Well, that was disappointing. I had to take a breather from the Internet for a couple days following my Boston Bruins’ 3-1 defeat in Game 7 at the hands of the hated Montreal Canadiens. It was a great season, but it was a horrible way for it to end. The Bruins got beaten by a team they underestimated, and squandered a great chance to raise the Stanley Cup once again. It wasn’t Pittsburgh waiting for them in the Conference Finals, it was a very ordinary New York Rangers. After that, I’d take my chances with any of the teams left in the West. Instead Montreal if the team moving on, and there is no worse feeling as a hockey fan.
The Canadiens were just better in this series. Their best players were their best players against the Bruins. Carey Price. P.K. Subban. Max Paccioretty. Thomas Vanek. The best contributions for the Bruins came from the likes of Loui Eriksson, Carl Soderberg, and Matt “FroYo” Fraser, not Zdeno Chara, Tuukka Rask, or David Krejci. It’s not all Krejci’s fault, but the fact that he went without a goal in the playoffs when he’s normally their best playoff scorer is troubling. Brad Marchand is another one who deserves a lot of blame. He, like Krejci, did not score in the playoffs. He’s an agitator. A big part of his job is to get under the skin of the other team and draw penalties, but against a team like Montreal, who isn’t phased by Marchy’s antics because they are a team of rats and weasels, he’s useless if he’s not scoring, especially in a stingily goaltended series where pucks in the back are worth their weight in gold.
Marchand and Krejci aren’t the only ones to blame, though. Peter Chiarelli played it safe at the trade deadline, adding Corey Potter and Andrej Meszaros for depth on defense, but not adding any forward depth, when they could have added Thomas Vanek. Instead, the New York Islanders dealt Vanek, who has had success against Boston his whole career, to Montreal, as the Habs were loading up for a run-in with the Bruins this spring. Chiarelli was looking long-term when they had a short-term chance they should have capitalized on. Zdeno Chara isn’t getting any younger, much the way the Patriots only have a couple more chances to win the Super Bowl with Tom Brady. The Game 7 defeat this week felt the the type of game the Patriots lose in the playoffs, too. They were in it, but they weren’t scoring, and a player they could have or should have had (Vanek in the Bruins’ case, Wes Welker in the Patriots’ case) is contributing for the other team like every fan feared going in.
What’s really frustrating is that the Habs are not that much better than the Bruins, and looked very beatable in their 7-2 Game 1 home loss against New York on Saturday. The Rangers are a team the Bruins match up much better against, but hopefully they can roll over the Habs in the Eastern Conference Finals. Price looked like Ken Dryden against the Bruins, but looked more like Marc-Andre Fleury against the Rangers. That’s hockey, I guess, and it’s another summer where Bruins fans have to sit there wondering what might have been.
If I were to quantify how much I hate the New York Yankees, and multiply it by how much I hate the Los Angeles Lakers, it would still not be as much as the hate I have for the Montreal Canadiens. The Boston Bruin find themselves down two games to one to their bitter rivals heading into Game 4 tonight at the Bell Centre. It’s a tough position to be in as a fan, and I can only imagine what it’s like as a player. Whenever these two teams face off against one another, history rears its ugly head.
To give credit where credit is due, Carey Price and P.K. Subban have been unbelievable in this series. Price is starting to look like a young Ken Dryden, who shut down the regular season record setting 1971 Bruins in the first significant playing time of his Hall of Fame career. The B’s won the Stanley Cup in 1970, and again in 1972, but Ken Dryden prevented them from three straight and being a dynasty. Subban is good enough to play with the Habs teams of the 70s as well. His slap shot is filthy, and if he were a Bruin, he’s be a fan favorite in Boston. The Bruins have had their chances, but the Habs have been the team making them pay for their mistakes. The series is far from over, but it’s hard to feel good about all the chances the Bruins have missed.
The Bruins need to get better scoring opportunities. I feel whenever I watch the Bruins that I’m shouting “shoot the puck!” more than anything else. They try to get cute, and everyone tries to make the extra pass rather than just burying it. It’s refreshing to see defensemen like Johnny Boychuk, Torey Krug, and Dougie Hamilton ripping shotts from the blue line. It’s not a high percentage play, but it gives them a chance, and it created rebound and redirect chances in front of the net as well. The Habs have not had as much of a sustained attack, but are ahead in the series because they’ve put the puck in the direction of Tuukka Rask with more regularity. Carey Price is a good goalie, and he was a big part of Canada winning the Gold in Sochi earlier this year, but he’s not Ken Dryden, and he’s not even Tuukka Rask for that matter. Subban has picked his spots, but he’s made Rask pay so far in this series. At some point, the Bruins need to break through and start scoring, but that needs to happen before it’s too late.
If the Bruins lose this series, blame will fall back on the trade deadline. Boston GM Peter Chiarelli did not do as much as he could have at the deadline, while Montreal added Thomas Vanek (who has killed the Bruins his entire career and the Bruins should have pursued) and Dale Weise, who have made significant contributions to the Habs in this series. Instead the Bruins acquired a couple of depth defensemen in the form of Andrej Meszaros and Corey Potter. Meszaros played the last two games ahead of Matt Bartkowski, but that’s a move that makes it easy for fans to second guess Claude Julien. Neither of those guys would get a sniff of the ice if Dennis Seidenberg and Adam McQuaid were healthy, but that’s out of our control. The B’s could have done more at the deadline, but did not, and it’s come back to bite them this round against the Habs, who were anticipating a showdown with Boston.
If the B’s have any hope of rallying back, they need David Krejci to play the way he usually does in the playoffs. Through eight playoff games, Krejci has yet to record a goal. Krejci, more than Patrice Bergeron and Zdeno Chara, is the guy that needs to be at the top of his game for the Bruins to win this time of year. Bergeron and Chara give you the same honest effort every time they are out on the ice, but Krejci is the guy who usually leads the team in scoring in the playoffs. When the Bruins collapsed against the Philadelphia Flyers in 2010, it was directly correlated with Krejci going down with a season-ending wrist injury. When they reached the Stanley Cup Finals in 2011 and 2013, Krejci was leading the way on offense. If Krejci can get going, so will Milan Lucic and Jarome Iginla. If they pepper the net, maybe Price will look human again. It all starts with David Krejci.
This series is not over by any stretch of the imagination, but the Bruins have their work cut out for them. It might not be Dryden in net for Montreal, or Ray Bourque lacing up for Boston, but it always feels that way. As long as hockey is played the philosophical debate between skill and toughness, between Black and Gold, and Bleu, Blanc et Rouge will rage on. It’s tense, and it’s aggravating, but it’s as good as it gets.