Behind Seguin & Rask, Boston Bruins Squeeze by Habs into First in East

Tyler Seguin of the Boston Bruins (Brace Hemmelgarn-US PRESSWIRE)
Tyler Seguin of the Boston Bruins (Brace Hemmelgarn-US PRESSWIRE)

The Boston Bruins continued their nearly-unblemished run to start the abbreviated 2013 campaign with a 2-1 comeback win over the rival Canadiens Wednesday night at the Bell Centre in Montreal. Down 1-0 to open the third, the Bruins received goals off the sticks of Tyler Seguin and David Krejci while Tuukka Rask held the fort in net, allowing just one goal for the team’s seventh victory in nine opportunities.

Putting their abysmal 2011-12 campaign behind them, the Canadiens entered the game with 6-2-0 mark through their first eight matches, giving the Wednesday-night contest extra weight: The winner would jump to first place in the Eastern Conference.

In front of the customarily-unpleasant crowd the Bruins struggled to establish the forecheck early, instead consistently finding themselves giving up odd-man situations which would have spelt disaster if not for some impressive stops via the B’s Finnish crease-police.

Montreal finally cracked Rask’s code in the second, scoring a powerplay goal off the stick of PK Subban (and the Bruins’ own Rich Peverley, who deflected the puck significantly en-route). With Boston failing to pressure the Montreal zone, the B’s seemed in deep trouble as the game headed to the third.

However, in an insightful move, Bruins’ head coach Claude Julien pushed Tyler Seguin up to the first line alongside Krejci and Milan Lucic. The decision paid immediate dividends. Within a span of two minutes the new combo brought the game even on Seguin’s backhanded one-timer 14 seconds into the period and then put the Bruins on-top to stay on Krejci’s net-drive deflection.

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After the game,  Krejci told NHL Network’s Kathryn Tappen: “We didn’t have much going offensively – especially in the first two periods, so coach tried to switch it up a little and Seguin was on my line. First shift, we got a goal. It was a big goal [and helped us take] two points.”

Boston continued to control the pace of the game through the final twenty minutes and a late penalty to Subban put the nail in the Habitants’ coffin.

A few notes on the nights’ action:

  • Andrei Markov makes the Habs So. Much. Better. He’s a true number-one defenseman and (if healthy… which as all Canadiens’ fans know is a biiiig ‘if’) makes the team a legitimate playoff contender. Additionally, by pushing Gorges, Subban and Diaz down the depth chart, the Canadiens defense arguably rivals the best squads in the conference.
  • Ryan Spooner looked solid in his debut. Despite earning only five minutes (understandable given the circumstances) he was strong on his stick, showed exceptional effort in all three zones and a few flashes of the offensive skill that make him the Bruins number-2 prospect… Certainly, he’s not being utilized to his potential on the fourth line, but Julien probably wasn’t inclined to mess around in such a tightly-contested and important match. The B’s were rewarding his excellent play (leading the P-Bruins in points) and giving him a taste of big-league action – but if they’re looking for a 4th liner on any long-term basis they’re better-off utilizing someone like Bobby Robins, Trent Whitfield or even Jordan Caron.
  • Take a deep breath, Seguinistas. Tyler finally broke-out for his first non-empty-net goal of the 2013 campaign, backhanding a David Krejci feed in one motion past Price to even the score seconds into the third. Minutes later, a rejuvenated Seguin set-up the B’s go-ahead tally, feeding Lucic who returned the favor to Krejci for the game-winner. After struggling to find his rhythm while lined-up with Bergeron and Campbell, Coach Julien moved Seguin up to the top unit and the winger immediately found his stride. Pushing the pace on the attack and aggressively attacking the offensive zone, Seguin appeared to regain the ‘something’ that had been missing from his game this season… Expect the Boston Bruins to go back to this formula this weekend when they face-off against the Bolts on Saturday (if the game isn’t postponed due to snow…)
  • Rask earned the number-one star. The Bruins hung him out to dry early as the Habs accrued several odd-man chances including a breakaway opportunity from Lars Eller in the first. While the B’s eventually halted the barrage in the second and limited the Canadiens to ten shots in the final two frames, Rask still made several key saves late to preserve Boston’s one-goal advantage and receive his sixth victory of the young season.
  • The Boston Bruins’ powerplay is terrible – borderline comically so… and it shouldn’t be. The B’s have a wealth of talent to fill-out their two units but a combination of an ‘I-got-it-you-take-it’ distribution-game and frustratingly impotent zone-entries (among other issues) has brought-back the “they should decline it” jokes. Obviously, part of the issue is the luck associated with such a small sample-size (they’re 3-for-34 right now) but a drought of this magnitude confirms the underlying issues.
  • Poor Carey Price… nailed by a Lars Eller shot in an… unfortunate location during pregame warm-ups  The Habs goalie toughed it out and managed to start the game (and turn-in an almost equally-impressive performance). No word on if his voice jumped a few octaves in the meantime. Josh Gold-Smith created a gif of the incident…. Enjoy!


Follow Bob Mand on Twitter at @HockeyMand