The Bruins’ 12-game win streak ended in a shootout loss to the Canadiens on Monday night. The team has admitted that shootouts are one of their biggest weaknesses, but, as Claude Julien said after the game, “I don’t care about that because that doesn’t happen in the playoffs.”
A weakness that the Bruins did show in their loss to Montreal, and one they may need to address before the playoffs begin, is taking penalties and giving other teams the man-advantage.
The Bruins penalty kill is strong, but is surely not what it used to be; since top defenseman Dennis Seidenberg suffered a torn ACL, his presence in all aspects of the game has been missed, including on the penalty kill. Last season, the B’s finished with the fourth best penalty kill in the league at 87.1 percent; this season, they are just .2 percent away from being out of the top 10.
Some penalties you can’t get around, such as when you’re fighting for the puck and your stick gets lifted into an opponent’s head area, or jostling for position and a referee believes that you held someone.
But others, like Brad Marchand’s high stick on P.K. Subban and Johnny Boychuk’s collar grab of Subban from behind, can – and should – be avoided come playoff time. Boychuk admitted after the game that it was a bad penalty to take at that point in the game.
Sometimes it just depends on who you are playing; it’s no secret that the Canadiens' penalty-drawing tactics have come into question, most notably by Claude Julien last March, when he called out the Habs for embellishing after a 4-3 loss, calling it an “embarrassment for our game.”
The Bruins were able to kill off all but one of the Canadiens’ power plays, and the only one that resulted in a score was on an Alexi Emelin shot that took a bad bounce off Chris Kelly’s stick and into the net.
There’s no doubt that the Bruins would be better off staying out of the box, as was shown on Monday night, when the B’s outshot the Canadiens 22-9 when playing 5-on-5. They allowed 10 shots on Montreal’s six power plays, while also allowing three short handed shots.
The referees were whistle-happy for both sides in the game, with each team getting six power play chances. That won’t happen come the playoffs, as most refs tend to err on the side of “let the boys play,” rather than having a questionable penalty decide a tight postseason contest.
Any seven-game series, whether it’s against the Canadiens, Penguins, or anyone else, will get heated after a few hard-fought games, so the Bruins will need to keep up the intensity, but still hold their composure and keep the games 5-on-5 if they want to make a deep playoff run in 2014.