Hockey fans don’t have a lot of time to recover from a thrilling Wednesday night of Game 7s because the defending Eastern Conference champion Boston Bruins kick off second-round NHL Playoff action tonight in a showdown against one of their oldest rivals.
The Bruins welcome the Montreal Canadiens Thursday in what will be the 34th postseason series between the two squads. No two teams have played against each other more in the history of the NHL playoffs.
|2014 NHL Playoffs: Thursday Schedule|
|Road Team||Home Team||Time (ET)||TV|
|Montreal Canadiens||Boston Bruins||7:30 p.m.||NBC Sports Network|
While the Bruins have the home-ice advantage, the Canadiens have won 24 of the 33 series historically.
Boston coach Claude Julien coached for both teams at different points in his career and understands the rivalry as well as anyone, according to the Associated Press, via ESPN.com: "I hated Boston when I was in Montreal and now I hate Montreal because I'm in Boston. It's a lot of fun."
So how will Game 1 and the series unfold?
Montreal did win three of the four regular season matchups and six of the past seven against the Bruins, but Boston is excelling on both ends of the ice right now.
Defensively, the Bruins only allowed six total goals in five games against the Detroit Red Wings in Round 1, who may not be the Red Wings of old, but are still formidable. Tuukka Rask was an absolute superstar in goal, stopping 146-of-152 shots for a borderline-ridiculous save percentage of .961. There is a reason Rask is a finalist for the Vezina Trophy.
This stifling goalkeeping and defending from Boston will be a problem for the Canadiens.
Montreal ranked a surprisingly low 21st in the NHL in scoring this season, which plays right into Boston’s hands. What’s more, the Bruins are on fire in the penalty kill department and only let Detroit score twice in 20 power play opportunities in the first round.
Basically, the Canadiens will have trouble scoring against Rask even with a man advantage.
Offensively, the Bruins converted on 37.5 percent (six-of-16) of their power play chances against the Red Wings, which was a drastic improvement from their 21.7 percent mark in the regular season. To put that in context, Boston was third in the league in power play scoring percentage during the year, so it is playing even better right now.
Boston’s chances may look even better if we see Daniel Paille on the ice after he missed Round 1. DJ Bean of WEEI.com pointed out, though, that Paille was playing it a bit coy before the game began:
Given how effectively Boston—and Rask in particular—played in its series against a formidable Detroit team and the fact that it is simply loaded with talent across the board, the Bruins will take care of business in Game 1 Thursday. It is worth noting that the Canadiens have won four straight in Boston, but that won’t help them this postseason.
Thursday prediction: Boston 4, Montreal 2
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