Could your Montreal Canadiens – with a few bounces and more opportune shooting _ have won the game?
Were they deprived of a W because of sub-par performances by a few key players.
But there’s a tendency, in these parts, to assess games purely on the basis of how well or poorly our heroes perform.
We tend to forget the opponent can be capable of playing good hockey.
For the final 40 minutes of Wednesday night’s game, Boston played really good hockey.
The visitors stayed close, then took the game over with two goals early in the third period. After that, the Canadiens had to chase the game. And the Bruins were not about to let them mount a comeback.
Yes, the Canadiens’ no-longer-top line continues to struggle.
Yes, the Flying Freshmen were mostly grounded.
And yes, it’s probably a different game if Lars Eller and Tomas Plekanec score on their respective breakaways, or if Colby Armstrong and David Desharnais bury excellent chances.
But as much as we hate them, let’s give the visitors some props, shall we?
Boston played a textbook road game and deserved to win.
They took everything the Canadiens had to offer in the first period – the Bruins didn’t get their first shot on goal till the game was 12 minutes old – and patiently hung in, confident that hard work, toughness and the confidence borne of recent success would prevail.
One of the teams on Bell Centre ice last night is the Beast of the East and a bona-fide Stanley Cup contender.
The other is a work in progress.
Progress will be gauged in Buffalo on Thursday night and back at the Bell Centre on Saturday, where the Canadiens will play their third game in four nights against the perennially pesky Leafs.
We can pick apart some faiblesses:
• Alexei Emelin added six hits to his league-leading total. But he had no clue on the Tyler Seguin goal that made it 1-1; and as a puck-mover and point shooter, Emelin is not the second coming of Bobby Orr … or Dougie Hamilton.
• Erik Cole had one shot on goal. And his bull-rushes down the wing did not trouble the Boston defence.
• Alex Galchenyuk went 1-7 on faceoffs. David Desharnais was 7-14.
• The power-play, which had been superb in the Canadiens’ first eight games, produced P.K. Subban’s first goal of the season. But Boston’s penalty-kill was superb, pressuring the Canadiens into hurried passes that produced little sustained pressure. Michel Therrien’s in-game adjustment was to reunite Andrei Markov and Raphael Diaz on the first wave, after Markov and Subban struggled as a pairing. But the Canadiens’ PP problems were down low, where the forwards infrequently troubled Tuuka Rask.
Rene Bourque was the Canadiens’ best skater. He used his size well and won numerous puck battles along the boards in the Bruins’ end. Bourque, Plekanec and Brian Gionta were easily the Number 1 line.
The problem was the other three units.
But again, it’s not like the Canadiens were playing the Little Sisters of the Poor. The Bruins are two seasons removed from a Stanley Cup. They have emerging stars in Seguin and Hamilton, a goaltender who’s not making anyone pine for Tim Thomas and a core of veterans – led by Patrice Bergeron and Zdeno Chara – who know how to win.
The Canadiens had a chance to take over first place in the Eastern Conference. That didn’t happen, and the schedule is about to get tougher.