The most interesting first round match-up in the playoffs will be Montreal vs. Boston. Two Original Six teams who really don't like each other that much.
A big reason is Zdano Chara checking Max Pacioretty into the center glass at the Bell Centre on March 8th. The hit broke vertebra in Pacioretty's neck and knocked him out for the season. No suspension was given to Chara.
Air Canada nearly pulled their sponsorship of the NHL and the Montreal police investigated the hit to see if criminal charges were warranted.
Montreal has had a chip on their shoulders with the rest of the league since Rocket Richard and Gordie Howe faced off.
The fact that this hit took place on home ice increases the bad blood that the Canadiens/Bruins series will have. To further the intensity of this series, there are no fans in the league as intense as the Canadiens'.
Detroit is known as Hockeytown, but their fans do not have anything on Montreal. It is a matter of civic pride in Montreal to support the Canadiens, whereas Detroit and other Original Six cities, have teams in other sports to support. Montreal only has the Canadiens, as the Alouettes in the CFL are not on the radar in comparison and the Expos are now the Washington Nationals.
It will be a ref's nightmare to keep these teams from tearing each other apart. However Chara, being Darth Vader's stunt double, towers over everyone at 6'9". He is Boston's X-factor, and being that he is their captain, he will have to block out what happen on the 8th and keep his team from getting too violent. The refs will be on high alert for this series.
The fans will be the Canadiens' X-factor. They will remind Chara with a cacophony of boos and colorful metaphors every time he touches the puck, to show that they have not forgotten what he did.
It doesn't matter that Chara is not known as a dirty player. All that matters is that Pacioretty is not on the ice because of Chara.
Boston is the higher scoring of the two teams, as they had 13 players who scored 10 goals or more, whereas Montreal only had 10 players pull off the feat. Boston had four players with 20 goals or more whereas Montreal only had three players.
In the +/- department, Boston has another advantage. This season Boston and Montreal both had 17 players on the + side. However, the average + number for the Bruins is +16 and Montreal's is +4.
Tim Thomas has a slight goals against advantage of 2.00 to that of Carey Price's 2.35. Price did play in 15 more games but the win-loss-OT-SO stats are comparable. Thomas is 35-11-9-9 and Price is 38-28-6-8. Therefore the goalies are on a nearly even keel.
The edge will go to Boston, as they have the better scorers and the the home ice. However the Canadiens will make it an ordeal for the Bruins.
Bruins in seven.