This will be the 34th all-time playoff series between these two Original Six teams. The fact that Montreal holds 24-9 edge in the previous 33 playoff series means absolutely nothing. That Montreal won three of four games during the regular season this year means absolutely nothing. The same can be said for the Bruins winning the Presidents’ Trophy.
“The Boston Bruins are the best team in the league this year, so we understand it’s a huge challenge, not only for us, but all the teams that played the Bruins this year,” said Montreal coach Michel Therrien. “They finished in first place and it was well-deserved. We’re confident and I like the way we finished the year. The way we finished the year gave us the confidence to approach the playoffs. We had a really good first round, and the way we played in the first round gives us the confidence for the next step and this is the next step.”
Here’s what we’ll be watching for:
• Staying in control: Discipline will be a major factor for the Bruins. Montreal drew 17 penalties against the Bruins during the regular season, with Boston drawing 13. The Canadiens have the knack for pushing the Bruins over the line, but Boston is aware of that and will attempt to keep its emotions in check.
• Men behind the masks: This series will come down to goaltending. The Bruins’ Tuukka Rask hasn’t had the best career numbers against Montreal, posting a 3-10-3 record, along with a .908 save percentage and a 2.63 goals-against average. This season, he posted a 1-2-1 record, along with a 1.94 goals-against average and a .932 save percentage in four games against Montreal.
“The playoffs are always a new season,” Rask said. “You never know who you’re going to face, and if you want to be the champion you have to beat everybody. We’re focused on a series at a time, and now it’s Montreal and we’re focused on them and trying to get our game where it needs to be in order to advance.”
Canadiens goalie Carey Price played only one game against the Bruins this season and posted a 2-1 win on Dec. 5 at Bell Centre. Overall, he’s 17-8-3 with a 2.50 GAA and a .919 SP in 29 career games against the Bruins.
During Julien’s tenure in Boston, the Bruins have always used only one goaltender for each postseason run. If, for any reason, Bruins backup Chad Johnson needs to play, he says he’ll be ready.
“The biggest thing is not really thinking too much,” Johnson said. “It’s not about focusing on that I haven’t played in a while, or I might not, I’m just treating every practice like it’s a game and just competing. I’m trying to stay sharp and ready as much as I can during the short practices.”
• Rust vs. rest: It’s been eight days since the Canadiens completed a four-game sweep of the Tampa Bay Lightning in the first round. The longer layoff could affect Montreal. The Canadiens actually simulated a typical game day earlier this week, holding a scrimmage in order to prepare properly for the Bruins.
“Game shape is something you always need to work on,” Therrien said. “The best way to get in game shape is to play games. That’s why this week we had that day with the morning skate and had the guys play a game at night. You can practice as long as you want, but playing the game is different. I’m convinced our players are ready to play those types of games tonight.”
The Bruins eliminated their first-round opponent, the Detroit Red Wings, in Game 5 last Saturday.