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Just like peanut butter and jelly, Bruins vs Canadiens in the playoffs just feels so right. For the 32nd time, an NHL record, the two will meet once again in the playoffs this time being the third in the past four years. Two years ago it was the Bruins getting the better of the Canadiens sweeping them out of the playoffs and winning just their seventh series of all time.
This year's series has no shortage of story lines with the whole Zdeno Chara and Max Pacioretty incident and the fight filled affair in which the two teams combined for 162 penalty minutes and saw a goalie fight between Carey Price and Tim Thomas.
Let's take a look inside the numbers.
The Bruins were fifth in the league in goals scored but they only finished with one thirty goal scorer in Milan Lucic. The B's offense struggled to score at times but if their offense can get going they should be able to do something against Montreal.
Meanwhile the Canadiens enter the playoffs as having scored the second fewest goals per game between all teams in the playoffs ahead of only the Los Angeles Kings. If Montreal is going to be able to score against Tim Thomas and the B's stout defense they will have to get on the PP where they have excelled all season.
The Bruins have been known for being a defensive team ever since Claude Julien took over the club in 2007 and it has led them to four straight postseason appearances. It also helped them finish second in the league in goals against at 2.30 trailing only the Vancouver Canucks.
The B's have Zdeno Chara, one of the best shutdown defenseman in the league, and will need him to come up big once again if they are going to shutdown the Habs.
For Montreal their defense has been decimated by injuries but still finished top ten in goals against thanks in most part to Carey Price. They know if they can stop the B's top line of Lucic-Krejci-Horton they stand a good chance at winning and watch for them to focus on that.
If there is one area where Montreal has the obvious advantage, it is on the special teams.
The Canadiens finished seventh on the power play, scoring 19.7 percent of the time. If the B's take penalties they are most likely going to pay for it and Montreal will do their best to goad the Bruins into taking stupid penalties.
The Bruins have struggled mightily on the PP finishing 20th in the league. Their power play is the exact thing that may doom them in the playoffs if they can't take advantage when the Canadiens take penalties.
On the penalty kill it's Montreal with the advantage once again finishing in the top ten in this category as well while the Bruins have struggled after starting out so good. Montreal has a deadly PP and for the Bruins to have a chance in this series they have to neutralize their PP or they will be in trouble.
This series may have the best goaltending matchup of the opening round. Tim Thomas has been out of this world this year posting a 2.00 GAA and setting a record for his .938 save percentage. He has single handily carried the Bruins to the Northeast Division title and will be a big reason for how far the Bruins go. Up in Montreal they have a pretty good goalie in Carey Price.
Price most likely will be a Vezina Trophy finalist tied for the league lead in wins with 38 and was high in most other categories. With the injuries to Montreal's blue line Price will have to be on his game once again for the Canadiens to take down the higher seeded Bruins. If this was any other series I would give the advantage to Price but Thomas has just been silly good this year and has the advantage.
It would appear as though the Bruins are the obvious pick here as they won three of the four categories but it's not that simple. Montreal actually won the season series 4-2 although the B's gave the Habs a drubbing in their last matchup 7-0. Their is no better rivalry in hockey at the moment and this playoff series will be no different. My prediction is Bruins in six.
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