You kind of had to expect that, right?
At home in front of their fans and facing elimination, it’s not as though the Canadiens were going to just lie down (you know, other than when they were actually lying down, as they’re known to do). The effort was going to be there, and it was from the moment the ice caught make-believe fire.
With this latest 4-0 blemish, the Bruins have never won a road close-out game under coach Claude Julien in five chances. For whatever reason, that urgency to take care of business, step on an opponent’s throat, earn more rest for the next round – or however you’d care to label it – has just never been there for this incarnation of the B’s.
Fortunately, Game 7’s have been another story entirely. We all remember when Boston captured three of those winner-take-all contests – including one against Montreal – en route to a Stanley Cup championship three years ago. With Julien at the helm, the Black and Gold has emerged in four of the last five tries (the last two in overtime) and four of eight overall (3-3 at home).
But for the Bruins to get the job done at the Garden this time around, they’ll have to rediscover the magic they possessed throughout Games 4 and 5 that abandoned them for whatever reason on Monday night at the Bell Centre.
Gone was the consistency of a 60-minute effort. Control throughout the evening belonged to the enemy. Good puck movement, a great forecheck, winning battles, and finishing plays were things seen only on the other side. The Bruins went from playing their best game of the series to one of their worst in a span of 48 hours.
And along the way, previous series no-shows Thomas Vanek (save for a little luck in Game 2) and Max Pacioretty proved instrumental to their team’s success, while one B’s top-liner failed to deliver on a promise to be better.
“I believe my time is about to come and I’m going to be big for my team,” said David Krejci in advance of Game 6. “I owe it to these guys, so I’m going to do everything I can to start tonight.”
Hopefully he was saving those efforts for Game 7 on Wednesday instead.
While Krejci was improved and more aggressive on Monday, the first-line center remains without a goal and has been limited to three assists in the postseason after a 19-goal, 69-point regular season. You may remember Krejci led the NHL in playoff scoring two of the last three years. You may also remember he did so with a productive Nathan Horton alongside.
It’s been so bad at points that many are just assuming he’s hurt. For those people, it’s the only viable explanation after what we’ve marveled at in the past.
It’s not just Krejci, though he’s been one of Boston’s worst forwards in the series overall. Linemates Milan Lucic and Jarome Iginla have struggled offensively throughout the set when it’s come to burying their opportunities, and most everyone was bad in the club’s most recent effort. Lucic, in particular, missed two tremendous scoring chances by way of a 2-on-1 chance and a wide open net.
Win as a team, lose as a team. No one player was completely at fault in this last game.
When the B’s have beaten the Habs, they’ve largely relied on their depth. Look no further than a six-point effort from the third-line in Game 5. Unfortunately, that same unit was a minus-six in Game 6. Talk about extremes.
This series between two hated rivals had seven games written all over it. In that sense, it hasn’t disappointed. In 2004 and 2008, the Canadiens prevailed in seven before the Bruins were victorious while going the distance three years later. All-time, the franchises have met in eight Game 7’s, with Boston taking three. It had to happen this way, no matter how much we begged and pleaded for Monday to go differently.
So, what’s next?
“I expect us to win,” Julien stated firmly after the loss.
We won’t start looking ahead to the Penguins or Rangers just yet, but recent history is on the coach’s side.
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