Pregame in Montreal: Bruins Hoping to Change Tide Against Canadiens; No Changes on Defense
MONTREAL, QC - On Wednesday night in Montreal, the Bruins and the Canadiens will meet for the 724th time during the regular season.
Always an intense rivalry, with nine of the last 10 games ending in one-goal decisions, Boston hasn't had as much luck against the Habs lately. The Black & Gold dropped the first two games of the season series, and are 0-4-1 in their last five games versus the division rivals.
But it's not so much what the bleu, blanc et rouge are doing; it's what the Bruins are not.
"I can tell you one thing: I don’t think we’ve played well against them. Have they given us trouble, or are we giving ourselves trouble?" said Bruins Head Coach Claude Julien.
"So hopefully [tonight] I’ll paint a different picture and hopefully, if we play the way we’ve played lately, I think it’s going to be a great game, so we've just got to focus on that."
The Bruins are on a five-game winning streak, their longest of the season. They took care of business down South against the Lightning and Panthers, and are focused on closing out the road trip strong, especially against the Habs, and are facing another back-to-back that concludes at home on Thursday night against Phoenix.
"We’re happy with the first two games and it would be a shame to not give our best effort on this last game," said Gregory Campbell. "Their lineup is strong and solid and they’ll give us a good run. So it’s important for us to know the job’s not done yet and to carry on what we did in Tampa and Florida."
So, what do the Bruins need to do to get the job done?
"We need to see our game," said Julien. "That's my message to our team, is we've got to go out there and play our game, and let's just continue to do the things well that we've done lately, and that's where our focus has to be - not on the team we're playing, not on where we are, but what we have to do."
Reilly Smith got that message, loud and clear, as the team looks to pick up their first win against Montreal this season.
"We've just got to play the same game we’ve done in the last four or five," said Smith. "I think that’s just the one thing we've got to keep going — not trying to think, 'We’re playing against the Montreal Canadiens,' but just focus on ourselves and how our game has evolved in the last few."
Tough Decisions on Defense
It's not so much about Hamilton, as it is about getting newcomer Andrej Meszaros some time in the lineup before the postseason. It's not "rocket science" for a blueliner to transition to the Bruins' zone system, based heavily on trust and relying on support from the forwards, but it doesn't happen overnight.
"I’ll tell you something — Dougie’s not going to sit. Dougie’s played good hockey and he’s been good for us, so Dougie is not going to be the guy that gets singled out here," Julien had said after the team's Tuesday practice at the Bell Centre. "Dougie’s going to be back in our lineup and it’s just a matter of me making those tough decisions now."
"Again, we haven’t lost a game and we put Mes in, we played very well. Now, if we won again, doesn’t mean my lineup’s not going to change, so I've got make some tough decisions here as we move forward. But the good part is, we've got lots of games in a short span of time, so there’s lot of room for everybody to get in there."
Meszaros made his Spoked-B debut in the Bruins' 5-2 win over the Panthers on Sunday, netting a power-play goal.
"It's a one-game situation where, you know, I said this is an opportunity to see Meszaros -- back-to-back game, you got a fresh guy in and we got another guy that we want to continue to work with," Julien had said, of the decision to get the new blueliner in, and have Hamilton watch from up top in the press box.
"We're going to have eight D's and it's probably going to be like that for the rest of the year."
While defense pairs can rotate during games, with Julien matching Zdeno Chara against the opponent's forwards, Meszaros was mostly paired with his countryman in his debut, and it looks to remain that way as the Bruins face the Habs.
The new Bruin is a left shot, who mostly played the left side in Philadelphia, but has spent most of his career on the right side, and is adjusting back to that now.
"We’re just giving him an opportunity to get comfortable there as well because we’re going to need him to play both sides," said Julien.
In his Bruins' debut, the offensively-minded Meszaros showed his ability to push the puck and get his shot through.
"But there’s still some areas we felt he’s got to get used to playing our type of game, and we’re going to keep working with him that way," said Julien. "But he moves the puck well, he’s got a good shot, you saw him on the power play — he did a pretty good job there as well. As we’ve mentioned, he’s brought a little bit of experience to our lineup as well."
Paille Progressing Following Concussion
Daniel Paille took part in the Bruins' morning skate on Wednesday, skating for the first time since leaving Sunday's game in Florida after taking a hit on his first shift. It was later deemed that he had a concussion, so he's been working his way through the proper protocol this week.
"Right now, he's just going through the stages, and is doing very well, and today was skating with no contact and hopefully we move on to the next level by tomorrow," said Julien.
Versatile Caron Filling In
With Paille out against the Canadiens and likely on Thursday in Boston against Phoenix, Jordan Caron will jump right into the lineup.
His role is often underestimated. The forward always has to be ready, and hardly ever knows when he'll be playing. When Loui Eriksson had to miss a game with a heel infection last week, Caron slid into his spot. It was his first game in more than a month.
With Paille sidelined by the concussion, Caron again will slide in.
Any player will tell you that regardless of conditioning, getting the timing and feel back takes time. Caron doesn't have that luxury.
"I knew that was going to be my role this season, so I was ready for it. But of course it’s not easy not playing every night, but it’s part of my job," said Caron.
"I've got be ready all the time."
The Bruins held an optional pregame skate on Wednesday morning at the Bell Centre, after skating a full practice on Tuesday.