Playoff primer: Bruins-Canadiens renew rivalry

Playoff primer: Bruins-Canadiens renew rivalry
May 1, 2014, 3:45 pm
(Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports)

No two teams have met in the Stanley Cup Playoffs more often than the Boston Bruins and Montreal Canadiens. The Original Six rivals meet again this spring for their 34th all-time series, this year with a berth in the Eastern Conference Finals at stake.

The Bruins and Canadiens last met in the postseason in 2011 when Boston rallied from a 2-0 series deficit and beat Montreal in overtime in Game 7. Two months later, the Bruins were Stanley Cup champions.

While Boston has eliminated Montreal from the postseason in their two most recent playoff meetings – 2009 and 2011- the Canadiens are 6-0-1 against the Bruins in their last seven meetings overall.

“You know you just naturally learn to hate the Montreal Canadiens,” Bruins forward Milan Lucic told reporters in Boston. “The battles that we've had with them over the last couple years, it's definitely made you hate them. And I think this being the first time meeting them outside the first round [since 1992], I think it's definitely going to go up another level.”

HOW THEY GOT HERE: Montreal was the only team to complete a first-round series sweep as they beat the Tampa Bay Lightning 4-0. Dating back to the regular season, the Canadiens are 15-3-1 since head coach Michel Therrien formed the inseparable No.1 line of Thomas Vanek, David Desharnais and Max Pacioretty.

Montreal’s top trio combined for just three goals in four games in Round 1, but the Canadiens received key contributions from Brendan Gallagher and Rene Bourque, who had three goals each.

Both the Canadiens and Bruins have proven that they can and will roll four lines, with Boston looking to wear the Canadiens down physically.

Boston advanced with a 4-1 first-round series win against the Detroit Red Wings. The Bruins won four straight after dropping the series opener 1-0 at TD Garden and had strong special teams play throughout the series. The Bruins were 6-for-16 on the power play in five games in Round 1 and killed 18-of-20 penalties.

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BETWEEN THE CREASE: Two of the game’s best goalies meet in this series as Montreal’s Carey Price and Boston’s Tuukka Rask look to add to their already impressive resumes.

The Vezina Trophy nominee Rask is 4-1 in the postseason with an NHL-best 1.16 goals-against-average and .961 save percentage. For his career though, Rask is 3-10-3 lifetime against Montreal with a 2.63 GAA and .906 SV%.

A late season injury likely kept Price from earning a Vezina Trophy nomination, but the Olympic gold medalist went 34-20-5 during the regular-season with a career-high .927 save percentage and a personal best 2.32 goals-against-average. Price then went 4-0 in Round 1 against Tampa Bay.

THE BLUE LINES: While the Bruins are led on the backend by captain Zdeno Chara, it should be noted that Johnny Boychuk is the only other healthy Bruins defenseman that played on the 2011 Stanley Cup champions.

With Dennis Seidenberg sidelined since December with a knee injury, the Bruins have relied on four defensemen who are all either in their first or second NHL season (Dougie Hamilton, Kevan Miller, Torey Krug and Matt Bartkowski).

The Canadiens rely heavily on their top-four of Andrei Markov and Alexei Emelin as well as P.K. Subban and Josh Georges. Montreal will look to have one of Markov or Subban on the ice in all key situations.

FAMILIAR FACES: Canadiens head coach Michel Therrien led Montreal to a first round upset of the Bruins in 2002, but was fired one year later and replaced by Claude Julien. Julien and the Canadiens then eliminated the Bruins in the first round again in 2004.

Since then, Julien has experienced the Canadiens-Bruins rivalry three more times, but from behind the Bruins bench, where he has worked since 2007.

“I hated Boston when I was in Montreal, and now I hate Montreal because I'm in Boston," Julien said.

“It's a good rivalry. I think it always has been a good rivalry. It's a lot of fun and I think the players get up for these games. As a coach, you don't have to do much of a pep talk when it comes to playing each other. It's more about controlled emotions. The rivalry is what it is, but that your game still remains a game that's under control. I think that's going to be the big challenge for everyone in this series.”

PREDICTIONS:

GORMLEY: BRUINS IN 6

RABY: BRUINS IN 7