Ice show hasn’t looked slick
It’s been a series of costly mistakes
Four games of Bruins-Canadiens, Version 2011, have proven the following: Aesthetically, this is not Bobby Orr’s Big Bad Bruins against Jean Beliveau’s Les Glorieux.
Five Black-and-Gold giveaways led to all five Montreal goals during Games 1 and 2. A botched line change led to the Bruins’ game-winning three-on-one rush in overtime of Game 4. The Boston power line of Milan Lucic, David Krejci, and Nathan Horton has been in hiding. Both goalies have sprung leaks.
It’s not all bad. There have been plays that merited a tip of the hat — a goal-robbing kick save, a slick tip of a shot past a netminder, an end-to-end rush by a star forward.
But so far in this series, there have been more errors than there were snowflakes sprinkling over downtown Montreal prior to Game 4. This has not been clean, graceful hockey.
If the Bruins and Canadiens have been culpable of head-scratching decisions, they have been equally proficient in making the other team pay for misdeeds. That trend should not change tonight, as the series returns to TD Garden tied at two games apiece.
“I think it’s important that you stay focused,’’ said Bruins coach Claude Julien. “In the playoffs, that’s what it’s all about — making mistakes and the other teams capitalizing on them.
“But the important thing is to stay focused and stay positive. That’s what our team did after they took the 3-1 lead. There was no bitching, no complaining, no whining.
“It’s all about focus and saying, ‘Yeah, we can do it. We still have lots of time.’ When you’re capable of doing that, you give yourself a chance.’’
Prior to Michael Ryder’s overtime goal, the Canadiens committed two sins. First, Travis Moen couldn’t place the puck deep in the Boston zone. Second, P.K. Subban picked the wrong time to change with Brent Sopel.
But it was up to the Bruins to take advantage. Johnny Boychuk closed his gap and halted Moen’s advance, which led to a turnover.
“Johnny did a great job,’’ said Bruins center Chris Kelly. “He realized [Moen] was isolated and gave us that opportunity to turn the puck over and go back on a three-on-one.
“Most plays do start in your own end. You take care of the defensive side of the game, good things happen offensively.’’
With Sopel struggling to roll over the boards, the Bruins executed a jail-break rush against defenseman Jaroslav Spacek. Ryder, Kelly, and Rich Peverley — the Bruins’ fastest line — blew over the blue line. Ference jumped up for support. Ryder buried his second shot of the night to give the Bruins the momentum-swinging win.
“Rich skates extremely well, gets around the ice, and forces defenders to back off and kind of give us some space,’’ Kelly said. “Rydes is a great skater, too. People don’t maybe realize how well he skates and how well he gets around the ice.
“I think all three of us try and use our speed and try to force the issue on defenders. Make them make quicker plays than they’d like.’’
The list goes on. Subban scored a go-ahead power-play goal in the third period Thursday. The Canadiens were on the power play because Dennis Seidenberg first had a shot blocked by Tomas Plekanec, then stood in the center’s way as he tried to retrieve the puck. Seidenberg was called for interference.
In Game 3, Peverley scored the winning goal on a giveaway by Montreal goalie Carey Price. Price, one of the league’s better puckhandling goalies, passed the puck directly at Mark Recchi. Peverley scooped it up and slammed a shot past Price.
Later in the game, Boston’s Tim Thomas let in shots by Andrei Kostitsyn and Plekanec that Vezina-winning goalies regularly stop.
In Game 2, the Canadiens flipped clear giveaways by Boychuk, Ference, and Seidenberg into goals. In Game 1, uncharacteristic turnovers — first by Tomas Kaberle, then by Lucic — led to a pair of Brian Gionta strikes.
“There’s been good capitalization,’’ Ference said. “More so than more mistakes.’’
If there is one Bruin who has been largely without blame, it is Patrice Bergeron. The No. 2 center leads the team with 5 points (two goals, three assists). He has landed a team-high 16 shots on goal and won 63 percent of his faceoffs.
Perhaps the only question about Bergeron’s game is why the coaching staff isn’t leaning on him more. Bergeron is averaging 17:17 of ice time, fourth among the forwards behind Krejci, Lucic, and Brad Marchand.
Bergeron has played with the rhythm of a metronome. And he has been the Bruins’ most reliable performer.
“He’s just been a consistent and good player for us,’’ Julien said. “When it comes to the playoffs, he’s one of those guys you can rely on and depend on. He’s arguably our best forward in this series so far.
“His line [Thursday] night was very, very good. I thought that was probably [Recchi’s] best game of the series. Marsh looked a little frustrated in Game 3. He really settled down and gave us a solid game as well.’’
As the Bruins look to become the first team in this series to win at home, they’ll need fewer mistakes from their first line. Bergeron and his wingmen have been solid.
The No. 3 line pumped in three goals in Game 3. The Bruins need a heartbeat, not errors, from their go-to threesome.
“Right now, we have two good lines going,’’ Julien said. “We hope the other line starts producing, because that will make us that much better.’’
Fluto Shinzawa can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.