The NHL 2015-16 is just underway and thankfully we don’t have to do without hockey anymore. More thanks that on this early season Saturday evening we were going to have a game involving the biggest rivalry in hockey – the Montreal Canadiens versus the Boston Bruins. That being said, they two sides are teams going in opposite directions.
Whereas the Canadiens, with their core players like Carey Price, PK Subban and Max Pacioretty reaching their prime, younger players like Nathan Beaulieu, Brendan Gallagher and Alex Galchenyuk maturing and the addition of impact players like Jeff Petry, Alex Semin and Tomas Fleischmann, are considered by most to be one of the stronger teams in the Eastern Conference. Montreal won their opening game against Toronto 3-1. Price was spectacular making 36 saves.
The Boston Bruins are a team that is at the beginning of a rebuilding stage. They have a lot of new faces on their team since last season. With the trading away of Dougie Hamilton, Reilly Smith, Jordan Caron and Milan Lucic and not resigning Carl Soderberg, Daniel Paille, Gregory Campbell, Matt Bartkowski, and the retirement of Simon Gagne this is a different team. Newcomers include Matt Beleskey, Jimmy Hayes, Zac Rinaldo, David Pasternak, Tyler Randell, Max Talbot, Matt Irwin, Colin Miller, Jonas Gustavsson, and Joonas Kemppainen. Quite a turnover. On top of that Boston’s defense has been struck with injuries early in the season. They would be without captain Zdeno Chara and Dennis Seidenberg in their game against the Habs. It seems like the defensive struggles will continue after seeing them make mistake after mistake in their season opener, a 6-3 loss against Winnipeg.
Game two of the season for both teams was the first of five games in which they will go head to head. It is the 730th time that Montreal and Boston have gone head to head. The Habs have been dominating games between the two of late as they have won 10 of the last 11 games. Price has won 6 in a row against Boston with his last loss in Boston dating back to 2012. In other words, this hasn’t been much of a rivalry lately. This game continued on with that trend with Montreal dominating completely.
The domination began early as Montreal was put on the power play courtesy of a Matt Beleskey penalty at 1:14 of the 1st period. Despite the fact that the Montreal power play has been a source of dismay for fans of the team for roughly two seasons now the Bleu-Blanc-Rouge were able to make the Bruins pay. David Desharnais, who is centering the Habs’ 3rd line so far this season, scored his 1st goal of the young season. It was the result of a nice series of passes between Galchenyuk and Andrei Markov. Galchenyuk started the play along the half wall on the right hand side of the ice. He threaded a cross ice pass to an encroaching Markov, who quickly found Desharnais on Rask’s doorstep. Despite the fact there were three Bruins’ defenders around him Desharnais got three cracks at the puck. It was on the third that he was able to stuff the puck past a prone Rask. The power play goal only took 9 seconds.
Montreal was awarded two subsequent power plays, but Boston was able to stymy the Canadiens. Boston was unlucky on three separate occasions that they did not tie up the score in the 1st period. The first was at the 4:00 mark when a Torey Krug wrist shot beat Price, but rang off the post to his right. A second great scoring chance came later during a 4-on-4 spell but Price robbed rookie David Pasternak with two great left pad saves from in close. Finally, at the end of a Montreal power play Brad Marchand stripped Subban of the puck behind the Habs’ net and came out in front quick only to see his shot ring off the crossbar.
The visitors did not waste time at the beginning of the 2nd period doubling their lead. All through the preseason Michel Therrien kept the new line of Galchenyuk-Lars Eller-Semin together and from the get go they clicked. In the 2nd period this line showed what they can do when they are clicking on all cylinders. The three men are big, can skate and have strong shots. All three of their attributes were on display for the Canadiens’ second goal. Galchenyuk slotted the puck to Semin in the slot and he showed his hands on a great pass to Eller, who just had to wrist the puck into the open side of the net. This was the first point for Semin in a Habs’ uniform.
Montreal’s 2nd line dominated every time they were on the ice in the 2nd period. They were too fast, skilled, strong, and determined for the Bruins’ defenders and spent most of their time on the ice in the Boston end. This domination led to another goal by the line and Eller. The goal came at 7:47 and was a shot that Rask would like back as it snuck between his body and arm. It was doubly cruel to Boston in that it not only put Montreal up by three, but came just over a minute after they thought they had scored to make it 2-1. At 6:30 Boston’s Loui Andersson flipped a puck on the backhand past Price, but it was waved off right away by the referee closest to the net. It was ruled that Patrice Bergeron has interfered with Price. Boston coach Claude Julien challenged the call and after a lengthy delay it was upheld. Even Montreal fans have to admit that the contact between Bergeron and Price was slight. To add insult to injury this also meant that Boston lost their timeout.
Boston did get finally get a goal that counted at 14:26 of the 2nd period. While dominating play for a spell lowdown in the Montreal end a Matt Beleskey shot deflected off a sliding Petry and eluded Price. So far this season it sees like the only way the opposition can beat Price is on a deflection; he has been that good.
The 3rd period turned into a rather chippy affair that ended with Ryan Spooner getting a boarding major and game misconduct for his hit from behind on Bryan Flynn. Flynn was cut around the eye on the play and had to go to the dressing room for a patching up. Despite a 5-on-3 Montreal could not increase its lead.
With 1:57 left in the 3rd Julien pulled Rask which led to an empty net goal for Tomas Plekanec at 19:07. An important goal because it gave Montreal breathing room especially after Boston scored a power play goal at 19:29 and because it was Plekanec’s 500th point in a Habs’ uniform. He is the 23rd player in Montreal’s history to notch 500 points and is only one point behind former player and GM Bob Gainey.
This game was the first of 3 games in 4 nights for Montreal, who was beginning its 2015-16 season on the road. They have used the same line-up over the first two games. That is going to change in their next game on Sunday night in Ottawa against the Senators. Back-up goalie and NHL rookie Mike Condon will get his first start in the league and due to the match penalty and obligatory one game suspension to Torrey Mitchell it is expected that newly claimed off waivers Paul Byron will be inserted into the line-up.
-On-Ice Officials: Referees – Dan O’Rourke and Mark Lemelin
Linesmen – Derek Nansen and Brad Kovachik
-Goals: 1st Period:
1:25: Montreal – (pp) David Desharnais assisted by Andrei Markov and Alex Galchenyuk
2:15: Montreal – Lars Eller assisted by Alex Galchenyuk and Alex Semin
7:47: Montreal – Lars Eller assisted Alex Galchenyuk and Alex Semin
14:26: Boston – Matt Beleskey assisted by David Krejci and David Pasternak
19:06: Montreal – (en) Tomas Plekanec assisted by Max Pacioretty and Brendan Gallagher
19:29: Boston – (pp) Patrice Bergeron assisted by David Pasternak and Torey Krug
-Shots on Goal: Montreal – 38
Boston – 21
-3 Stars: 1) Lars Eller – Montreal
2) Alex Galchenyuk – Montreal
3) Carey Price – Montreal
-Final Score: Montreal – 4
Boston – 2