Rabid Habs

Postgame: Disaster. Habs Lose To Boston 4-1

I usually start these postgame recaps with some disjointed attempt at setting up the game. I’m not going to do that this time.

Instead, I am going to use this space to mention the legacy of Willie O’Ree, who was honored before the game as it’s been 60 years since he became the first black NHL player. It’s incredible to see his impact and his importance to the game of hockey isn’t lost on people who weren’t alive to see him take the ice.

The state of racial equality and inclusion in the NHL isn’t perfect. Jordan Greenway will become the first black player to wear an American jersey in the Olympics when the games are played in South Korea next month, black players around the league are seldom treated with the same respect as white players, and players of color are isolated; sprinkled sparsely throughout the league.

There are some deep rooted issues not only in hockey but in North American culture; emphasis on the American. (Why do you think O’Ree’s first two games were played in Montreal and Toronto? And why did Jackie Robinson’s MLB journey begin with the Montreal Royals?)

And before I get the “stick to sports” nonsense, I have a degree in American studies. So shut up.

Willie O’Ree’s legacy is a reminder or how far the game has come, but also a road sign for what we have yet to face.

Okay, we can talk about the game now.

One trend that the Habs have tried to put to rest over the last handful of games is poor starts to games. A strong start against the Bruins at the Bell Centre paid off with a goal. A great start against the Islanders resulted in the Canadiens fishing the puck out of their own net.

An opportune start in Boston gave the Canadiens a quick lead. With Max Pacioretty going to the net, Jakub Jerabek threw the puck on net from just above the faceoff dot. The puck ricocheted off the stick of Zdeno Chara and into the net for Jerabek’s first NHL goal and his third point in two games. Just 31 seconds in, Montreal has a lead.

The dynamic first line the Bruins have made sure the Habs didn’t have the lead long. Jeff Petry’s stick got caught in the boards, giving David Pastrnak some room to breathe. With that space, Pastrnak found an open area in front of the net to set up camp. Patrice Bergeron isn’t going to miss a wide-open teammate and Pastrnak scores his 18th of the year to tie the game.

A snow storm on the East coast didn’t keep the Bruins from taking Montreal to school for the remainder of the period. It was a clinic in puck control with the Bruins recording 12 of the periods last 14 shots. Montreal looked like they were penalty killing for half the period but Carey Price managed to keep the game tied heading into the first intermission.

But that’s about all he could do. After Jacob De La Rose gave the puck away in the offensive zone, Ryan Spooner slid a puck through the crease that made it’s way into the net. While Alex Galchenyuk and Jonathan Drouin were involved in the giveaway in the offensive zone, they were still the first men back to help Price. The closest defender was David Schlemko, and he looked like a curling stone sliding through the slot. 2-1 Boston.

Between the first and second periods, the Canadiens went over 18 minutes without recording a shot on goal. Putting a bazillion pucks on goal against the Islanders didn’t work out, but I can’t imagine playing like this is any better.

The second period ended with the same 2-1 score.

The third didn’t get any better. A sloppy penalty kill allowed the Bruins to get the puck to the front of the net and Brad Marchand cleaned up with his 19th of the year. 3-1 Boston.

With 3:33 left, down by a pair, Price is pulled for the extra attacker. 15 seconds later, the Habs are pulling the puck out of their own net. David Krejci’s empty-netter sealed the deal in a 4-1 Bruins victory.

A third straight loss for the Canadiens has them in a death spiral with just two wins in their last nine games.

The Defense

It’s really bad. Even if you told me Shea Weber was hurt, I couldn’t imagine them being this bad. Only Jerabek seemed like he had any sort of idea how to move the puck, Victor Mete didn’t play a whole lot and the rest of the defense couldn’t break out of a wet paper bag. Their gap control has to be bad because they can’t afford to let opposing players skate by them. Too slow. Not good with the puck. Not good without it. Just plain bad. Can’t imagine this blueline looks similar next October.

Carey Price

He was obviously back in full form. After a set back against the Islanders, Price was the only player in a white sweater worthy of any meaningful praise through forty minutes. Three goals against isn’t ideal for a star goalie, but the Bruins had the puck the whole game. The fact that it wasn’t five or more is impressive.

History

Nearly 11 months ago, Montreal fired Michel Therrien and hired Claude Julien. Other than Julien coming from the Bruins, there’s another connection to Boston in the second Julien era. Therrien was fired after an embarrassing lost to Boston just before the team’s bye-week.

Are we looking at another situation like that? Maybe not on a managerial level, but maybe some roster moves in anticipation of the trade deadline. Just speculation, but it seems like this team might be ripe for that sort of action.

That will do it for me. Habs face Washington next before getting a third crack at the same Bruins team.

Go Habs Go.

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