Canucks best beware the Bruins

BOSTON -- Those who think the Stanley Cup rematch Saturday between the Boston Bruins and Vancouver Canucks is just another regular-season game need to have their heads examined.

The Bruins began a four-game homestand on Thursday and completely dominated the Calgary Flames en route to a 9-0 win. Boston teammates Nathan Horton and Patrice Bergeron each contributed a pair of goals and an assist in the win. David Krejci and Tyler Seguin added a goal and two assists apiece. Benoit Pouliot had three assists, while Milan Lucic contributed a goal and an assist.

Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask made 25 saves for his third shutout in his last four starts and has allowed only one goal in his past 276:08.

Yes, it was a dominating performance.

But nobody around these parts cares about the Calgary Flames. Fans want to see the Bruins demolish the Canucks on Saturday, even chanting "We want Van! We want Van! We want Van!" in the third period on Thursday.

Of course, the Bruins offered up all the usual cliches after the Calgary game, saying they're focused only on the two points and will play Saturday's game against Vancouver like they would a game against any other opponent.

Yeah, right.

There's no way the Bruins want the Canucks to come into their building and skate away with a win, and that's exactly what Vancouver wants to accomplish.

"It's going to be a huge game," Bergeron said. "Obviously they're a tough team. We've seen it last year, it's a team that's very physical, a lot of talent, great power play and now we know them more than we used to because of last year. It's going to be a tough battle and I know it's going to be an exciting game and we're all looking forward to it."

The Canucks will be skating into a virtual buzz saw on Saturday.

Since Nov. 1 the Bruins have been on an incredible stretch, posting a 24-3-1 record, and have completely dominated opponents time and again. Basically, they have built a mountain of consistency and are showing signs of being a better hockey club than they were a season ago when they hoisted Lord Stanley's Cup.

"We hope so," coach Claude Julien said about the prospect that the Bruins are even better this year. "We know how hard it is to even think about getting another shot at [the Cup]. You always hope to improve as a hockey club. We matured and got better through experience, but we also got some young players that are better this year. We brought some players in that are fitting in well. Our goaltending duo is stronger as we speak than it was last year at this time.

"Are we a better team? For the moment. But are we going to be a better team at the end of the year? That's up to us to make it happen."

This season both teams dealt with the Stanley Cup hangover. Boston started 3-7-0. Vancouver began 4-5-0. Now, the Bruins have a 26-10-1 record. The Canucks are 25-13-3.

"We're less than halfway through the season," Bruins goalie Tim Thomas said. "We started out this season 3-7, so you can tell how fine the line is. But having said that, skill-wise and system-wise we're further along at this point this year than we were at this point last year -- as far as having a formula that works for us to win. Of course, we've used a lot of different formulas, but that's good, too. We know that we can do that because we're a diverse team."

Boston has used its depth and has outscored its opponents 49-13 in the past 10 games, while Bruins goalies have posted four shutouts during this stretch.

Vancouver did not win a single game in Boston during the finals last spring and that will no doubt serve as motivation for the Canucks on Saturday.

"It's going to be a strong hockey game," said Bruins assistant captain Andrew Ference. "They're playing well and we're playing well. We both have some fiery competitors and regardless of the fact we met up last year, I think it'll be a fiery game anyway. Then you throw that extra stuff from last year on top of it, of course it should be a great game. I'll be disappointed if it wasn't."

Joe McDonald covers the Bruins for ESPNBoston.com.