With another first round matchup between the Bruins and the Montreal Canadiens — meeting for the 33rd time in playoff history — here are my five thoughts on the upcoming matchup.
1. Obviously Zdeno Chara will be treated with a villains welcome when the series shifts to the Bell Centre for Game 3 on Patriots Day (insert your Jack Edwards analogy here), which is nothing new for the Bruins captain. In the last meeting of the season in Boston, Chara dished out two assists — just two weeks after the Max Pacioretty incident — and the Black and Gold won, 7-0. Though Chara (who confirmed yesterday that he talked to Pacioretty after practice) is still being investigated by the Montreal police for his “actions” back on March 8th, it’s expected that they won’t hand out an arrest warrant, nor will they question the 6-foot-9 defenseman.
2. Looking for an X factor in this series? Then look no further than Nathan Horton, who will be participating in his first playoffs. With Milan Lucic’s ability to deliver in the clutch, the Habs defense might try to limit chances for the fourth year forward, particularly when it comes to crunch time, which could open some opportunities for Horton to deliver, particularly with David Krejci dishing out the puck.
3. In their four victories over the Bruins this season, the Habs went 4-for-12 on the power play, and in the 8-6 loss back on February 9th, Montreal went 4-for-8. The Habs possess a very good power play that finished ninth in the league (converting at 19.7 percent), while the Black and Gold finished 20th (16.2 percent), but have improved recently with the man advantage. The PP, however, was the Achilles heel in the Bruins’ eliminations the last two years and will need to take advantage of those opportunities. Otherwise, we might expect another early exit.
4. Both Carey Price and Tim Thomas have the ability to carry their respective teams between the pipes, as they’ve done often this season. However, keep in mind that Price has given up 13 goals in his last two starts at the TD Garden — he was pulled in the last meeting of the season during the third period — and Thomas didn’t fare to well up in Montreal either, giving up seven goals in two losses. While we are entering the second season, those are still worth noting.
5. In my preview on Inside Hockey (also picked up by Fox Sports), I picked the Bruins to win in six. Given the bitter hatred and intensity of the rivalry, I have to believe that the Habs will steal a couple of games, but they’ve been hit hard by injuries, particularly on defense. As seen in the two wins over their arch-rivals, the Bruins’ physicality seemed to be too much for the smaller, speedy Canadiens and I expect the same again in this series.