BOSTON (CBS) — To win a playoff hockey game on the road when the opposing team is facing elimination, you need to be nearly perfect.
To say the Boston Bruins were not perfect on Monday night in Game 6 in Montreal would be quite the understatement.
Kevan Miller’s early gaffe allowed the Habs to take a lead just 2:11 into the game, and it was almost all downhill from there.
After the 4-0 loss, the Bruins all talked about how they generated plenty of chances but failed to finish, and they felt confident in their ability to win Game 7 based on all those chances created. But the thing about “chances” and “near misses” and “posts rung” and everything of that sort is that they don’t mean diddly on the scoreboard. If the Bruins put together the same night in Game 7 as they did in Game 6, one filled with plenty of “good chances” that result in zero actual goals, it’ll be curtains on the season, a summer come too soon for a team that really should be playing into June.
Alas, we’re not there yet. The Bruins proved in Game 5 that they’re capable of thoroughly outplaying Montreal, and they’re going to have to do it again in Game 7 if they want to avoid the pain of seeing the Canadiens pig-piling on top of each other on Garden ice.
We’ll see Wednesday night how that scenario plays out. For now, we’ve got some leftover thoughts from Game 6 to cover.
–We will all spend two days talking about how the Bruins got dominated in Game 6, but really the entire game hinged on one sequence in the second period. With the Bruins applying heavy, heavy pressure on Montreal, Milan Lucic had a gift-wrapped goal land right on his stick. He blew it. He aimed for the inside of the far post, and he missed it. Three and a half minutes later, Max Pacioretty took off on a Hail Mary, hoodwinked Zdeno Chara to briefly fall asleep, and batted a bouncing puck right through Tuukka Rask’s five-hole for the Canadiens’ second goal of the game. It was a back-breaker.
As I said earlier, you have to be nearly perfect to win games like this one in environments like the Bell Centre. Missing opportunities like that one (seriously, oof!) is a mistake that simply can’t be made if you want to win. Now, if Lucic is able to bury that, and if the Pacioretty goal doesn’t happen, by no means does that guarantee the Bruins a win. However, it would have been highly unlikely to see a 4-0 final score if Lucic does a better job in that moment.
–I am not superstitious and I think jinxes are stupid. However, I’m willing to take the blame for the Bruins’ loss if you’re a believer in that stuff. On Monday morning, I wrote: “Kevan Miller does all the little things the right way, and though the results aren’t always flashy, they are a big part of the difference between winning and losing.”
He then coughed up the puck in the worst way imaginable on his first shift of the night, thereby igniting an already-fired up Habs team.
Also, before the game I tweeted Tuukka Rask’s even-strength save percentage, noting that the netminder “has been so much better than everyone else.” And what was Tuukka’s even-strength save percentage in Game 6? That would be .818. Woof.
Sorry about that.
(Yes, that includes the goal he “allowed” when he was tripping over the faceoff circle in an effort to get to the bench, but the stats are the stats.)
Despite the dreadful night in net, Rask still stands head and shoulders above the rest of the league in even-strength save percentage this postseason. Check it out.
–Photography is cool. Sports photography is very cool. Don’t believe me? Spot the puck in this photograph, and then realize that this play somehow did not result in a goal.
Sports are so crazy.
–The Bruins looked like sore losers at the end of the game when they started bopping as many faces as possible, sure, but the whole thing precipitated from Andrei Markov tripping Zdeno Chara and then using his stick to hit the Bruins captain in the groin. (Video here.) As Claude Julien said after the game, “Eventually somebody’s going to react. So whether it’s right or wrong, Zdeno reacted.”
That “whether it’s right or wrong” line really stood out to me. In any playoff series — but in this rivalry in particular — there’s always outrage for just about everything that happens on the ice. Habs fans express anger over the Bruins being “classless,” just as Bruins fans are mad about something the Canadiens or their fans do. And on and on it goes. Fans spend hours on Twitter yelling through their keyboards about hypocritical stances and beliefs, as if they’re solving national crises.
How about this — it’s sports. Stuff happens. Stop spending your limited time on this earth trying to prove that a fan of a sports team is not completely on the level when it comes making judgments about said sports team as well as said sports team’s historic rival. Is it wrong to hit an opponent in the man area with a hockey stick? Yup. Is it wrong to squirt a puck carrier with water from the bench? Sure is. Is it wrong to respond with violence when confronted by an opponent? Sometimes maybe, sometimes maybe not. Is it legal under the NHL rules to play tough? Of course. Should fans refrain from throwing cups and garbage onto the ice? Yup. Should fans of the opposing team witness those other fans throwing garbage and then use it as a referendum on how “classless” the other fan base is? Nope. (Nobody should ever say “classless” period. It’s the worst word out there.)
It’s sports — and it’s a sport where physical play is not only allowed but encouraged. These things are going to happen. It’s as simple as that.
