It’s no secret that the Boston Bruins and the Montreal Canadiens have a bitter hatred with one another. It’s also no secret that this rivalry has had its share of intensity.
But, this season, that bitter hatred and intensity reached a new level in the six regular season meetings during the 2010-11 campaign. And now, the two teams will meet for the 33rd time in the postseason during the 2011 Eastern Conference quarterfinals.
The Habs got the better of the Bruins in the six meetings this year, going 4-2-0. But the Black and Gold have had the upper hand lately winning two of the last three contests between the two teams; including an 8-6 victory back on February 9th (a game that saw the two combine for 187 penalty minutes) and a 7-0 win on March 24th (the first game after the Zdeno Chara/Max Pacioretty incident).
There’s no doubt that Montreal might have revenge on its mind after the last meeting. But the fact that they failed to make a statement nearly three weeks ago in Boston could be a bit of a concern with Canadiens’ fans.
For one, Habs goalie Carey Price, who had a stellar regular season, was pulled in the third period of the Bruins’ rout giving up five goals on 33 shots, and in the two losses against Boston this season, he gave up 13 goals. For that matter, his counterpart, Vezina Trophy favorite Tim Thomas, has not fared too well against the Habs either going 2-2-1 in five starts. Although Price played a key role in his four victories against the Bruins, and Thomas had a shutout against the Habs the last time out, one has to wonder if the goaltending could be the Achilles heel.
Defensively, both teams have put together a solid blue-line. Led by Chara, the Bruins finished second in the league in goals against giving up 195 (2.3 goals per game), while the Canadiens finished eighth — even without the likes of Andrei Markov for the majoirty of season — giving up 209 goals (2.51 per contest).
Offensively, however, the Bruins seemingly have the advantage. While the Habs have gotten timely goals in key moments during the course of the regular season series, the Black and Gold scored in bunches with 15 goals combined in their two wins this season.
Both Bruins forward Milan Lucic and Habs winger Brian Gionta have delievered in the clutch during their careers. But the x factors of this series could very well be snipers Nathan Horton of Boston, who will be participating in his first playoff match this Thursday, and Michael Cammalleri, who started to heat up in the last five games, tallying five points in that span (three goals, two assists).
A couple of weeks ago, many people in the hockey media were talking about how the Canadiens provided matchup problems against with their speedy forwards. However, the Bruins were able to use their size to their advantage in the two wins, playing a tough, physical brand of hockey.
Although it won’t be a cakewalk by any means, the Bruins should still come away victorious in a series that already has plenty of story lines.
Prediction: Bruins in six