NHL Playoffs 2011: 5 Reasons the Montreal Canadiens Will Beat the Boston Bruins
Are you ready for the 33rd installment of these two hated rivals going at it?
This year's precursors to this playoff matchup during the season has this year's edition of the battle of these long time rivals more hyped up than anytime in recent memory.
But then something happened to the Habs in that series that spelled their doom for the rest of the playoffs and the Bruins didn't seem so friendly.
February 9th is a date that sticks in my mind as the culmination of the hated rivals hatred for each other in a bloody 8-6 Bruins win.
Montreal won three of their four wins against Boston at home while being thumped in the other two road contests in Boston.
Paint it as you will, I believe the Canadiens have more than a winning season series record to be able to beat the Bruins in the 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
The Canadiens' speed is their greatest asset. They use it to win games by quickly transitioning in the neutral zone and attacking via crashing the net.
Everyone in the hockey world knows that and how the Bruins react to that offensive style of hockey will ultimately affect the outcome of the series.
Last time the two teams met in the 2009 Stanley Cup Playoffs the Canadiens didn't have that same attack with speed when they only scored six goals in a four game sweep.
Though many of Montreal's forwards had lackluster seasons offensively, such as Tomas Plekanec and Mike Cammalleri, the playoffs are a whole new breed of hockey. If Cammalleri can duplicated the success of last year's playoff run, then the Canadiens are in business offensively.
2. Defensive Core's Playoff Experience
When it comes to playoff experience on the blueline, the Canadiens defenders not only have more games played than Bruin defenders, there are more players who have made it through to the Stanley Cup Finals.
Combined, the Canadiens have 364 career playoff games among their defensemen (Hamrlik, Mara, Gill, Subban, Wisniewski, Spacek, Sopel), not including including Andrei Markov (49 games) or Josh Gorges (46 games).
Among those defensemen, Sopel and Gill have Stanley Cup rings, while Jaroslav Spacek made it to the 2006 Stanley Cup Final with the Edmonton Oilers.
For Boston, their defensive core has a combined total of 305 career playoff games (Chara, Seidenberg, Boychuk, McQuaid, Ference, Kablere, Hnidy) while Andrew Ference is the only member of the Boston defense to have made it to a Stanley Cup Final in 2004 with the Calgary Flames.
Playoff experience may be the difference on the back end, but both teams have a mix of experience and youth. The mix of the Canadiens includes two young offensively minded defensemen in PK Subban and James Wisniewski along with defensively minded players Hal Gill, Brent Sopel and Paul Mara.
The main ingredient is which team's offensive weapons from the back end produce.
3. PK Subban
You're probably wondering, "PK Subban? Really?"
Subban has been a thorn in the side of many NHL teams this season and the Bruins were one of them. Brad Marchand felt a little woozy courtesy of Subban on a big hit December 16th.
You can be as mad or as glad as you want to be with Subban this year, depending on your perspective, but Subban is the real deal and future of the Canadiens' defense.
Subban's stellar play throughout the season (38 points—14 goals, 24 assists in 77 games) was a continuation of his brilliant play through the 2010 Stanley Cup Playoffs. His ability to fill in for an injured Andrei Markov at the start of the Pittsburgh Penguins series showed how he has the capacity for big time games.
His main goal was to shut down Sidney Crosby and he did just that, frustrating the Penguins superstar throughout the series. He also added eight points (one goal, seven assists) in his 14 playoff games.
If Montreal wants an effective defense, Subban is the lightning rod once again with the absence of Markov and Josh Gorges.
4. 2010 Stanley Cup Playoff Success
I may be striking a harsh cord here or maybe I'm just stirring the pot of hatred between these two rivals. We'll see how the reactions are to this reason are.
The recent successes and failures of a team in the playoffs can help chart the course for future playoff successes or failures.
The Montreal Canadiens of the 2010 Stanley Cup Playoffs upset the two biggest teams in the Washington Capitals and the Pittsburgh Penguins in seven games each en route to their first Eastern Conference Finals since 1993.
While on the other hand, the Boston Bruins upset a possibly favoured Ryan Miller-led Buffalo Sabre team in six games and had the seventh seeded Philadelphia Flyers on the ropes 3-0. However, when only one goal away from the Eastern Conference Finals, they could not seemingly beat the Flyers, losing Game 4 in overtime and subsequently tanking the series.
It's harsh to pick on this point, since it is still fresh in the minds of Bruins fans, but history has a tendency to either be fixed or repeat itself. Montreal may still have their Cinderella playoff run in the back of their minds and want to repeat it while the Bruins may have a more difficult time of trying to forget about their monumental collapse at the hands of the Flyers.
5. Carey Price
But what about Tim Thomas?
What about Tim Thomas?
What about Carey Price for that matter?
Both goalies have shown that they can be tremendous playoff goalies, but that they also have have much to learn.
Here, I think Price has the upper hand.
Despite starting a franchise record 72 games and winning 38 of them with a 2.35 GAA and a .923 SV% with eight shutouts, Price still looks fresh as he did at the start of the season.
This season was a far cry from the Price of last year and the year before that to boot.
Not only did Montreal get into the playoffs, they got into the sixth spot because of the goaltending of Carey Price—not something you can say about the Boston Bruins.
Montreal only had three 20+ goal scorers (Plekanec, Gionta, Andrei Kostitsyn) while Cammalleri had 19. The Bruins had three 20+ goal scorers (Patrice Bergeron, Nathan Horton, Brad Marchand) and one 30+ goal scorer (Milan Lucic) with Michael Ryder scoring 18.
The Bruins scored a combined 246 goals this season while Montreal scored 30 less goals at 216. Despite the Bruins allowing only 195 goals to Montreal's 209 goals, the Bruins starter only started in 57 games, 15 less than Price.
Despite starting less games, Thomas did go 35-11-9 wit a 2.00 GAA and a record .938 SV% with nine shutouts.
Thomas may have better numbers, but losing the No. 1 job to Tuukka Rask in last year's playoffs after losing in the semifinals to Carolina the year before begs me to ask if he is a playoff goalie.
The same argument could be said for Price. Is he a playoff goalie?
By all my accounts, my answer for these playoffs is yes. If you had asked me last year or the year before, it would have been a definite no.
By all accounts, Montreal is Carey Price's team. If he plays well, the whole team plays well.
And if we see another possible Jaroslav Halak like performance this year in the Canadiens net, don't say I didn't tell you so.