The score is the first thing you notice. 2-0, St. Louis.
Then, you remember the pregame narrative. With a win and a Montreal Canadiens loss on Tuesday night, the Boston Bruins would have been in sole possession of first place in the Atlantic Division.
Now, the story. The Bruins played well—quite well, in fact, against an elite, defensively-solid St. Louis team. Even though the Bruins outshot the Blues, St. Louis had ten high danger scoring chances versus Boston’s eight. Two of those paid off. Playing the second of a back-to-back series, the Blues showed no signs of fatigue and kept the high-pace intensity throughout the game. The Bruins, on the other hand, did too.
Here’s the problem: there really wasn’t one.
You could nitpick at the fact that the Bruins only have one goal in regulation in the last 125 minutes of hockey, but consider the goalies they faced both times. The Devils’ Cory Schneider has a .925 save percentage while Jake Allen has a .928. Allen got his fifth shutout of the season on Tuesday night, tying him for the league lead. While the Bruins are a high scoring team, they’re going to sometimes run into hot goaltenders. They should know, after all, considering the same is happening to teams that have been recently facing Tuukka Rask.
This means the Bruins’ defense has to be strong. Prior to his goal in the third period, the pairing of Zdeno Chara and Adam McQuaid held the now league leading scorer, Vladimir Tarasenko to only one shot on net. When the Pittsburgh Penguins were in Boston last week, the same pairing kept the Pittsburgh Penguins’ top scorers without a point. In their last four games, the Bruins have only allowed six goals.
But still, Tuesday’s loss presents some disappointment. It’s the feeling where the Bruins play good enough to win a hockey game but still come away with the loss. While it keeps them a point behind Montreal for the division lead, they don’t lose any ground.
Last season, the Bruins weren’t a good hockey team. They were losing games they should have won, barely squeaking out wins, and seemingly had no finish. Now? They’re a better hockey team that just came off their first regulation loss in 16 games. That’s pretty good for a team that was supposed to underachieve this season.
For now, the Bruins will have to wait until after Christmas for another chance at jumping the Canadiens for the Atlantic Division lead. And that’s a better place than anyone thought they’d be in.