Mistake-prone Bruins stung by Canadiens
The 2010-11 Bruins, like the three previous clubs under coach Claude Julien’s watch, are built around goaltending and defense. So what happens when both supposed strengths come up short?
An 0-2 series deficit, the kind the Bruins have fallen into 26 previous times in their playoff history and not once discovered a way to overcome.
Last night before 17,565 at TD Garden, three defensive gags, the kind the disciplined Bruins rarely made in the regular season, led to three Montreal goals and a 3-1 loss. The errors were uncharacteristic and egregious. But Vezina Trophy winners can sometimes cover for such mistakes. Tim Thomas (23 saves) couldn’t.
“Let’s be honest here,’’ said Julien. “Our team has not played, at all, close to the way we know we can.
“You can outshoot them. You can do a lot of things. But mistakes that we have made in this series so far are very uncharacteristic of our hockey team. We need to be better than that.
“If they’re going to score some goals, they need to earn them a lot more than they have. We had to work pretty hard tonight just to get that one goal. I don’t think they had to work as hard to get theirs.
“That’s basically the difference right now in the games — the execution of one team compared to the execution of the other one. I’m going to stand here and say our execution isn’t good enough. It needs to be better.’’
The night got off to a rotten start. Even before most of the Bruins had concluded pregame warm-ups and retired to the dressing room, Zdeno Chara was deemed not ready to play. According to a team source, Chara has been battling a virus, one that required hospitalization for dehydration Friday. Chara fought through warm-ups but wasn’t cleared to play.
Even before the Bruins could shake off the disappointment of losing their captain, they were down by a goal. Forty-three seconds into the game, the puck was in the Boston net after one of those head-shaking mistakes.
From deep in the defensive zone, Johnny Boychuk started a breakout. The Boston defenseman looked up ice and spotted Brad Marchand streaking down the left wing. But Montreal’s James Wisniewski saw that Boychuk was looking Marchand’s way. As Boychuk released his pass, Wisniewski stepped up, picked it off, and went the other way.
Thomas got a pad on Wisniewski’s sharp-angle slapper, but the rebound skittered to Thomas’s right, where Michael Cammalleri tapped home the rebound.
The defensive troubles continued at 2:14, when Dennis Seidenberg was sent off for interference. Seidenberg was behind the Boston net when he blasted Benoit Pouliot without the puck being on the Montreal forward’s stick. Seidenberg protested the call.
“If he didn’t touch it, maybe it was interference,’’ Seidenberg said. “But I’m not sure.’’
Patrice Bergeron beat Tomas Plekanec on the following draw, but a mix-up between Andrew Ference and Adam McQuaid led to the worst possible outcome.
Ference gained control of the puck, and anticipating that McQuaid would drop down below the net, he reversed it around the cage. But McQuaid had remained in front of the net.
So when Ference’s dish rolled around the cage, Cammalleri scurried down to settle the puck at the far post. Before the Bruins could scramble back, Cammalleri dished a cross-crease pass to Mathieu Darche, who had little trouble finding the back of the net at 2:20.
“Off the draw, in a penalty-kill situation, you’re trying to change sides,’’ Ference said. “Their guy did a good job of jumping over to that far-side post and jumping into the play. It’s a tough one to give up so quick on the penalty kill.’’
The Bruins rallied in the second period. After taking a long-distance pass from Tomas Kaberle, Mark Recchi and his second-line mates hurtled into the offensive zone. Recchi passed to Marchand, who connected with Bergeron in the high slot. With a quick flick, Bergeron beat Carey Price at 7:38.
But the kick-in-the-groin response came late in the period. After taking a dish from Milan Lucic in the defensive zone, Seidenberg considered his options. He could lug the puck out of the zone. He could clear it up the boards. But he read that the Montreal forecheckers were taking away the walls. So Seidenberg tried to hit Nathan Horton at center ice.
Roman Hamrlik picked off Seidenberg’s pass and went the other way.
“It seemed like the boards were taken, so I tried to hit Horty in the middle,’’ Seidenberg said. “But the D stepped up, gave it to the outside guy.’’
Lars Eller, the recipient of Hamrlik’s pass, winged a slap shot on goal. According to Thomas, Eller’s shot skimmed off Seidenberg’s leg and changed direction slightly. Thomas couldn’t handle Eller’s shot and booted the rebound out to Yannick Weber. The defenseman, a healthy scratch in Game 1, wasted little time tucking the rebound behind Thomas at 17:21.
The Bruins put 35 shots on Price, but the Canadiens blocked 27 more.
As they did in Game 1, the Canadiens played the perfect road game. They scored early. They hushed the crowd. They relied on their goalie to make timely saves — Price had no better stop than his first-period shutdown of Lucic’s point-blank blast — and stuffed the shooting lanes with bodies and sticks.
To get their goals, the Canadiens waited for the Bruins to commit errors. Then they burned them.
“There’s mistakes we’ve made,’’ Ference said, “that have really cost us.’’
Fluto Shinzawa can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.