An Honest Look at the Montreal Canadiens' Upcoming Series with the Boston Bruins

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An Honest Look at the Montreal Canadiens' Upcoming Series with the Boston Bruins

The Boston Bruins and Montreal Canadiens seem to meet every postseason.

But then again maybe they should, because you never know what will happen when these two fierce Original Six rivals come together in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. However, this season the Bruins have the upper hand by claiming the top seed in the East. 

The Habs are the team who seem to be in disarray.  The Habs lost their last four regular season games. And Boston has beaten the Habs quite convincingly having taken five out of six games during the regular season.

But we have learned in the past that none of Boston's regular season domination will matter once the puck drops in Game One of this Eastern Conference Quarterfinal. I don't know what will happen, but you can bet these teams know each other so well that it will be wildly entertaining series.

Boston is ranked second in scoring with 274 goals. Phil Kessel led with 36 and Michael Ryder had 27. Marc Savard, David Krejci rookie Blake Wheeler and Chuck Kobasew exceeded 20 goals, as did late-season acquisition Mark Recchi. Michael Ryder led the Bruins with 10 power-play goals and seven game-winners.

Lines:

First-line center Savard had 63 assists and was tied for ninth in League scoring.
Krejci led the NHL with a plus-37 rating and Wheeler was second at plus-36, while Ryder was plus-28 and Savard plus-25. Savard led Boston forwards with an average ice time of 19:32 per game.

Milan Lucic led Bruins forwards with 262 hits, tied for fifth in the NHL. Stephane Yelle led the Bruins forwards with 56 blocked shots and Savard was tops with 55 takeaways.

Up front, Montreal has found lightning in a bottle since the return of forward Alex Tanguay from injury. Upon his return in late March, Tanguay was placed on the top line with Alex Kovalev and Saku Koivu and that trio scored 32 points in 10 games since being re-assembled March 24.

Tanguay missed 31 games with a shoulder injury, and his return eased the shock of losing Robert Lang, who led the team in scoring when he was lost for the season Feb. 1.

The Habs have struggled to find successful second and third lines. Tomas Plakanec had 20 goals this season, down from 29 a year ago, and 39 points, down from 69. The Kostitsyn brothers, Sergei and Andrei, also have had off years.

Matt D'Agostini had four goals in his first five games, but he went more than two months without a goal before scoring in the season's final week.

Defensemen:

Captain Zdeno Chara is a 7ft tower of strength and a model of positional play in his role as first-pairing left defenseman. He led Boston's defense with 19 goals, 169 hits, three game-winners, 216 shots, 26:04 average ice time, 27.5 shifts per game, and 28 takeaways.

He was second with 123 blocked shots and tied for the team lead with 50 points.

Dennis Wideman, second-pairing, left defense-man, led the Bruins' defense with 37 assists and tied Chara with 50 points. Aaron Ward adds strength, experience and good puck-moving skills on Chara's right side, as does Andrew Ference with Wideman.

Top defense-man Andrei Markov will miss the first round with a knee injury and Mathieu Schneider is playing with an old shoulder injury that turns out is in no need of surgery. Markov will be a big loss on the power play.

Markov was tied for the team scoring lead with 64 points before  he was injured; he still finished second-best among NHL defense-men in scoring. Schneider was acquired Feb. 16 and has effectively played with courage and intelligence. 

With the loss of Markov in the first round The Habs will be looking for players like Roman Hamerlik and Mike Komisarek to take on more responsibility. Hamrlik already plays almost 22 minutes a game, and Komisarek checks in with more than 21 minutes.

Josh Gorges (plus-12) and Hamrlik (plus-4) are the only plus players on Montreal's blue line.

Goaltenders:

Tale of the tape
THOMAS
G - BOS (No. 30)
HEIGHT: 5'11" WEIGHT: 201
'08-09 Stats:
GAMES: 54
RECORD:
36-11-7
SV%: .933
GAA: 2.10
PRICE
G - MTL (No. 31)
height: 6' 3"
weight: 219
'08-09 Stats:
GAMES: 52
RECORD:
23-16-10
SV%: .905
GAA: 2.83

Tim Thomas led NHL goalies with a 2.10 goals-against average and a .933 save percentage while going 36-11-7 in 52 games. He had five shutouts. Thomas is very mobile and acrobatic for a big man and his feisty personality is a big part of the Bruins' identity.

The goaltending statistics, which are influenced by overall team play, are not very good for The Habs. Carey Price finished 23-16-10, ranked No. 31 in the League with a 2.83 goals-against average and No. 31 with a .905 save percentage.

Price has struggled down the stretch and finished the season with just five wins in his final 18 starts (5-8-5), allowing three or more goals in 14 of those games.

Jaroslav Halak, meanwhile, is 18-14-1 with a .915 save percentage and a 2.86 GAA. He should get some playing time if Price struggles.

Special teams:

Boston's power play ranked second at home and No. 13 on the road, finishing fourth overall with a 23.6 percent success rate. Teams have played them cautiously. The Bruins ranked No. 26 in power-play opportunities, earning just 313.

Boston was fourth-best at killing penalties on the road but only 19th at home, finishing No. 12 overall at 82.4 percent. The Bruins had eight shorthanded goals, tied for 12th.

Montreal led the NHL in power-play efficiency in each of the past two seasons, but slipped to No. 13 in 2008-09, clicking at just 19.2 percent of its chances. The Habs are No. 16 at home at 18.2 percent, and No. 9 on the road at 20.4 percent.

The Canadiens are also in the middle of the pack on the penalty kill, registering an 82.4 percent kill rate, good for No. 11 in the League. There is little deviation from their home performance to their road showing.

Overview:

So what does all this mean as far as how this series will go...The Habs are a fragile team right now,  but maybe the fact that the playoffs have arrived will improve their confidence. The Habs Would rather meet a team they know very well in the first round then play a hot Caps club or the unpredictable Devils.

The Boston Bruins are licking their chops to get back at The Habs for last season, and alot of other stuff.  The Bruins believe they can win the cup this season, they are confident and solid through out all their lines...

Series Prediction:

Boston has to much for The Habs this season, but Montreal will make it interesting. I predict they will split the first two games and then Boston will win the next two and Montreal will win a close one in Boston and then the Bruins close out Montreal in Canada. Winning four games to two.

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