An optimist would say the Montreal Canadiens couldn’t have scripted it better. A pessimist, or at the very least a believer in the law of averages, would say watch out for dropping shoes.
The Canadiens have beaten the Boston Bruins in 11 consecutive games. Recent playoff history has seen the Habs push the Bruins from the post-season in 2002 and 2004. Montreal holds an incredible 23-7 playoff series advantage all-time on Boston.
All of the above is fodder for Habs fans who feel pretty good about seeing the Black and Gold in the playoffs again.
But the roles each team has played in the two most recent post-season meetings have been reversed. In both ’02 and ’04, the Canadiens were the underdogs who rose up to bounce a favored Boston club.
This time the Habs ride into the playoffs as the higher seed and all they’ve been hearing for days is how they seem to have Boston’s number. That’s what the Bruins have been hearing, too, and don’t think for a minute they’re not real anxious to prove this old-school rivalry isn’t utterly one-sided after all.
The Bruins have been a very resilient team down the stretch, clinging to a playoff berth despite a smattering of injuries to good players. They play a very defensive game under former Habs coach Claude Julien and if the first round series was an excitement contest, the Bruins would be left for dead.
But led by mammoth defenseman Zdeno Chara, Boston has the ability to smother opponents and features just enough offense to get some key goals at crushing moments.
If Montreal wants to continue its dominance of the Bruins, the Habs can’t be flustered when attacks are rebuffed. Boston thrives when other teams get antsy, start pushing and end up being punished for making turnovers.
Regardless of which players are healthy enough to start the series, Montreal has the talent to continue tormenting Boston. If Carey Price outplays Tim Thomas and the Canadiens use their team speed to breakdown the Bruins’ defense, it will take five games for Montreal to win this series and end Boston’s season yet again.
This column also appears in the Montreal Metro newspaper.
Ryan Dixon is a writer and copy editor for The Hockey News magazine, the co-author of the book Hockey's Young Guns and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog appears Wednesdays and his column, Top Shelf, appears every second Friday.
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