NHL: Canadiens-Bruins Series Preview

Matt BakerCorrespondent IApril 8, 2008

Last week I stated that I would feel comfortable with any first round playoff opponent for the Bruins except the Montreal Canadiens.

Well, here we are on the verge of kicking off the playoffs, and the Bruins have to bust out the passports and head north of the border.

I think I speak for all Bruins fans in saying that I would have rather faced Pittsburgh in the first round, but beggars can’t be choosers.

After all, the Bruins could have avoided the dreaded matchup with Montreal had they taken care of business Saturday night against the Sabres.

The Canadiens beat the Bruins in all eight meetings between the Original Six squads this season. In only one of those games did the Bruins even manage to earn a single point—a shootout loss in Montreal on March 22nd.

As cliché as it may sound, those games mean nothing now. The Bruins could essentially lose the overall season series eight, nine, 10, or even 11 games to four and still advance in the playoffs.

I’m sure nobody would be talking about the regular season series at that point.

The Bruins hope to have back two of their top offensive threats in Marc Savard and Patrice Bergeron at some point in this series.

Savard skated in practice today, but wore a red "non-contact" jersey. Bergeron has been practicing with the second line, but has already ruled himself out for Game 1 on Thursday night.

I don’t see Bergeron playing in the first two games in Montreal. If he were to return at all, I think it would be in Game 3 in Boston. I expect Savard to be back in Game 1.

As far as how effective the duo will be, that is tough to say. If they are to return, expect Savard to be a lot more productive than Bergeron, who hasn’t played since October.

One of the biggest factors in determining how long this series will last will be the Power Play/Penalty Kill. The Canadiens had the NHL’s best Power Play in the regular season, while the Bruins Penalty Kill was brutal, ranking 28th in the NHL.

The Bruins' ability to stay out of the penalty box could go a long way. (That means no sucker punches to the side of the head in front of the net. I’m talking to you, Aaron Ward.)

Of course, the Bruins will have to play shorthanded at some point. But the key will be to minimize the time Montreal can spend on the Power Play, and playing consistently on the Penalty Kill.

As far as the goaltending goes, Carey Price reminds me of Andrew Raycroft. Raycroft was in a 2004 Playoff Series between the top-seeded Bruins and the eighth place Canadiens.

The Bruins held a 3-1 series lead in 2004 as the top seed versus the Canadiens. I remember it quite well. Raycroft looked like a wall in the first four games, but he folded in the last three, and the Bruins lost in seven games.

Raycroft was a rookie that year. Price is a rookie this year. You see where I am going with this? Price could ultimately alter this series in a very big way. Let’s just hope it is in the Bruins' favor.

The big question looming around Boston is if the Bruins stand any chance at even winning a game in this series.

Here’s my take. It will be imperative for the Bruins to win a game in Montreal.

Coming home in a 2-0 hole would have the Bruins and their fans thinking that there really is no chance they can beat Montreal this season. And in a 2-0 hole, losing 10 straight to this team would all but put the nail in the coffin of the Bruins' season.

In the end, I see this series lasting six games. If it goes to seven, the Bruins will have a very tough time winning in Montreal after what will have been an already grueling six games.

I also don’t think they will finish the year without beating Montreal at least once, therefore eliminating the possibility of a sweep. And five games just sounds so boring and uneventful.

The 4-2 series win will go to the Canadiens if they continue to dominate the Bruins on the man advantage, and keep their high-powered offense at the pace at which it finished the regular season.

The 4-2 series win will go to the Bruins if they can play consistent team defense, reduce the amount of time spent in the penalty box, and get solid goal tending from net-minder Tim Thomas.

In the end, I am from Boston, I do have Bruins season tickets, and I will be in attendance for Game 6. So in that case...



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