NHL

Bitter rivals face off in playoffs

InsideHockey INSIDE HOCKEY, TIM ROSENTHAL
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It’s no secret that the Boston Bruins and the Montreal Canadiens have a bitter hatred for each other. It’s also no secret that this rivalry has had its share of intensity.

But that bitter hatred and intensity was taken to a new level in six meetings this season. And now, the teams will meet for the 33rd time in the playoffs in the Eastern Conference quarterfinals.

The Habs got the better of the Bruins this year, going 4-2-0. But the Black and Gold have had the upper hand lately, winning two of the last three -- including an 8-6 victory back on Feb. 9 (a game that saw a combined 187 penalty minutes) and a 7-0 win on March 24 (the first game after the Zdeno Chara/Max Pacioretty incident).

There’s no doubt that Montreal might have revenge on its mind after the last meeting. But the fact that they failed to make a statement nearly three weeks ago in Boston could be a bit of a concern with Canadiens’ fans.

For one, Habs goalie Carey Price, who had a stellar regular season, was pulled in the third period of the Bruins’ rout after giving up five goals on 33 shots. And in the two losses against Boston this season, he gave up 13 goals. On the other hand, his counterpart and Vezina Trophy favorite Tim Thomas of the Bruisn has not fared too well against the Habs, going 2-2-1 in five starts.

Although Price played a key role in his four victories against the Bruins, and Thomas had a shutout against the Habs the last time out, one has to wonder if the goaltending could, ironically enough, be the Achilles’ heel, at least for this series.

Defensively, both teams have put together solid blue lines. Led by Chara, the Bruins finished second in the league in goals-against, giving up 195 (2.3 per game), while the Canadiens finished eighth -- even without the likes of Andrei Markov for the majority of the season -- giving up 209 goals (2.51 per contest).


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Offensively, however, the Bruins seemingly have the advantage. While the Habs have gotten timely goals in key moments during the course of the regular-season series, the Black and Gold scored in bunches, with 15 goals combined in their two wins this season.

Both Bruins forward Milan Lucic and Habs winger Brian Gionta have delivered in the clutch during their careers. But the X-factors of this series could very well be snipers Nathan Horton of Boston, making his playoff debut this Thursday, and Michael Cammalleri, who had five points over the last five games (three goals, two assists).

A couple of weeks ago, many people in the hockey media were talking about how the Canadiens provided matchup problems with their speedy forwards. However, the Bruins were able to use their size to their advantage in the two wins, playing a tough, physical brand of hockey.

Although it won’t be a cakewalk by any means, the Bruins should still come away victorious in a series that already has plenty of storylines.

Prediction: Bruins in six
 

Tagged: Bruins, Canadiens, Tim Thomas

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