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The Montreal Canadiens and Boston Bruins have been playing each other on a regular basis since the 1920’s, but the ongoing rivalry between these two ‘Original Six’ teams has never been more intense. Game 1 of their best of seven opening round Stanley Cup playoff series was characteristically hard fought but thanks to some tenacious defense and exceptional goaltending from Carey Price, the Habs took a 2-0 win and seized home ice advantage. They’ll look to take complete control of the series on Saturday night as they once again play the Bruins at the TD BankNorth Garden.
Boston didn’t play a bad game—the second period in particular was especially effective for the Bruins as they kept the pressure in the Montreal zone only to be repeatedly ‘robbed’ by goaltender Price. The problem for the Bruins is that they made too many ‘little mistakes’—dumb penalties, missed passes, turnovers, etc. Unfortunately for Bay State hockey fans, this has been a tendency of this Bruins team all season long. They play great defense but sometimes get careless with the puck in their own end. Even a great goalie like Tim Thomas can’t bail them out all the time.
We had pegged the Canadiens as a potential ‘dark horse’ Stanley Cup winner before the playoffs began due in large part to goaltender Carey Price. Price is not only a good goaltender but very similar to Vancouver’s Roberto Luongo in that he seems to be completely tireless. In fact, like Luongo it often seems like Price loses some of his sharpness if he takes a night off. Price was tied with Luongo for the league lead in victories during the regular season and started 70 of 82 games. In other words, he likes the workload which is good for a team that will rely on his strong play to advance in the playoffs.
These teams flat out don’t like each other and the Canadiens are a team ‘on a mission’ to eliminate the Bruins. The competitive rivalry became a ‘blood feud’ when Bruins defenseman Zdneo Chara delivered a cheap shot hit away from the play to Canadiens’ forward Max Pacioretty in March. Pacioretty was driven awkwardly into a stanchion near the boards at the Bell Centre and suffered a concussion and cracked vertebrae. The prognosis is good that he’ll be able to resume his hockey career but he’s done for the season—but Chara’s hit and their teammate’s injury will be on the mind of every player in a ‘bleu, blanc et rouge’ sweater.
In theory, home ice advantage is a big deal in the NHL but some teams almost enjoy the ‘villain’ status of playing on the road. The Canadiens are a perfect example of that and they would especially love to spoil the party for the TD BankNorth Center crowd after the Chara hit. Carey Price is looking to erase memories of former starter Jaroslav Halak after he heard a lot of criticism of his play after the deal that sent the Habs’ 2009-2010 starting netminder to St. Louis. The Bruins have been vulnerable at home for several years now and we look for the Canadiens to go back to the Centre Bell in Montreal for game 3 with a 2-0 lead.