After losing to the Montreal Canadiens in the second round of the 2014 playoffs, the Boston Bruins couldn’t weren’t able to get revenge at any point during the 2014-15 campaign. Montreal earned a 3-1 victory against Boston tonight to complete their 4-0-0 sweep of the regular season series.
As was the case in the previous two meetings, Carey Price stood tall against the Bruins. He kicked out 34 of 35 shots, frustrating Boston’s shooters all game. It wasn’t until 15:29 of the third period that 18-year-old David Pastrnak just barely beat the Canadiens goaltender by knocking the bouncing puck towards the crease.
That ended Price’s shutout streak against the Bruins at 159:25 minutes, per Boston’s Twitter feed. It gave the Bruins hope in the final minutes of the game, but Boston couldn’t even things. Instead, Canadiens defenseman Andrei Markov fired on the empty net with 31 seconds left in regulation time to give Montreal all the insurance it needed.
Max Pacioretty also came up big for the Canadiens tonight with an assist and the game-winning goal on a breakway.
Zdeno Chara took full responsibility for the bad play he made on the Canadiens' GWG when he collided with Dougie.
Although the books are closed on the regular season meetings between Boston and Montreal, we might not have to wait much longer to view the next chapter of this rivalry. It’s entirely possible that the Bruins will end up facing the Canadiens in the first round of the playoffs. Of course, for that to happen, Boston needs to hold onto its postseason spot. With a 28-18-7 record, the Bruins have a six-point cushion in the Wild Card race.
#Habs sweep a regular-season series vs the #Bruins entirely with regulation victories for the first time since 1944-45.
When you look back at January, and really the 2014-15 season so far, things are going really well for the Montreal Canadiens.
The good news
Carey Price is generating buzz for a Hart Trophy win, not just a Vezina. Max Pacioretty keeps firing shots on goal, quite a few of which are winning games. Young players such as Alex Galchenyuk are already growing into legit everyday players while veterans including Andrei Markov show that they have something left in the tank.
It doesn’t hurt that Montreal is in a strong position to win the Atlantic Division, as they are in the thick of things and have certain advantages (such as two games in hand on Tampa Bay, which holds a slim one-point lead for the top spot).
If you look at their run since mid-December, business is seemingly booming; they are 15-4-1 since Dec. 9.
The very thing that’s been going right – brilliant goaltending from Price, timely scoring from the likes of Pacioretty – might just camouflage the notion that the Habs have also been getting lucky. Their PDO – a measure of save and shooting percentage that is a decent rule of thumb for a team’s good fortune – is the second highest in the NHL. While Price certainly has the talent to inflate that number from a save-percentage standpoint, it’s still noteworthy that Montreal is getting bounces now that might not come later.
(Montreal has a 63.6 winning percentage in one-goal games, tying them with Tampa Bay for the fifth-highest mark in that regard).
Reasons for hope
While certain stats point to what could be a scary plummet, there are some reasons to believe that the Habs might be less prone to free-falling than, say, last season’s Toronto Maple Leafs.
For one thing, they have an elite defenseman in P.K. Subban and one of the best goalies in the world in Price. There’s also a reasonable amount of forward depth to play better possession hockey.
Head coach Michel Therrien might just be the make-or-break factor in that regard, really.
As you can see here and here, Therrien has a tendency to flip-flop from doing the sort of things that make the stats community cringe (like arguably miscasting Dale Weise in a top-line role) and putting the Habs in a better position to succeed (such as opening things up during chunks of playoff time).
This isn’t to say that Therrien can just flip a switch and Montreal will become an elite possession team, yet perhaps tweaks can be made to avoid serious slippage.
There are some signs that the Canadiens might be playing with fire if they don’t improve in certain areas, yet there’s also the argument that their style is sustainable. Do you think Montreal is a genuine contender as constituted? If not, what do they need to do to make that happen?
Lots of talk about Ryan O’Reilly on the series of tubes today. The consensus seems to be that the 23-year-old Colorado center will be wearing a different uniform next season, or even by the end of the current season.
It’s not a simple situation, though. O’Reilly is signed through 2015-16, after which he can become an unrestricted free agent. The difficult part is that he can’t sign an extension until July 1, so if he were to be traded by the March 2 deadline, the acquiring team would want to have some sort of assurance that they could keep him long-term. So maybe this is a deal best left for the offseason.
On the other hand, O’Reilly’s value could theoretically be higher at the deadline if he goes to a playoff team.
Anyway, we came up with a list of five possible destinations. Feel free to list yours below.
Toronto Maple Leafs. Their biggest issue is at center, and has been for a while. Having said that, I’m just not sure what they could offer the Avs in return. If it’s a defenseman Colorado wants, it’s hard to imagine the Leafs giving up a youngster like Morgan Rielly. They’d probably be willing to trade Jake Gardiner, but given his struggles this season, would that be enough? Cody Franson is a possibility we suppose, but he’s also a pending unrestricted free agent.
Buffalo Sabres.According to the rumor mill, the trade could be for d-man Tyler Myers. But here’s my question — isn’t the Sabres’ future already looking pretty good down the middle? Zemgus Girgensons. Sam Reinhart. Mikhail Grigorenko. And quite possibly one of Connor McDavid or Jack Eichel.
Arizona Coyotes. We mentioned this possibility in our post about Keith Yandle. I imagine a lot would depend on whether O’Reilly would have interest in signing long-term with the Coyotes. If you were him, would you? Again, as of today, he can go anywhere he pleases come the summer of 2016. That’s a lot of leverage, especially for a 23-year-old.
Montreal Canadiens. Their top two centers are currently Tomas Plekanec and David Desharnais. Not terrible, but not great either. A future one-two of Alex Galchenyuk and O’Reilly would be formidable, though. Except like with the Leafs, I’m struggling to think what the Habs could offer in return. Would they give up Alexei Emelin? That could hurt them, given Andrei Markov and Sergei Gonchar won’t be around much longer.
Washington Capitals. This is pure speculation on my part. It may not make sense whatsoever, given the Caps already have two young centers, Andre Burakovsky and Evgeny Kuznetsov, to go with top center Nicklas Backstrom. But O’Reilly would definitely help them this season. Remember, they’ve lacked a good No. 2 center for a while now.
The 40-year-old looks as though he’ll be paired with Tom Gilbert, and practiced alongside fellow Russian d-man Andrei Markov on the power play. It makes sense that head coach Michel Therrien would quickly implement Gonchar with the man advantage; Montreal’s power play is in desperate need of improvement (third-worst in the NHL at 7.1 percent.)
Tonight’s game is also something of a reunion for Gonchar, as he’ll be taking on his former club — the Bruins acquired Gonchar at the 2004 trade deadline, and he went on to appear in 15 regular season and seven playoff games for the B’s.
After acquiring Gonchar, Habs send Tinordi to minors
Tinordi, the club’s first-round pick (22nd overall) at the 2010 NHL Entry Draft, has appeared in nine games this season, notching two assists while averaging just over 12 minutes per night.
The 6-foot-6, 227-pounder was sent to Hamilton while another of Montreal’s young blueliners, Nathan Beaulieu, remained with the club; as a result, the Habs will now carry Gonchar, Beaulieu, P.K. Subban, Andrei Markov, Alexei Emelin, Mike Weaver and Tom Gilbert as their seven defensemen.