Could it be any other way? Bruins vs.
Canadiens in Round 1! In a complete reversal of last season, it is the Bruins
who sit atop the Eastern Conference, with Montreal squeaking into the playoffs
in the 8th seed. Also somewhat reversed from last season, it is the Boston
Bruins who enter a Round 1 bout with Montreal with the dominate season series
win of 5-0-1. But let’s look at the playoff records of these teams, and not just
Montreal’s 24-7 all-time playoff series-win record against Boston. Montreal has
had the Bruins postseason number this decade, with the Habs coming out on top of
all three series they played each other. It’s hard to go into a playoff matchup
feeling optimistic as the 8th seed, but being the lower seeded team to Boston shouldn’t be unfamiliar to Habs fans (and some current players.)
’02 and ’04 playoff series both featured the underdog Canadiens defeating the
highly touted Bruins.
No matter what the outcome, this is a
series it’s easy to get excited about. Let’s have a look at some of the "Key
Matchups" to watch for this series.
Mike Komisarek vs. Zdeno Chara: These guys exchanged words and
fists last game, and if Komisarek continues to hit heavy, Chara will feel the
need to respond. It’s been a knock on Chara for years that he can’t always keep
his emotions in check. A frazzled behemoth carrying a stick and two blades
doesn’t sound particularly inviting to play against, but it will hurt the Bruins
more than it would hurt Montreal.
Mike Komisarek vs. Milan Lucic: Obvious statement is obvious! The
rivalry has been boiling for a full year. These guys hate each other, and it’s
possibly the most captivating mini-series of the series. They’ll both be playing
physical and both be playing on the edge, so it really comes down to who can
make the other guy lose his cool?
Alex Kovalev vs. Zdeno Chara: Kovalev schooled an injured Chara in
last year’s series, but can he do it again against a healthy Chara? Expect these
two to see each other a lot on the ice.
Georges Laraque vs. Shawn Thornton: Anyone not expecting this fight
at least once? Laraque is going to need to match (or surpass) Thornton’s
physicality, and make some Bruins think twice about skating into a corner or
running Carey Price. A playoff round against Boston was half the reason Bob
Gainey signed Georges (with the other half currently in the 5th seed facing
Pittsburgh. This is where Laraque fully proves his worth.
Maxim Lapierre vs. Patrice Bergeron: In the last game against
Boston, Lapierre messed up badly and lost the puck to Bergeron who contributed
to the winning goal in overtime. A chance at redemption isn’t too far away, Max!
A pesky Lapierre helping to shut down and annoy Boston’s secondary scoring will
significantly help Montreal win.
Saku Koivu vs. Marc Savard: Montreal’s #1 center versus Boston’s #1
center. It doesn’t have the same zing as a Saku Koivu-Joe Thornton battle, but
make no mistake: Koivu will have to not only rack up points but help keep
Savard’s line from doing the same in order for Montreal to win.
Carey Price vs. Tim Thomas: It’s a foregone conclusion that a
goalie is going to steal at least one game this series, and weak goaltending in
any game for one team is a near guaranteed loss. Enjoy the pressure guys!
Bob Gainey vs. Claude Julien: If it were a wrestling match, we’d be
hearing Julien shout, "I’ll get you for firing me, you sonova bitch!" in
interviews. At least it wouldn’t be a Hair vs. Hair match. And personally I
don’t think Gainey would look good in a singlet. I’ve gone off course. This is a
key matchup though. I don’t think we’ll see many mind games or heated interviews
here, but it’s clear that both of these gents have something to prove regarding Julien being fired by Gainey.
This article was written
by a playoff excited Tristan Tapscott