The Boston Bruins dropped Game 3 of their Eastern Conference semifinal series against the Montreal Canadiens by a score of 4-2. With that loss, they fall behind 2-1 in the series with a crucial Game 4 in Montreal on Thursday. Facing a must-win situation, should Boston fans be worried about the Bruins’ chances to beat their biggest nemesis? First, let’s take a look at what’s going wrong for Claude Julien’s club:
- They aren’t playing their game. Boston and Montreal only had two penalty minutes each in Game 3, and the Habs actually outhit the Bruins, which is the exact opposite of the bruising, gritty style of play we normally see out of the black and gold. In the victory in Game 2 on Saturday, the B’s had 16 penalty minutes and registered 34 hits, which was the recipe for success. While it’s certainly not a good thing to go to the box and give the other team a power play, penalties at least show a physicality and a mentality to set the tone for how the game is going to go. The Bruins didn’t show enough of that aggression on Tuesday night, and that led to the smaller Canadiens finessing their way to the win.
- They’re letting P.K. Subban get good looks. P.K. Subban is the most talked-about player in this series, mainly because of Bruins fans targeting him with racial slurs after his game-winner in Game 1. He has been able to shake off the taunts and steal the show in the first three games, scoring three goals and adding three assists. The main reason the star defenseman has scored these goals is that he’s getting open looks and capitalizing on them. His goal on Tuesday night was on only a breakaway fresh out of the penalty box, but no defender picked him up on his overtime winner in Game 1 and his goal in Game 2 was poorly defended as well. With a sniper as confident as Subban, you have to make sure there’s no way of him ripping the puck into the back of the net from the point. The star power of Subban is giving Montreal a gigantic boost in this series.
- The special teams aren’t clicking. The power play and penalty kill units have struggled so far. The power play is 0-for-6 in this series, and the Canadiens have gone 4-for-10 on their power play chances. Special teams is usually one of Boston’s biggest strengths, but it’s one big Achilles heel right now. It’s clearly time to shake up both units, because the current lines aren’t working.
- Top line has failed to show up. It’s kind of bizarre, but the first line of Milan Lucic, David Krejci and Jarome Iginla only had a combined three shots on goal in Game 3. In fact, Jarome Iginla is basically the only one who has made his presence felt (Milan Lucic’s goal was an empty-netter). For Krejci and Lucic, this is a worrying sign: in the 2012 series against Washington, which Boston dropped in seven, Lucic failed to score and Krejci only scored once. That nightmare may be repeated if the best players don’t get out of their disappearing act.
- They’re digging themselves a hole. The third period comebacks have made for thrilling television, but you can only go to the well so many times. They should have learned that after last year’s Game 6, but here they go again, giving up early goals and hurriedly trying to get them back in the waning moments. You can only dig yourself so deep a hole before you get to the point where you just can’t get out of it. The Bruins have to have a better first period in Game 4, or else they are toast.
Can the Bruins figure it out? Yes. Will they? We’ll find out on Thursday night. They desperately need to split on the road, which means Game 4 is a must-win in every sense of the word. Will this series end up being like 2012 in Washington or 2013 in Toronto? North America will be watching with keen eyes when these two teams hit the ice next.