The Montreal Canadiens start off their home-and-home with the Boston Bruins Tuesday night at the Bell Centre. With nine games remaining for the Habs, three of which come against this very Boston team, Montreal will absolutely need to take three of four points in the two matches against the Bruins this week.
The Canadiens are currently in a three way tie for ninth place in the Eastern Conference, but sit in 11th because they have played more games than the New York Islanders and Toronto Maple Leafs. A win against Boston on Tuesday could potentially bring them within at least a tie for a playoff position.
On the other hand, the Boston Bruins are on the brink of elimination if they fail to pull off wins in most, if not all, of their remaining games. Their 73 points in 71 games places Boston in 12th place in the East. However, they’ve played fewer games than the teams above them and can bring themselves within contention for a final playoff spot if they defeat the Habs in the three games the two teams will play over the next 20 days.
Montreal will welcome back one of their best defensive forwards to face the Bruins. Radek Bonk, who has missed the last three games with the flu, may not be 100 percent after the bug ravaged through his body. However, being that Bonk is Montreal’s largest center and a key part of the team’s penalty killing unit, it will be great just to have him in the line-up again.
Andrei Kostitsyn will also suit up for his forth straight game after being made a healthy scratch on March 10th when the Canadiens played the St. Louis Blues. The move seems to have awakened the talented Belarusian, as Kostitsyn went on to collect three assists and played the best game of his career against the Islanders the very next game.
The 22-year-old had another strong outing on Saturday when he scored both in regulation and the shootout on route to a 3-2 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Kostitsyn now has seven points (1-6-7), 24 shots, and a minus-2 rating in 13 games this season. The Habs will certainly want more of his elevated play to help them in their quest for a playoff spot.
The Boston Bruins have a talented rookie of their own in 19-year-old Phil Kessel. The first round draft choice, fifth overall, has been strong against the Habs this season. In three career games against the Montreal Canadiens this season, Kessel has a goal and three assists while keeping a respectable plus-4. The Bruin also averaged four shots a game versus the Habs this season.
Meanwhile, one of Boston’s newest arrivals, Brandon Bochenski, seems to have revived his career since coming over in a trade with the Chicago Blackhawks. The former Ottawa Senators draft pick has put up points at almost a point-per-game pace in the 20 games he’s played with the Bruins. Bochenski currently has 10 goals and eight assists for 18 points.
Prior to joining Boston, Bochenski played only ten games with the Blackhawks where he had only two goals. The 24-year-old spent most of the season with the AHL’s Norfolk Admirals where he scored 33 goals and 33 assists in 35 games. The Maine, USA native has always found success at the American Hockey League level, but has failed to translate that in the NHL until the change in scenery.
Boston leads the season series thus far with three wins and two losses. None of the games have gone into overtime, but three were decided by a single goal, with Boston winning two of them.
The Habs met Boston earlier this month and dropped a 3-1 decision. Bochenski scored his ninth of the season, a goal which proved to be the game winner, while Petr Tenkrat and Glen Murray also netted goals for Boston. Sheldon Souray had Montreal’s lone goal and rookie netminder Jaroslav Halak made 33 saves, but still suffered the third loss of his NHL career after winning his first three starts. Furthermore, Boston’s goalie, Tim Tomas, picked up the win by stopping all but one of the 32 shots that came his way.
The Bruins are coming off an embarrassing 7-0 loss to the New York Rangers. No one was particularly good for Boston, who allowed six goals in the second period. Joey MacDonald, the Bruins backup goaltender, played only 15 minutes after replacing Tim Tomas in goal. After allowing four goals on 11 shots, MacDonald found himself back on the bench as Tomas returned to the net in the third.
Montreal will look to win their second straight game after beating the Maple Leafs in an emotional match up that went the distance. Kostitsyn netted the winning goal of the shootout after Toronto’s defenseman, Pavel Kubina, tied the game in the third period. Kostitsyn also scored in regulation when he put up Montreal 1-0 six minutes into the game. Kyle Wellwood and Saku Koivu would then exchange goals in the first and second periods respectively. Halak had played an exceptional game by making 37 saves for his forth win.
In reward for his stellar play, Coach Guy Carbonneau has rewarded Halak with a second consecutive start. Montreal will need more magic from the Bratislava, Slovakia native along with a strong team effort if they plan on gaining ground on the top eight teams in the Eastern Conference.