Beyond the streak, beating Habs is critical

BOSTON -- In the midst of a 12-game winning streak, Boston Bruins coach Claude Julien and his players are saying all the right things as they prepare to host the Montreal Canadiens on Monday night at TD Garden.

The clich├ęs were plentiful around the Bruins’ locker room after the team’s morning skate. Players were talking about the importance of consistency and not getting caught up in the winning streak, and how important it is not to focus on who their opponent is.

Prior to the Bruins’ 4-1 win against the Canadiens on March 12 at Bell Centre, Boston was 0-4-1 in the previous five games. Now, it appears the two teams could be on a collision course to face each other in the Stanley Cup playoffs, so the Bruins on Monday night need to squash any chance of Montreal building any confidence.

Canadiens forward Dale Weise admitted after the team’s morning skate that the players were watching the Bruins game Saturday in Phoenix and were glad when Boston erased a one-goal deficit with three unanswered goals in the third period to be the Coyotes, 4-2.

“We were checking the score the other night against Phoenix, and Phoenix was up going into the third period and we were kind of hoping Boston would come back and win so we would get the chance to knock them off,” Weise said.

Added Weise, “Obviously Boston and Montreal is a big rivalry and for us this is a potential playoff matchup down the road, so we want to put a little doubt in their mind that we’re a hard team to play against.”

The Bruins are showing no signs of slowing down during their current winning streak, but Montreal wants to be the team that slams the door. While the Bruins say they don’t consider this a measuring stick matchup, the Canadiens do.

“For sure,” Weise said. “It’s the best team in the NHL and any time you play the best team you really find out where you’re at.”

Montreal coach Michel Therrien announced Monday morning that backup goalie Peter Budaj would start against the Bruins. He has a 4-2-0 career record against the Bruins, including one shutout with a 2.63 goals-against average and a .911 save percentage. Also, Budaj made 34 saves to help Montreal to a 4-1 win against the Bruins at TD Garden on Jan. 30.

“It’s a good challenge for him, it’s a good challenge for our club to play the Bruins,” Therrien said. “They’re playing really well and we all know and understand they’re on a 12-game winning streak. The thing I’m impressed with is the time of the year. It’s one thing to keep it going, a streak like that, in November, December, but at this time of year when all teams are battling really hard for the playoffs, I’m really impressed with the way they’re playing.”

Julien said he doesn’t pay much attention to the streak, and is only concerned with the process and how the team is playing.

“Those are things next year nobody will remember,” Julien said. “We take care of other things than the streak. Right now it’s about our game. It’s about the day to day, so it’s not an issue.”

Added Julien, “There’s a reason [media] seems to make this game bigger than any other one, and it’s not against this team. We played some pretty good teams on the road -- Phoenix is a pretty good team, Colorado’s a pretty good team -- so it’s not about this team here that’s going to give us an idea of how well or how poorly we are, it’s more about us continuing to play our game. It’s a different sweater that’s up against us tonight and that’s the way it should be looked upon.”

When Boston defeated Montreal 4-1 at Bell Centre last week, it was an important win for the Bruins. Julien admitted as much after the game, and while he’s again preaching the one-game-at-a-time mentality, a win Monday on home ice is critical. It has nothing to do with Boston’s winning streak; the Bruins need to show their opponent there’s a reason why they’re the best team in the league right now.

“We know that this is a team that gives us a hard time every time we play them,” said Bruins forward Daniel Paille. “For us, it’s important to not change the way we are playing. Obviously, we want to keep the momentum going with how well we’re playing.”