By Jon Fucile
BOSTON, MA – There was no blood shed, just one fight and very little post whistle activities. There was physicality but it was controlled, tempered even, and that was exactly what the Bruins needed. One minute into the game the Bruins set the tone and by the end of the night the Bruins had shown the Canadiens that when Boston plays their game they can beat Montreal, and do it in grand style.
The hype machine was in full effect leading up to the game as head coach Claude Julien swore his team was focusing solely on winning and not on any potential revenge Montreal might try to take on Zdeno Chara. Julien stated time and time again how the Bruins needed to control their emotions and carry the momentum from the Devils game into Thursday night’s match-up while ignoring all the hype and that is precisely what the Bruins did.
“There’s been a lot of stuff going on, but we kind of just tried to push that aside and focus on playing the game without any kind of distraction. Our focus had to be on nothing else but the game and what we needed to do to win the hockey game,” Julien said.
Further proving Julien’s prophecy correct, just one minute into the game the Boston Bruins showed they meant business and their eventual machine like victory was set in motion.
Johnny Boychuk scored his second goal of the year, a beautiful snipe that seemed to surprise Carey Price and found the back of the net. Boston would go on to score six more time while keeping Montreal off the board and all the hype about a violent clash was quickly forgotten about en route to a 7-0 victory that is key to Boston’s playoff hopes.
Nathan Horton scored twice, Gregory Campbell scored twice, one a fantastic 5 on 3 shorthanded breakaway goal, captain Zdeno Chara notched three assists and Tim Thomas out dueled Vezina competitor Carey Price while earning another shutout. Boston dominated it all areas of the game in what was expected to be a close, hard fought game.
“I thought it was going to be a tight game to be honest with you. Sometimes those kind of things happen and you take advantage of it, but I thought our team played really well. It set the tone early,” Julien said. “Good forecheck, good pressure. Got some shots on net and it was important to get traffic in front as well and we did a great job of that also.”
Montreal had dominated Boston all season, with Boston posting a [1-3-1] record in their previous five meetings and getting outscored 20-15. Montreal had been great at forcing Boston to play into their hands and swiftly defeated Boston in most of their meetings. TheCanadiens game plan always seemed to be to simply get under the skin of the Bruins, win the mental battle, and draw a lot of penalties against a fiesty Bruins team.
Almost every prior game this season the Bruins fell into that trap. Every subtle shot by the Canadiens was met with an obvious retaliation and the Bruins found themselves shorthanded frequently while the Canadiens scored nine goals on twenty threepowerplay chances. While the Bruins tried to play a rough, intimidating game the Canadiens used mental warfare to get the Bruins off their game and then used their speed to finish them off.
Heading into their sixth and final regular season game against Montreal, Boston needed to prove to themselves they could hang with, and beat, the Canadiens and that is exactly what Boston did. As the season winds down it looks more and more like the Bruins and Canadiens will meet in the playoffs and before Thursday’s tilt the Bruins had done little to show they could defeat the Canadiens in a seven game series.
In 60 well played, dominant minutes the Bruins changed all that. Boston put their foot on the gas early and never let up. Even when they were up seven goals Boston continued to go for Montreal’s throat and if there was even half a second more on the clock Tyler Seguin would have scored and eighth goal for Boston.
“Yeah, everyone showed up. We didn’t have any passengers tonight. Everyone was going from the goaltending out so it was a good game. We had some guys step up like Greg Campbell that usually don’t get all the notoriety that they deserve. It was a good all around effort,” Shawn Thornton said.
The Canadiens certainly tried their old tactics. Multiple Canadiens took obvious dives, Paul Mara tried to take Recchi’s head off and P.K. Subban was up to his typical antics but the Bruins kept their emotions in check and focused on the bigger goal all while frustrating Montreal. In perhaps the biggest game of the year the Bruins came out and dominated their rivals, putting a five point cushion between themselves and Montreal in the Northeast Division with two games in hand.
Most of all, however, they sent a message to Montreal and they did not do it with their fists. They proved to the Canadiens that when the Bruins play their game, use that extra emotion in a productive manner, the Canadiens have their hands full. They showed the Canadiens they can channel the tension and hatred that brews for these games into offensive fury.
Maybe this was just one game but what the Bruins did Thursday is plant seeds of doubt in the Canadiens mind. Montreal had no answer for Boston’s furious attack and they left Boston with their tails between their legs, completely embarassed by the Bruins. Yes, Montreal may have won the overall regular season battle but the Bruins sent a message to Montreal that they are more than ready for the post season war.