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What We Learned: Boston Bruins' self-fulfilling prophecy leads to struggles vs. Montreal

Bruins rally to beat Canadiens 5-3 in Game 2
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Boston Bruins center Carl Soderberg (34) is dropped to the ice by Montreal Canadiens center Lars Eller (81) while chasing the puck during the second period of Game 2 in the second-round of the Stanley Cup hockey playoff series in Boston, Saturday, May 3, 2014. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

Hello, this is a feature that will run through the entire season and aims to recap the weekend’s events and boils those events down to one admittedly superficial fact or stupid opinion about each team. Feel free to complain about it.

The formula, all along, was pretty evident.

The Boston media and fans spent the entire run-up to their series against the Canadiens talking about one thing: Penalties. The Habs would dive and cheat and subvert at every turn in an attempt to draw them, and the Bruins would stand there, innocent, while it all happened around them.

This series between bitter archrivals has often by typified by its violence, and it's always one side that feels aggrieved by the other's antics. Canadiens fans will say their team doesn't dive, but Boston does. Bruins fans will say the same of their team while throwing shade at the Habs. Always.

But the problem, at least from the Bruins' point of view, is that the team seems to buy into this as well.

Case in point: Shawn Thornton was lining up to hit PK Subban right between the numbers a good six feet from the boards, when Subban appeared to bail on the hit, ducking down and sending Thornton to the room with what appeared to be a knee injury. After the game, the implication from Thornton was that this was a cheap tactic for cowards, and may have been designed to intentionally hurt him. Whether that's the case is immaterial, and impossible to determine besides. But that's the kind of thing that stems from Milan Lucic calling Alex Emelin a chicken: The Bruins so greatly dislike Montreal that they bring extra physicality to every game against them.

Which, if their own theories are to be believed, only leads to more diving and more calls against them.

And so the reason this series is going back to Montreal tied at one game apiece, rather than being a 2-0 Bruins lead, is because they believe their own bull. In the days before this series, the number of penalties drawn by the Canadiens versus the number drawn by the Bruins — not only in the long, ongoing drama between them, but overall this season — was held up as evidence, flimsy though it might have been, that this was the case. Thus, they hold the Habs beneath their considerable contempt (as self-assigned moral arbiters of the league), and treat them viciously as a consequence. Refs take notice, Montreal scores on the resultant power plays, games are closer than they really have any right to be.

That's why the Bruins seem to always lose to Montreal. That's why Tuukka Rask had never beaten the Canadiens in a game at TD Garden until Saturday afternoon. They imagine their problems into being.

The Canadiens are very much in the Bruins' heads in this regard. It's not so much that they draw a particularly inordinate amount of calls against them (just nine in about 145 minutes of this series), it's that every one is seen on the Boston bench as having been the result of a dive or embellishment that they'd never get away with themselves.

(It's important to note, too, that the Bruins are still playing a pretty thin defense just about every night here. Andrej Meszaros and Kevan Miller and Matt Bartkowski shouldn't be getting the amount of ice time they have, but this is an injury-riddled D corps and so that's going to happen more than it should. That, too, leads to problems on the penalty kill in particular. And when you're already aggrieved, you're going to get frustrated.)

Montreal has scored seven goals in this series, and four of them were on the power play. The Bruins, on their five man advantages, have scored none of their eight goals (one of which, to be fair, was into an empty net). That tells you everything you need to know about these two games so far: It's not so much that the Canadiens are diving — they aren't — it's that special teams have been a nightmare for the Bruins. Just 5 for 9 on the PK and 0 for 5 on the power play.

There have been a little more than 114 minutes of 5-on-5 hockey in this series, and during that time Montreal has been outscored by the Bruins 7-3, a 70 percent goal share, which breaks down to 3.68-1.58 per 60 minutes. That's equivalent to a blowout. The possession battle doesn't break down favorably for the Canadiens either, as corsi in the series is 130-77 (62.8 percent) in Boston's favor. They are, flatly, dominating even strength play in this series, and thus the old adage “stay out of the box” becomes more than just one of those things lazy TV producers put up as one of the Keys To The Game at the start of a broadcast: It should be a mantra. The Bruins are crushing Montreal at even strength, and their obsession with putting the Habs on the power play is the only thing keeping those diving crybabies alive.

Those two big Bruins comebacks, to erase multiple-goal deficits in each third period so far? They came as a result of Boston leaning on the Habs through indomitable even-strength hockey for the previous 40-plus minutes. It breaks everything down for that overmatched opponent. And guess what else the Bruins do in the third period: They don't take penalties. Montreal has gone on one third-period power play in these two games (and scored on it, because of course they did), and that opened the door for the Bruins to beat Carey Price six times in the final 20 minutes of regulation.

It's not a coincidence. It's not physical hockey sowing the seeds that can only be harvested when the Bruins are down two or three goals as the death draws near. It's because they're a significantly better hockey team, and they're always going to bully an opponent of Montreal's middling quality when they actually start playing hockey.

Stay out of the box, and you probably win the next three games in a walk. It worked against Detroit. It'll work here too. The Bruins just have to be smart about it.

But against Montreal, they usually don't let that enter the equation.

What We Learned

Anaheim Ducks: The thing with Saturday night's stunning overtime loss is that the Ducks played very, very well, while Los Angeles was abject for much of the game. And they still got significantly outpossessed. This is why the Kings are going to run away with the series: They're just better.

