Milan Lucic

Big trouble in Boston: Canadiens beat Bruins 3-1, take a 2-0 series lead home to Montreal

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There’s trouble in Boston.

The Bruins put together another lackluster effort and were outworked and outplayed by the Montreal Canadiens again in Game 2 leading to a 3-1 win for Montreal. With the win, the Habs take a 2-0 lead in the series as it now shifts back to Montreal for Games 3 and 4.

Without Zdeno Chara in the lineup due to dehydration, the omens for a bad game mounted immediately for Boston. The way the game started didn’t help matters either as Montreal scored just 43 seconds into the game as Mike Cammalleri picked up a rebound and beat Tim Thomas (23 saves). Just over a minute and a half later, Mathieu Darche made it 2-0 scoring on the power play. The Habs wouldn’t look back from there as Carey Price made 34 saves allowing just a second period goal to Patrice Bergeron to beat him. Yannick Weber scored late in the second to provide the deciding marker as they would swallow up the Bruins offense the rest of the way.

For Boston, they’re going through the same problems they faced in the three losses they had against Montreal during the regular season. Those problems are also the same ones Montreal gave to Washington and Pittsburgh in last year’s playoffs. This time around, Montreal is adding a new and infuriating element to their game: Shot blocks. The Habs blocked 27 shots tonight to help keep the Bruins offense away from Carey Price.  When they did get shots on Price, he was doing things like this to rob the Bruins of goals.

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The Canadiens defensive structure and adherence to the game plan are clearly frustrating the Bruins and they seem to be at a loss for answers on how to solve it. With a team that occasionally struggles scoring goals in the first place, having a team that goes all out to defend face off against them can create major problems like this.

The part that’s concerning is that the Bruins haven’t found a way to respond in kind. Sitting back and taking what Montreal gives them isn’t going to win the Bruins any games and is leading the cries around Boston to have coach Claude Julien to have his job security questioned in a  big way. If the Bruins don’t have any answers on Monday night in Game 3, they’re going to find their season on the brink of ending in a very loud thud very soon.

Versus analysts Keith Jones and Jeremy Roenick broke down Montreal’s great performance and Boston’s night of failure.

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WATCH LIVE: Stanley Cup Final Game 1 – Sharks at Penguins

PITTSBURGH, PA - MAY 30:  Pittsburgh Penguins fans sit outside of Consol Energy Center prior to Game One of the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Final between the Pittsburgh Penguins and the San Jose Sharks on May 30, 2016 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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The wait is finally over. The 2016 Stanley Cup Final is about to begin.

Both the Pittsburgh Penguins and San Jose Sharks received some time to lick their wounds after three grueling playoff rounds, so expect Game 1 to be fun, even if there might be a subtle bit of rust here or there.

The star power is considerable. The beards are burly (at least on the Sharks’ side). It’s time to get cracking.

Game 1 airs on NBC. You can also stream it via the link below and enjoy some “NHL Live” coverage leading in.

CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE

Vlasic on the unenviable task of matching up against Crosby

SOCHI, RUSSIA - FEBRUARY 21:  Marc-Edouard Vlasic #44 and Sidney Crosby #87 of Canada look on during the Men's Ice Hockey Semifinal Playoff against the United States on Day 14 of the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics at Bolshoy Ice Dome on February 21, 2014 in Sochi, Russia.  (Photo by Martin Rose/Getty Images)
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Plenty of people believe that the San Jose Sharks’ defense is superior to the Pittsburgh Penguins’ personnel, but it’s one thing to be better on paper. When you’re on the ice, against a speedy and talented team, can you really stop the Penguins?

All signs point to sorely underrated Sharks defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic drawing the difficult assignment of trying to slow down Sidney Crosby.

Vlasic, a former Team Canada teammate of Crosby (as you can see from this post’s main image), realizes that he’ll have his hands full. In fact, he seems to believe that this will be an even tougher challenge than trying to solve St. Louis Blues sniper Vladimir Tarasenko.

The fantastic all-around defender isn’t exactly expecting to reinvent the wheel in his strategy against Crosby.

“It will be the same as in the first three series,” Vlasic said, via The Hockey News. “We’re playing against the top players on every time – Sid, (Evgeni) Malkin and those types of guys for Pittsburgh. Me and (Justin Braun) will just keep doing what we did, taking away time and space and hopefully it works out.”

The two players have had glowing things to say about each other for some time, but don’t be surprised if this high-level competition turns those happy thoughts into hard feelings.

It stands as one of the matchups to watch in what could be a fresh and fascinating Stanley Cup Final.

Red Wings look to future in net … a future possibly without Howard

BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS - APRIL 07:  Jimmy Howard #35 of the Detroit Red Wings makes a save against the Boston Bruins during the first period at TD Garden on April 7, 2016 in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
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This summer looks like it could be one of changes for the Detroit Red Wings, even beyond the most obvious storyline of Pavel Datsyuk‘s future.

One area where the Red Wings would like to make some tweaks is in net, namely in trading Jimmy Howard. The Detroit Free-Press points out that GM Ken Holland admitted that moving the former franchise netminder “might be good for the organization.”

It’s reasonable to wonder what kind of market there will be for Howard, whose deal ($5.29 million cap hit through 2018-19) looks pretty tough to stomach on paper.

Maybe it’s best to consider the Red Wings’ options if Howard starts the 2016-17 season off on a strong note, or something of that nature. Perhaps an expansion draft could “solve” that problem if Detroit cannot find any takers?

The Red Wings remain forward-thinking and patient, which likely explains why the Free-Press focuses on their confidence with prospect Jared Coreau.

“In the big scheme of things, he’ll play in Grand Rapids for another year, but now we know he can play a lot of minutes if needed,” Goalie coach Jeff Salajko said. “Jimmy Howard played four years in the minors. We’re not rushing Jared, but he is going to be an NHL goalie, there is no doubt in my mind about that.”

In other words, a pairing of Petr Mrazek and Coreau wouldn’t just be a cost-effective duo … it might just be the Red Wings’ ideal scenario in the not-too-distant future.

Stanley Cup Final referees: McCauley, O’Halloran, O’Rourke, Sutherland

BUFFALO, NY - DECEMBER 13:  Referee Dan O'Halloran #13 holds up a face-off between the Buffalo Sabres and the Ottawa Senators during their NHL game at First Niagara Center on December 13, 2011 in Buffalo, New York.  (Photo by Dave Sandford Getty Images)
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From the NHL:

refs

Pretty veteran crew, including three returnees from last year’s final.

Per the NHL, O’Halloran and O’Rourke will call tonight’s series opener from Consol.