The 2008 NHL Playoffs are upon us.
We all knew over a week ago that the Montreal Canadiens would be playing the Boston Bruins in the first round of the NHL's Eastern Conference playoffs this year. For Habs fans, this is a dream come true. For Bruins fans, this could be a nightmare.
The Montreal Canadiens have defeated the Boston Bruins all eight times this season, and (count it) have beaten them eleven times in a row now. For some reason the Bruins just cannot find a way to beat Montreal. For Montreal however, it should not just be a classic case of "don't change it if it ain't broken." Here's why...
Put yourself in the shoes of the Boston coaching staff. There is obviously a problem if you haven't beaten Montreal in eleven contests. This is the playoffs, where no team backs down and there are no easy series wins. Montreal is going to have to understand that Boston will be ready this time. It will be a new team.
With Patrice Bergeron due back soon and a hot club that gathered points in nine of their last ten outings, the Boston Bruins should be no easy catch this time.
There are doubters as to whether Montreal has the experience to 'go all the way'. For one, they made it this far. And for two, if Carey Price can't do it, just who can? Every goaltender started young and had to play his first NHL playoffs at some point in their career. Not to mention Tim Thomas has never played a single minute of playoff hockey either. Now we've got something.
If history has taught us anything, it's that Alexei Kovalev has been a playoff dynamite. If he continues his onslaught of the Bruins, Montreal should be sailing through this one. Not without defense and secondary scoring as well, however. But Montreal has never shown a lack of depth since the all star break and all signs point to a successful playoff run.
The Habs are also going to need stellar performances from Plekanec, the Kostitsyn's, Markov and Streit. And with Koivu and Komisarek due back soon, it just adds more fuel to the fire.
What works for Montreal that is hard to coach against is their number one ranked powerplay. And the Bruin's penalty kill is a measly 28th. Most of the Habs' success with the man advantage has been because of their capabilities of scoring up front as well as from the blue line. There are no safe havens for Boston on the penalty kill.
Predictions: It won't be easy, but if all cylinders are firing for the Canadiens as they have been all year against Boston they may sweep them. Koivu's leadership and Kovalev's creativity will be the deciding factors. Price shouldn't even be a concern.
Canadiens in 5.