The wait is over, folks. Tonight, the heroic Montreal Canadiens will finally face their Lex Luther, the Boston Bruins.
There’s been plenty of time to build up the series. The Habs eliminated the Tampa Bay Lightning in four games and the Bs eliminated the Detroit Red Wings in 5, giving each a lengthy break to think about the series ahead.
Throughout these aching days of wait media outlets have spewed countless articles delineating this historic pairing since no two NHL teams have met each other more often in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. While there is plenty of insightful and enjoyable reads out there, there is no need to hype the series since fans are well aware of the stakes.
If you’re coming in late, here are 5 Things you Need to Know about the Habs vs. Bruins Atlantic Division Finals:
The two teams hate each other. Habs forward Brendan Gallagher might be civil to Bs forward Milan Lucic during the summer months but when it comes to the ice all bets are off. During the regular season putting the Habs and Bruins in the same room would be like putting Donald Sterling in a room with anyone from the NBA. You just wouldn’t do it. And this is the playoffs.
Habs’ goaltender Carey Price took the high road by stating “I don’t think hate is a good word. Competitive is a better one.” Lucic, on the other hand, didn’t mince words, “It’s just natural for me being here for seven years now, being a part of this organization. You naturally learn to hate the Canadiens,” said Lucic. “And the battles we’ve had over the last few years makes you hate them.”
The only people to hate each other more than the Habs and Bruins are their fans. Sparks will fly and often in the next couple of weeks.
2. Brief History
The Bruins vs. Habs rivalry dates back to 1929. The teams have played 170 games in the Stanley Cup Playoffs with the Habs winning 102 games or 24 of 33 series.
Since 1988 however, the Bruins have won 7 of 11 series, including the two most recent meetings in 2009 and 2011. The Habs last won a playoff series against the Bs in 2008 when a top seeded Habs team defeated the 8th seeded Bruins (in the former Conference Playoff format) in 7 games.
Eyes on the Prize has a great look back on the Bruins vs. Habs series of yore.
3. 2013-2014 Regular Season
In 4 regular season meetings the Habs won three games, including two in Boston; the second being a shootout winner that snapped a Bruins 12 game winning streak. What makes these wins even more remarkable is that they were against a dominant Bruins team that won the President’s Trophy for the league’s winning-est team.
When it comes to the playoffs, however, what happened in the regular season no longer matters. Just ask the Detroit Red Wings.
While the Bruins had considerable success during the regular season rolling four lines, the Habs finally managed the same, and handily, in their first round series against the Bolts. In fact, neither team’s top line provided the bulk of the scoring during their respective first round series, with the 2nd and 3rd lines stepping up for timely goals when necessary. Lucic for the Bruins and Gallagher and Bourque for the Habs each scored 3 apiece in the Atlantic Division semifinals.
Lucic has the ability to dictate the series should he focus on his strength and power game. The Habs on the other hand have notorious Bruins killer Tomas Vanek who will need a break out series if the Habs want to pull off the upset.
Both teams feature two of the best defensemen in the league in P.K. Subban and Bruins captain Zdeno Chara. Chara is nominated for the Norris again this year whereas Subban is the most recent winner.
Added to that is the supreme goaltending brought by both teams. While Rask was just nominated for the Vezina Trophy, it’s hard to forget Price’s back to back shutouts to win the gold medal for Canada at the Winter Olympics. Incidentally, Rask’s Olympic night off (due to the flu) likely cost the Finnish team a chance at the Gold Medal game.
Too bad about Price not being a Vezina finalist. He'll have to settle for the Conn Smythe. #MTLHockey
— Ted Bird (@manofbird) April 25, 2014
The Bruins’ depth on the back end might give them the edge in this series but Andrei Markov’s stability, Alexei Emelin’s timely hits and Subban’s creativity will make this series more level than it is on paper.
There are other factors that will play a significant role in this series, factors like coaching – the team with the best game plan will win; special teams – you can win or lose by the pwerplay; and those intangible moments that shift momentum faster than the weather changes in Montreal.
There are so many variables in a series this emotional, this hyped, this special that it is almost impossible to predict. Hold on to your hats hockey fans. This is going to be a ride.
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