It was just too good to be true. Not only did the Bruins have a four game winning streak going for them, but the B’s were able to muster 5.25 goals per game over a four game span in blowout wins over the Flyers, Panthers and Islanders, and a scrappy victory at the Garden over the Kings. Bruins fans could not pin their winning streak on one single player, but on the team as a whole. The Bruins had contributions from all four lines, and even saw agitator Shawn Thornton make a ‘power move’ to the net for a beautiful goal against former teammate Tim Thomas. One night it was the Krejci line, and the next night it was the Bergeron line. Eleven different Bruins players scored in four games, and four players with two goal performances. Unlike the typical Bruins way, the Black and Gold were showing signs of an offensive explosion that should lead them all the way to the Stanley Cup Finals. Everyone expected the Bruins to blow the slumping Montréal Canadiens out of the TD Garden to extend the streak to five games.
That was until the game between the two longtime rivals began, and a little over two minutes into the game Alexei Emelin’s 60 foot one-timer beat Tuukka Rask to his gaping glove side. The air in the building was gone, and the crowd noise nonexistent. Emelin’s shot was only the sixth in Tuukka’s direction, and already it seemed that Rask was going to be in for a long night. A long night was what it turned into for Boston who were unable to win a face-off, takeaway a pass, or spark any odd-man rushes the entire night.
The lackluster performance was not limited to the goaltending either; in fact, the Bruins bottom-line center men were just as bad in the face-off circle. Gregory Campbell was victorious in a whopping 0 for 5 and Chris Kelly 6 for 15 on the night. The Bruins managed to give the puck away 10 times on the evening, and 16 shots blocked. Boston was 0 for 3 with the man-advantage, and surrendered a power play goal to Brian Gionta – 11 seconds into their penalty kill – in the second period. It seems Boston’s inability to win a puck battle was evident to all on Thursday night.
When asked what he thought the problem was, Patrice Bergeron was able to summarize his team’s night following their 4-1 defeat.
“I mean, basically everything. Execution and our heads weren’t into it,” Bergeron continued to say, “They deserved to win. We didn’t play anywhere near where we need to play to have success in this league.”
Bergeron’s comments were not the ones being dissected following the game, however, as it was Coach Claude Julien’s refusal to justify pulling Finnish goaltender Tuukka Rask that seemed to rub reporters the wrong way.
In his press conference Julien stated that he “[Doesn't] have to explain why [he] pulled the goalie”.
Frankly, Julien had no need to reason with reporters after an embarrassment against one of the Bruins’ biggest rivals. Claude simply can point to the game and the stats as logic for his actions. Rask allowed 3 goals on 18 shots in a period and a half. Whether it was his fault or not, the B’s organization certainly expects more out of the 26 year old.
Rask’s troubles against Montreal were not limited to the game on Thursday though. Earlier this season in Montreal, Tuukka allowed a couple of “softies” in a 2-1 loss to the Habs on 27 shots. Clearly, Julien does not want this to become a trend with Rask and the Canadiens. Pulling his star goalie is nothing to be questioned, and he has a right to deflect anything he desires. It was not Rasks fault that Bruins were down 3-1 halfway through the second, but Rask wasn’t helping himself out.
When Chad Johnson entered the game, his first shot happened to be a Danny Briere breakaway that turned into a goal. Johnson went on to stop his last 15 shots against.
It was not the goaltending that did the damage to the Black and Gold’s hot streak. Julien does not, nonetheless, deserve second guessing on his decision to shake things up between the pipes. The Bruins should not panic, but should definitely let the bitterness of the loss dwell in the back of their minds until March 12th when the B’s travel to the Bell Centre next.
-Tyler Jones, Causeway Crowd