Boston Bruins: See, the Bruins were going to lose on Saturday but then Shawn Thornton hurt his knee, and came back on the bench and said they needed to score a bunch of goals. Then they did it. Is Shawn Thornton magic? I can't say for sure, but I would like to sell the Boston media one of my rocks that keeps away tigers. Do you see any tigers around TD Garden? See, they're working already.

Buffalo Sabres: Hahahahaha. Yeah. Do this. Oh man yeah.

Calgary Flames: This is how you get the Flames to move their AHL team to Glens Falls, N.Y. “[W]hat you can’t measure in a visit, what you can’t evaluate with a spreadsheet is fan loyalty and dedication. How do you measure heart? How do you measure soul?” Smart column. Brian Burke loves that kind of garbage.

Carolina Hurricanes: Good solution to the Hurricanes' goaltending woes right here. Brian Elliott. Yessir, what a fix.

Chicago Blackhawks: Turns out everyone thinks this Patrick Kane kid is pretty good.

Colorado Avalanche: What should the Avs do this summer? Oh, you know, just like, get better defense and forwards, and also throw a ton of money at both Paul Stastny and Ryan O'Reilly. Easy. No problem.

Columbus Blue Jackets: Interesting to see if Jarmo Kekalainen learned anything from the PK Subban bridge contract saga in Montreal vis a vis re-signing Ryan Johansen. “The Blue Jackets would prefer a three-year contract, one that would expire when Johansen can only become a restricted free agent.” Give him whatever he wants. That kid is something else.

Dallas Stars: Does this mean we have to stop referring to Jamie Benn as one of the most underrated players in the league now?

Detroit Red Wings: This Stephen Weiss contract is looking like a real winner for Ken Holland. Four more years!

Edmonton Oilers: Dallas Eakins should try to emulate Tom Renney when it comes to forward usage. Maybe the Oilers should have just never fired Renney in the first place.

Florida Panthers: The Panthers saying they're going to shop the first overall pick this year is a great way for them to stay in the headlines until the draft. Yeah it's not like they could use that Ekblad kid or anything.

Los Angeles Kings: That's a lot of Kings fans in Anaheim. Huh. (And by the way, Marian Gaborik now has five goals in eight playoff games. Such a good pickup at the deadline.)

Minnesota Wild: My eyes are rolling pretty hard here.

Montreal Canadiens: Thank you, PK Subban, for absolving the city of Boston of its racist ways so that everyone can get back to doing what they always do: Calling you a diving coward sissy.

Nashville Predators, America's Favorite Hockey Team: Seth Jones needs to get a lot better this summer. And if he could become a regular 80-point forward too, that would help out a lot.

New Jersey Devils: “Reviewing the goals allowed by Martin Brodeur.” This is going to be as long and awful as Dances With Wolves.

New York Islanders: Hahahahaha. Yeah. Do this. Oh man yeah. Part II.

New York Rangers: Still no timetable for Chris Kreider to come back. Boy would he help this team in the postseason.

Ottawa Senators: Actual “silver lining” listed for the Senators by a Sens fan: “Kyle Turris and Marc Methot will represent Team Canada at this month’s World Championships in Belarus.” Beggars really can't be choosers, huh?

Philadelphia Flyers: Yeah, all they need is like two more good forwards, four more good defensemen, and one more good goalie. Then the Flyers will indeed be elite.

Phoenix Coyotes: Mike Ribeiro wants $2.9 million for his house in Texas. And for that money you'll get about $1.5 million worth of home.

Pittsburgh Penguins: With Brooks Orpik apparently unavailable for an indeterminate amount of time, who will the Penguins have left to get smoked in transition every time he's on the shift? Who will fill that role?

San Jose Sharks: Don't believe him Doug!

St. Louis Blues: St. Louis looks likely to let Ryan Miller walk and give Jake Allen the reins while they spend more on a few forwards. Boy, imagine if they hadn't wasted their time and resources acquiring Miller at the deadline? What a world that would be.

Tampa Bay Lightning: Bolts defenseman Eric Brewer just teamed up with Dan Hamhuis and a few other guys to buy the Prince George Cougars of the WHL. This article, by the way, is a nice reminder that Eric Brewer once made the Canadian Olympic team somehow.

Toronto Maple Leafs: Yes, bad teams should try to trade for the No. 1 pick. Yes. Are we really going to have to listen to a month and a half of this?

Vancouver Canucks: What got John Tortorella fired? He wanted the Sedins to kill penalties. That's apparently it. Remember when everyone always said the Sedins could never be true stars in this league because they DIDN'T kill penalties? Haha the NHL is so great.

Washington Capitals: This would be the best thing to ever happen because the Capitals would be terrible for years and no one could say the real reason why even though we would all know what it was. Everyone loves Wayne Gretzky so much that they overlook and make apologies for how godawful he was in Phoenix. It would be the same in Washington. He scored a lot of goals 25 years ago so all the losing would never be his fault.

Winnipeg Jets: The Jets are selling a bunch of game-used equipment. Ondrej Pavelec's pads are in like-new condition.

Play of the Weekend

Like it was going to be anything else. Showtime.

Gold Star Award

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May 3, 2014; Anaheim, CA, USA; Los Angeles Kings goalie Jonathan Quick (32) makes a save a shot on goal by Anaheim …

Teemu Selanne I love you. I loved your goal.

Minus of the Weekend

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Sun Media

This guy Never Played The Game.

Perfect HFBoards Trade Proposal of the Week

This is the first-ever non-trade HFBoards post to be listed here. Please click this link it is VERY important.

Signoff
It’s a taser. It’s supposed to incapacitate you.

Ryan Lambert is a Puck Daddy columnist. His email is hereand his Twitter is here.

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