BOSTON – If anyone still doubts the Boston Bruins’ chances in the postseason, they should catch a replay of Thursday night’s contest with the Montreal Canadiens.
In fact, contest may be a loose term in this case. The Bruins took it to the Habs from the opening whistle, and by the final horn, the scoreboard read 7-0 and Boston once again established itself as a potential force in the postseason. With 17,565 raucous fans in attendance, the intensity made it seem like it was the Eastern Conference Finals and not another two points in the standings.
“It brought back memories of past years when we battled with them,” forward Patrice Bergeron said. “The atmosphere was great. It was a playoff game.”
More importantly, it was a game the Bruins desperately needed to win. While the victory against New Jersey helped raise the Bruins out of mid-March mire, Thursday’s game established that the Bruins can compete with elite competition on a big stage. Forget all the pregame hype. Forget all the anticipation of fights and blood and old time hockey. The Bruins simply came out and played their game. It was a playoff effort fit for a playoff team.
“We had the feeling that we were ready to go,” forward Shawn Thornton said of the team’s mentality before the game. “We have a strong team mentally. It was a big game and we had no passengers.”
Plenty of Bruins volunteered to drive the bus, however, as Gregory Campbell and Nathan Horton each had two goals while Zdeno Chara, Milan Lucic and David Krejci each had three assists to pace the Bruins’ offense. Nobody had an off night, as the Canadiens were stymied at every turn. And when the Habs did get a shot on goal, Tim Thomas (24 saves) played like a Vezina trophy winner.
Thomas’ counterpart, Carey Price, had a night to forget despite making 33 saves. He seemed rattled after the first goal and never recovered, allowing five goals before he made way for Alex Auld (eight saves). Price and the rest his teammates were deflated after the game, and rightfully so. Save for part of the second period, the Canadiens that Boston fans feared in April were nowhere to be seen. Boston became the team to fear as the Bruins scored again and again.
Even with all the goals, the Bruins can also take away the little things they did right. The penalty killers were fantastic, as Montreal went 0-for-9 with the man advantage. The defense kept Montreal away from Thomas’ cage and reduced second-chance opportunities. Boston won the battles it needed to win and dominated every aspect of the contest. It was as thorough a win as the Bruins have had all season, and it came at the perfect time.
“We just wanted to play smart,” Horton said. “ We wanted to turn this thing around and get back on the right track. We wanted to start feeling better about ourselves.”
After Thursday night, the Bruins can start feeling like Cup contenders.