–But hey, speaking of hypocrites, you have to love seeing P.K. Subban argue for a delay of game penalty after Dougie Hamilton dislodged the Boston net. I don’t blame the fans for wanting the call, because literally every single fan base in every single arena is going to boo calls against the home team and argue for calls against the opponent. But P.K. “Shoulder The Net Off Its Moorings In The Final Seconds To Negate Any Chance Of An Opposing Goal To Tie The Game” Subban arguing with the official for a less blatant offense? That’s rich. That is trolling at a professional level. Troll on, Pernell Karl. You may be the best on the planet at this.
–Every single time you see the replay of Max Pacioretty’s goal, it looks worse and worse for Zdeno Chara. That may have been the single most bizarre moment in Chara’s entire career as a member of the Boston Bruins. Chara could have easily kept his feet moving and gotten his body between Pacioretty and the net. Even if he didn’t catch up to Max, he has the reach to at least stick-check the puck and prevent Pacioretty from getting a clean stick on it. At minimum, he could have shoved Pacioretty to send him off balance and therefore disrupt the shot.
Instead, Chara did … nothing. Nothing at all.
It was just stride, stride, stride, stride and … coast. And watch. And goal. Chara did not take one stride after this moment:
It’s not often that the Norris finalist and Vezina finalist get beaten on the same play (Gustav Nyquist’s regular-season goal is all that comes to mind).
Tuukka Rask said after the game that he and Chara “kind of got caught looking at each other. I thought he was going to dive and he thought I was going to play it. Just another gift.”
That it was. And it was a doozy.
–For as much as Rask didn’t play very well, he did have his Tim Thomas moment when he made a diving stick save to rob Brendan Gallagher in the first period.
Steve Downie definitely watched that play and then promptly fainted in his living room.
The diving stick save also might have affected Gallagher in the second period, when he again had an open net staring him in the face and he missed wide on a doorstep bid.
GALLERY: Bruins in Game 7 Under Claude Julien
–Carey Price yet again turned in an excellent statistical performance without being tested all that much. However, he came up huge midway through the second period. The Bruins had sustained possession inside the Montreal zone for multiple minutes at that point, as they were able to make line changes at forward and on defense without ever giving up the puck. Montreal’s players were out there for a very, very long time and they were exhausted, which led to the Lucic missed open net as well as this solid scoring chance from Jarome Iginla:
It was just a standard kick save, but it could not have been any bigger. It kept the score at 1-0, but it rescued the Canadiens from a stretch of play in which they were really drowning. That’s the type of goaltending that teams rely on in the postseason.
–After the near-goal by Boston was reviewed in the third period, the referee skated away from the boards to make his grand announcement. The only problem was that his microphone sounded like a mix between Jimi Hendrix holding his guitar directly in front of a giant amp at Woodstock and a waterlogged fast food speaker box. The NHL makes tons of money. Buckets of cash. So. Much. Money. Yet the league has never been able to equip the referees with functioning microphones so that they can explain the decisions made during reviews.
This is 2014. Microphones are not modern technology. They’re pretty simple devices. Figure it out, Gar-Bear. My goodness. We’re talking about microphones here, not Amazon doorstep drone delivery. I’ve seen high school punk rock bands equip themselves with better microphones than the NHL. Spend a few hundred dollars. Figure it out.
(The mic thing really bugs me, in case it wasn’t clear.)
–The Canadiens have been fully committed to blocking as many shots as possible in this series, and it’s a big reason why it’s tied up at 3-3. Yet that commitment nearly killed Rene Bourque. Seriously.
Bourque threw his body in front of a Johnny Boychuk blast in the third, but Bourque didn’t know that Boychuk was shooting intentionally wide in hopes of generating a chance off an end boards carom. So Bourque flung his body to the ice, moving his head to the exact side that Boychuk was firing his heavy missile. Fortunately for us all (but mostly Rene), the shot traveled a couple of inches away from his face. But if that thing had made contact, it would have been the most horrific thing we’ve all ever seen happen on a hockey rink (non-Malarchuk, non-Zednik division).
–This was a bad tweet.
This was a much better tweet.
–If you hear anyone say they think they know what’s going to happen in Game 7, do me a favor and slap them right in their stupid neck. Just a big open-handed slap to the neck ought to send the right message. Game 7’s in any sports are bananas, but Game 7’s in the NHL are like Bluth frozen bananas dipped in chocolate and covered in sprinkles. Games, series and seasons are decided by the whims of a 3-inch piece of rubber bouncing around a sheet of ice. The game-winner could be a thing of beauty, a top-shelf snipe from one of the world’s most gifted players, or it could come off a double-deflection that hits a shoulder and then a shin pad on its way toward the goal line.
The Bruins have experienced just about all there is to experience in Game 7’s under Claude Julien. There was the ultimate gut punch vs. Philadelphia in 2010, and there was the perfect contrast in Vancouver the following season. They played in what was the best hockey game I’ve ever watched against Tampa Bay in 2011. They lost to an inferior Washington team in 2012, and they pulled off one of the most miraculous comebacks in sports history against Toronto in 2013.
Game 7’s in the NHL are wild, crazy and unpredictable. They’re stressful, too, but they’re a whole hell of a lot of fun to watch.
Now who’s ready for Wednesday night?
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