By Travis Barrett
That one was tough to watch, and not just because it meant having to stomach a Montreal win on Garden ice.
It was particularly tough to sit through because it brought to light many of the things about this Boston Bruins squad that we’d either glossed over in the previous 10 days of goal-scoring giddiness or simply hoped had disappeared from their game entirely. The Canadiens’ 4-1 win, however, likely proved that the Bruins are who we thought they were.
Oh, Dennis Green sure would be proud.
Young, not-quite-ready-for-the-big-stage defensemen. Streaky goal tending. Ill-timed aggressiveness. A lack of team speed.
When Dennis Seidenberg went down for the season just after Christmas, focus immediately shifted to how the club would counter that loss. A valuable defenseman in all three phases of the game — most particularly as a shut-down, five-on-five blue liner and mainstay on the penalty kill — doesn’t just grown on trees. Despite that, Boston general manager Peter Chiarelli has long been a patient leader, and likely wanted to see if a replacement for Seidenberg might have been growing in Providence.
While Kevan Miller has been a pleasant surprise, there have been disappointments. Dougie Hamilton continues to look every bit like a player who hasn't advanced his game beyond his first month in the NHL, while Torey Krug — for all his power play and playmaking ability offensively — has been nothing but a disappointment on the back end.
You read that correctly: Krug is a disappointment. Sure, he injected much-needed life into a listless power play last spring, but as a defenseman he leaves plenty to be desired. Nobody associated with the Bruins organization can possibly feel secure about going into the springtime with Krug logging Top-3 minutes on the blue line.
How Briere got that breakaway is another matter entirely — even an aging Briere, who never ever lived up to his pre-NHL billing, has more than enough speed to turn a sloppy Bruins line change into a Grade-A scoring chance.
Heck, at this point, a toddler on skates for the first time in her life has enough speed to turn two-thirds of the Bruins defensive corps into traffic cones.
All of these things reared their collective ugly heads Thursday night at TD Garden; all of them because the Canadiens are the one team that seems to take the Bruins’ worst and turn it into a sure victory. Don’t believe it?
The Bruins have fallen to 0-4-1 in their last five meetings with Montreal dating back to last season, and it’s clear the hated Habs are the perfect foil for the Bruins’ overall game. Not only do they show all of Boston’s weaknesses; they have a way of exploiting them in particularly painful fashion. Where other teams will outplay the Bruins for a period or two until the Black & Gold wake up enough to steal a win, the Canadiens simply won’t give the Bruins the chance to come back.
No matter how bad the Canadiens are, they find a way to make the Bruins look worse.
Looking for a silver lining? Here’s one: if the Stanley Cup playoffs started today, Boston would host Montreal in the first round.
Never mind. That’s not a silver lining at all. That’s a big-time cause for concern in a season that appeared to be so promising not all that many hours ago.
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