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Bruins show they have learned how to handle Canadiens’ speed

03.25.14 at 12:12 am ET
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The loss is disappointing. The 12-game winning streak coming to an end is disappointing. Not burying more chances is disappointing. And getting goaded into a couple retaliatory penalties is disappointing.

But despite all that, the Bruins actually have a lot to feel good about after Monday night’€™s 2-1 shootout loss. Most importantly, it has become pretty clear that the Bruins have learned how to neutralize Montreal’€™s speed.

After a 4-1 loss to Montreal back on Jan. 30 — Boston’€™s fifth straight against its archrival — the Canadiens’€™ speed was all the rage. Sure, the Bruins had the deeper, better team. But when they went head-to-head, the Habs could expose the B’€™s. They could get through the neutral zone quickly. They could attack in transition. They could force uncharacteristic turnovers and take advantage, even when Boston was otherwise controlling play.

The last two times the Bruins and Canadiens have met, none of that has happened. The Bruins have continued to control play — something they showed signs of even in the two losses to Montreal earlier this season — but they’€™ve cut down on the Habs’€™ quick-strike ability.

The B’€™s obviously haven’€™t been perfect, but the mistakes have clearly gone way down. They’€™re not panicking under the pressure created by Montreal’€™s closing speed, and they’€™re not getting caught up ice and handing the Canadiens odd-man rushes.

“I think we’€™re playing a little bit more to our system,” Patrice Bergeron said. “I think earlier, we were getting away from our game. It’€™s obviously something that they want. They want that speedy game, that game where we don’€™t take care of the puck. They rely on turnovers, and I thought we’€™ve done a better job of that.”

The result of all that is a measly two goals against in their last two meetings. The Bruins’€™ dominance in their last matchup (a 4-1 win at the Bell Centre) is easy enough to see on the scoreboard. The dominance Monday night isn’€™t as evident. They didn’€™t win, and much of the game was overshadowed by fights, shoving matches, retaliation and all sorts of extracurricular activity.

But let’€™s take that out of the equation for a minute. At even strength — and believe it or not, there were actually 43 minutes played at even strength Monday night — the Bruins outshot the Canadiens 22-9 and out-attempted them 44-23. That’€™s dominance. And it’€™s not a one-game aberration either. The Bruins’€™ Corsi has been over 50 percent in three of their four meeting with Montreal this season, and it’€™s been over 60 percent twice.

“Their speed didn’€™t really get us today,” Johnny Boychuk said. “There have been times when they’€™ve caught us off guard and there’€™s a guy going for a breakaway, but it didn’€™t happen tonight. We just did a good job handling their guys and their speed. We limited their chances, that’€™s for sure.”

The question was never whether or not the Bruins could possess the puck and control play against Montreal. It was whether or not they could slow down the Habs in transition. The last two times they’€™ve played, the B’€™s have done that, and that’€™s a very encouraging sign for Boston should these two meet in the playoffs.

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