Game Day Preview: Bruins at Canadiens
MONTREAL — The middle of January is a weird time for the Bruins and Canadiens to renew their historic rivalry, but here we are.
It’s been 11 months and one day since the Bruins and Canadiens faced each other, which happened to be their only regular-season meeting of the 2017 calendar year. On that Feb. 12 evening — the third game of the Bruce Cassidy era — the B’s earned a 4-0 shutout of their hated rivals.
Two days later, the Canadiens fired coach Michel Therrien and replaced him, Claude Julien. The winningest Bruins coach of all-time got the Habs back on track going 16-7-1 in their final 24 games and captured the Atlantic Division title before falling to the New York Rangers in the first round.
Since then, the two teams are trending in opposite directions. The Bruins picked up right where they left off last year after going 18-8-1 in the final 27 games under Cassidy and carry a 13-game point streak into the Bell Centre Saturday night.
The Habs, meanwhile, sit 13 points behind the Black and Gold and sit eight points in back of the Carolina Hurricanes for the East’s final wild-card spot. Between a lack of a top line center, a patchwork defense — even with all-world goalie Carey Price — and the Max Pacioretty trade talk, Julien has his work cut out for him.
Saturday marks the first of three games in seven days between the two teams. Come next week, they’ll be quite used to one another after just playing once in 2017.
Gametime: 7 p.m.
TV/Radio: NESN/Alt 92.9
Records: Bruins 23-10-7 (53 points), Habs 18-20-4 (40 points)
Location: Bell Centre
Bruins projected lines
Brad Marchand-Patrice Bergeron-David Pastrnak
Jake DeBrusk-David Krejci-Ryan Spooner
Danton Heinen-Riley Nash-David Backes
Tim Schaller-Sean Kuraly-Noel Acciari
Zdeno Chara-Charlie McAvoy
Torey Krug-Brandon Carlo
Matt Grzelcyk-Kevan Miller
Canadiens projected lines
Max Pacioretty-Phillip Danault-Artturi Lehkonen
Paul Byron-Tomas Plekanec-Brendan Gallagher
Alex Galchenyuk-Jonathan Drouin-Charles Hudon
Nicolas Deslauriers-Jacob De La Rose-Andrew Shaw
Karl Alzner-Jeff Petry
Jordie Benn-Jakub Jerabek
Victor Mete-David Schlemko
– The two Bruins who benefitted the most in the Julien era? Those are Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron. The former started as a fourth-liner and worked his way up to becoming one of the prolific goal scorers in today’s National Hockey League, while the latter became a bonafide two-way star and four-time Selke winner under Julien’s guidance. Their game has taken another level since Julien left as Marchand and Bergeron — along with David Pastrnak — have formed arguably the best line in hockey. It will feel a little weird no doubt for Bergeron and Marchand to face Julien for the first time, but they’ll have their workmanlike attitude come puck drop. Julien wouldn’t want to have it any other way.
– For all of the storylines surrounding Julien and the Bruins rookies taking in their first matchup of the Habs rivalry, there is something more important at stake. Two important points are up for grabs as the Bruins look to keep rolling while the Habs look to get back on track to start their post bye-week stretch.
“He’s got his team to worry about and I’ve got mine,” Cassidy said following the Bruins first practice in a week Friday at the Bell Centre. “But at the end of the day I think that’s where our focus is and I know that my focus is to get us back to playing at the level we were before the break.”