Montreal at Boston, Eastern Conference quarterfinal, Game One, 7:00 p.m. EDT
BOSTON (AP) -- Tim Thomas played in the NCAA Frozen Four, the
world hockey championships and the finals of European pro
He thought he was ready.
Now he knows he wasn't.
"I thought, 'It can't be that much different.' I was wrong," the
Boston Bruins goalie said this week as he recalled his NHL
playoff debut against the Montreal Canadiens last year. "It was
even more than what people were trying to tell me. It's funner,
more emotional, more of an adrenaline rush than I could ever
The Bruins and Canadiens are at it again, hooking up for a
first-round playoff series that begins Thursday night in Boston.
It will be the 32nd postseason meeting -- the most of any NHL
matchup -- between the Original Six and Northeast Division foes,
including last year's series that Montreal won in seven games.
This year the seeds are swapped: Boston has the best record in
the Eastern Conference and the Canadiens barely squeaked into
the playoffs. But Bruins coach Claude Julien doesn't expect his
team's 116 regular-season points or home ice advantage to
intimidate the 23-time Stanley Cup champions.
"What counts is what happens on the ice," he said at the Bruins'
practice facility this week. "Living on a reputation doesn't do
anything for you."
That's good news for Boston, which hasn't won it all since Bobby
Orr skated with the Cup in 1972 or even gotten out of the first
round since '99, though they came closer than expected last year
when they pushed the Canadiens to a seventh game. The tight
series was even more surprising considering that Montreal had
beaten Boston in 13 consecutive games and 25 of 29 before the
Bruins took Game 3.
"Finally getting that big win, I think it just got everyone's
confidence going as a team and finally knowing that we could
beat them," said center Glen Metropolit, who played for the
Bruins last season and is now with Montreal. "I think we knew we
put a good fight up, you know what I mean. I think a lot of
people counted us out, and to make it Game 7, it was something
"I don't want to say we were satisfied to make it to Game 7 --
it would have been nice to win that -- but it's one of those
feelings I got: we gave it all we had and for what we had in the
dressing room at the time, with guys being injured and
everything like that, it was kind of like, 'OK, we proved (it)
Julien, who coached the Canadiens from 2002 until midway through
the '05-06 season before he was fired by current Canadiens coach
Bob Gainey, said after the Bruins got over the initial sting of
the loss, "we were looking forward to getting back on the ice."
Once they did, they took off. Boston started this season 29-5-4
to run away with the Northeast, finishing 23 points ahead of
"It was a bit of a carry-over," Bruins forward Milan Lucic said.
"Ultimately it put a good feeling into the room and the
organization. We felt we were taking steps in the right
A lot has changed for Montreal, too.
The Canadiens lost 12 of 15 games in late January and early
February, and though they seemed to have snap out of it by
winning six of eight Gainey fired Guy Carbonneau on March 9 and
took over on the bench. Montreal seesawed to a 6-6-4 record
under Gainey, losing their last four games to finish tied for
the eighth and final playoff spot in the East, but holding the
tiebreaker over the Florida Panthers.
"All the players feel responsible for Carbonneau losing his job
so probably (there's) shock, and the fear that we can be next,"
forward Tom Kostopoulos said.
The Canadiens were also a No. 8 seed in the playoffs in 2004,
under Julien, when they bounced the top-seeded Bruins from the
playoffs in seven games.
Michael Ryder, now with Boston, played for the other side in
"It's going to be a little different, being on the other side,
playing against a few friends," he said. "But come playoff time,
I guess you don't have too many friends."