 2013-14 season.
The upside that Game Six bares, though, is that the Bruins had their worst game of the series two days before their most important, and there’s no denying that Boston has been able to address issues quickly in the last six games. If Julien is as good of a coach as he is said to be, then the Bruins should be much tighter in Game Seven.
The point isn’t that the Habs won’t ride their momentum into Game Seven. Subban’s been talking like the Habs are riding a steam roller straight past Boston with no stops on their way to New York to play the Rangers in Round Three.
If this is a series of trends, though, then don’t be surprised if Rask stands on his head and the Bergeron line comes up with a few goals to make this game one of the season’s best. If the steam roller gets through, it will at least take a few dings along the way.