To steal a line from Fight Club author Chuck Palahniuk, the first rule of win streak is: don’t talk about win streak.
The Boston Bruins have now ripped off nine in a row after a closely fought game with the Montreal Canadiens that ended 1-0 in the visitors’ favour, but may well be the most fortunate result of their current string.
And as they’ve cobbled together their impressive run, the Bruins have hit on something that, if it isn’t quite the secret to maintaining momentum, has certainly helped preserve it.
“We’re not focusing on it. We’ve done a good job of settling it down one game at a time and staying in the here and now and not thinking ‘We’ve won so many in a row, this and that.’ It’s mentioned every once in a while as in ‘Let’s keep it going,’ but that’s it. That’s the key, breaking it down into small sections,” said Bruins goalie Tim Thomas, who earned his third shutout of the season and has now won six starts in a row.
That’s not to say that anyone in black and gold was especially thrilled with a game in which they were out-shot, out-chanced, and - gasp - out-hit by their longtime nemeses.
“It’s a good road game because we ended up with a win . . . there’s a lot of things we can do better, a lot of things weren’t clicking for us tonight. The puck was bouncing everywhere, it was actually really hard ice out there, I can’t believe the puck was bouncing around that much, they usually don’t go hand in hand like that,” Thomas said. “We did what we had to do, we had a big effort from a lot of different people to get out of here with two points.”
The Habs blew a four-minute power-play in the second that overlapped into the third - former Canadien Benoit Pouliot had a game to forget, earning a hooking penalty after getting pasted by Alexei Emelin and then getting a double-minor for high-sticking erstwhile teammate P.K. Subban.
They also frittered away a couple of two-on-ones, including a short-handed effort masterfully orchestrated by Tomas Plekanec (Travis Moen couldn’t cash in) and too many goalmouth chances to mention.
“I should have had three tonight,” lamented Lars Eller, who was one of the Habs’ best players this night, along with fellow forward Erik Cole. “We did a lot of good things, but we didn’t bear down on our chances.”
The Dane continued to say there were several positives - indeed, the Habs have given up exactly one goal in the three games that rookie defencemen Raphael Diaz, Emelin and Frederic St-Denis have played together - but that's not really much comfort to a team that is trying to climb the greasy pole that is the Eastern conference standings.
Eller was guilty of missing an open net from a tough angle in the third, but the Habs had ample and glorious opportunities to tie the game.
In the event, Montreal nearly tied the game on a last-minute power-play as Brian Gionta and Max Pacioretty combined in a desperation play that ultimately fell short.
“There was a pretty good scramble there for about a second,” Thomas laughed.
In the end, Boston defenceman Andrew Ference’s shot in the very top right-hand corner past Carey Price was enough - he scored as a delayed penalty was being called on Eller for kneeing Adam McQuaid - was enough for the visitors, who managed only 18 shots on Carey Price while giving up 32.
“It was a cross-ice pass, I was just trying get something, anything on it. He hit a spot about the size of a nickel, sometimes you have to give the other guys credit,” said Price, who also said, "We deserved better.”
Ference said of his shot: "Usually that one goes right into the crest. Guess I got a little more hook on it."
Added Montreal captain Gionta: “One broken coverage, and it’s in the back on the net.
“It was a good game, both goalies played great . . . it was back and forth, that’s a tough one to lose,” he said.
Despite the loss, the Habs still find themselves just two points out of a playoff spot as they embark on a busy week that sees them play three more times between now and Saturday.
“It’d be nice to string together a couple of wins . . . we need to do that to nullify that six-game [losing]streak we had earlier this season,” said a frustrated Price.
On Saturday, the Habs host Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins - Crosby’s return to the game after a 10-month layoff was the other major talking point in Montreal..
Price said he sneaked a glance at the highlights between periods, and added “I watched him on TV and he looked like he’s in mid-season form. He’s been practising full-speed for two months, so I’m not surprised.”
Bruins centre Patrice Bergeron, who had said before the game, “I’m not worried about him,” in reference to his pal Crosby, burst out laughing when told after the Bruins’ 1-0 victory in Montreal that the Penguins captain had two goals and two assists.
“I told you I don’t have any advice for that guy,” said Bergeron, who missed most of the 2007-08 season with a concussion and was in contact with Crosby, his former Olympic and world junior teammate, during his recovery.