The NHL confirmed Tuesday night that the Montreal Canadiens will venture to the TD Garden this Thursday to commence the Atlantic Division final against the Boston Bruins. The venue and the convening teams will thus end a five-day wait that began last Saturday afternoon when the Bruins disposed of the Detroit Red Wings.
The time-honored rivals combined to abolish their respective first-round adversaries in an efficient nine games. For the Habs, more than a week removed from sweeping Tampa Bay, the resultant respite has lasted long enough to yield an unpredictable start to the next series.
Has that lengthy gap between games bought them time to refuel, or will they pay a price for waiting too long? The answer could unveil a key aspect of the matchup as the series takes shape.
Speaking of prices, there is a closer parallel in this matchup with Boston’s Tuukka Rask and Montreal’s Carey Price in the contesting creases. While Price’s first-round numbers (.904 save percentage and 2.33 goals-against average) are hardly radiant, one has to think there is some untapped big-game aptitude in him.
Price has ceded the crease to Peter Budaj for every Bruins encounter since a 32-save, 2-1 win on Dec. 5. But in the interim, he and Rask alike delivered stellar Olympic performances, helping Canada to gold and Finland to bronze, respectively.
Both backstops need to be ready to face potential droves of offense, assuming those forward lines can pierce each layer of opposing defense.
The next six slides shall expand upon each of these points and more as we explore three keys for each squad ahead of Game 1.