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Much of what made the Red Sox World Series win in 2004 so special is the legendary series against the Yankees. Similarly, a Bruins Cup run would seem incomplete without a match up against Montreal. Playing against a rival enhances all of the excitement, intensity, and emotions in the game and make victory that much sweeter.
In 2011, it took a Nathan Horton overtime goal in Game 7 to beat the Canadiens in the first round and the Bruins, of course, went on to win the Cup. They will have a chance to do it again this year against a Habs team that is fast, strong, and talented. Here’s a deeper look at the matchup between these two Original 6 teams.
After being shut out in Game 1, the Bruins had no trouble at all scoring goals in the first round.Patrice Bergeron leads all forwards with five points, continuing his stellar play in the regular season right into the playoffs. The Krejci-Iginla-Lucic line started off a little slow, but they really started to bring it in Games 4 and 5 with long shifts in which they cycled the puck, created scoring opportunities, and exerted relentless pressure on the Red Wings defense. It’s also great that Daniel Paille will be returning for the Bruins, who will bring some speed and excellent penalty-killing to the squad.
The Canadiens have the depth up front that the Red Wings did not, to put it simply. They also have a healthy roster with some very talented, speedy players. Their second line, consisting of Gallagher, Eller, and Bourque, was a force for them against the Lightning and combined for 13 points. They also have some elite wingers in Tomas Vanek and Max Pacioretty, both notorious Bruins killers. I would also be remiss if I didn’t mention Daniel Briere, who although is getting older, is still a fantastic playoff performer and is great in clutch situations. That said, they don’t have the ability to roll four strong lines like the Bruins can do.
First of all, any defense that has Zdeno Chara immediately has a distinc advantage over any other team in the league. He’s not the fastest skater, but his size and range will be a key element in shutting down Montreal’s speedy forwards. Johnny Boychuk has stepped up immensely in Seidenberg’s absence and continued to do so in the playoffs. Offensively, they’ve had some great contributions from their “D” corps in the first round. Chara, Krug, and Hamilton combined for 4 goals and 7 assists. Those are excellent numbers.
Like the offense, the Canadiens have a much more complete defense than the Red Wings. Led by the elite pairing of PK Subban and Andrei Markov, they have the speed, depth, and offensive prowess that can shut down opposing teams. Josh Gorges and Alexei Emelin are familiar foes for the Black and Gold and love to spark the “extracurricular activity” as Jack Edwards likes to call it. However, as good as they are, Boston is better.
On one side of the ice stands the lock for the Vezina trophy this year. On the other stands a 2-Time Olympian who is arguably a top-5 goalie in the world. Simply said, goals are going to be hard to come by this series. However, these guys are not without their weaknesses. Even though the Habs were able to sweep the Lightning in the first round, they were facing a Tampa team that was without its starting goalie. The Lightning only have one real elite scoring threat, yet they managed to score 10 goals in four games on Price.
On the other hand, as good as Rask is, he has notoriously struggled against the Canadiens, especially in the playoffs. So the question remains: has he grown enough as a player and an individual to take his game to the next level and not let that in his head? It should also be mentioned that Price has only played the Bruins once this year, so it’ll be interesting to see how that plays out.
I think special teams are going to decide this series. The Bruins powerplay was pretty good against Detroit, which is a rare treat considering how awful the powerplay has been the past few seasons. The penalty kill, which has been good and will be even better with Paille back and hopefully Chris Kelly soon as well, will certainly be tested. Montreal is notorious for diving and embellishing penalties, which will frustrate the Bruins if they’re not careful. Guys like Marchand and Lucic have to be careful not to be sucked into their antics and just play their game. If we’re constantly killing penalties, it’ll be tough to score obviously.
It’s also crucial too take both of Games 1 and 2 in Boston. Montreal is perhaps the toughest city to play in. I know, the Bruins lost both games at home in 2011 and took both games in Montreal in that series. But that’s no easy task. Taking both games at home and splitting on the road would put the Bruins in excellent shape to win the series.
Dennis Seidenberg also skated with the Bruins yesterday at practice. This is awesome news for B’s fans. Don’t count on him for this series, but just the fact that he’s able to skate in a practice setting bodes very well. The question becomes, then, is who would sit in his return? Just thinking ahead here.
This will undoubtedly be a tough series, but the Bruins have the tools to win. I’ll take the Bruins in 7.