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It is a matchup that we’ve seen all too often over the years, as the Montreal
Canadiens will square off against the Boston Bruins for the 33rd time in the
postseason.  Not surprisingly, given the history between these teams, there
have been some hard fought games in the regular season, a series that the Habs
were victorious in, taking four of six from their division rivals.

All time, these two teams have played 163 playoff games against each other
with the Habs posting a 99-64 record although the Bruins have won the last four,
a sweep from two seasons ago.  Boston has home ice advantage for this
series which is where Montreal lost both games against the Bruins this season,
allowing 15 goals in those two contests.  Historically, the Habs are 36-43
against Boston on the road in the postseason, while going 63-21 on home ice,
outscoring the B’s by nearly 100 goals in those games.

Season Series

Here are the results from this season’s action:

November 11 – Montreal 3, Boston 1 


Player Stats
  HW Recap
December 16 – Montreal 4, Boston 3 


Player Stats
  HW Recap
January 8 – Montreal 3, Boston 2 (OT) 


Player Stats
  HW Recap
February 9 – Boston 8, Montreal 6 


Player Stats
  HW Recap
March 8 – Montreal 4, Boston 1 


Player Stats
  HW Recap
March 24 – Boston 7, Montreal 0 


Player Stats
  HW Recap

Top scorers from these games:

Goals: Gionta (5), Pacioretty (4), Gomez/Eller/Subban (2
Assists: Plekanec (4), Desharnais, Darche, Gomez, Wisniewski (3 each)
Points: Gionta (6), Pacioretty (6), Gomez (5), Plekanec/Subban (4 each)

Goals: Lucic (4), Horton (3), Ryder, Campbell, Bergeron,
McQuaid (2 each)
Assists: Krejci (6), Bergeron/Lucic (5 each), Chara/Horton (2 each)
Points: Lucic (9), Horton/Bergeron (7), Krejci (6), Chara (5)

Before we get into some analysis in the mailbag, here are the goalie and special teams stats
as well:

Goalies: Price: 4-2, 3.46 GAA, .900 SV%, Auld: 0-0, 7.76
GAA, .750 SV%
Special Teams: PP: 9/28 (32.1%), PK 21/24 (87.5%)

Goalies: Thomas: 2-1-1, 3.22 GAA, .907 SV%, Rask: 0-2,
3.55 GAA, 896 SV%
Special Teams: PP 3/24 (12.5%), PK 19/28 (67.9%)

Series Schedule:

Boston (3) vs Montreal (6)
(Montreal leads series 2-1)
Game 1: Montreal 2, Boston 0
Game 2: Montreal 3, Boston 1
Game 3: Boston 4, Montreal 2
Game 4: April 21 in MTL, 19:00
Game 5: April 23 in BOS, 19:00
Game 6*: April 26 in MTL, TBD
Game 7*: April 27 in BOS, TBD

* – if necessary


Question 1: What is the key to the Habs’ success?

Matt Dilworth: Entering the series as the clear underdogs, I would have to think
that there are many keys to the Habs’ success.  The obvious key to success would
be winning more games than the Bruins, but in all seriousness, I think a crucial
key to Montreal’s success will be their special teams.  Montreal’s special teams
victimized the Bruins on most occasions, and is the only real spot on paper
in which Montreal appears superior.  The Bruins won’t offer many chances at
even strength, so the Habs will need to capitalize on their opportunities with
the man advantage.  On a similar note, it would be a nice time to see the end of
the consistent parade to the penalty box, and see the Habs stop taking
unnecessary and/or retaliatory penalties.

Brian La Rose: The top guys for the Habs (Gionta, Gomez,
Cammalleri, and Plekanec, though the last 3 do have injury concerns) need to be
the top forwards for the Habs to succeed.  Carey Price can hold the fort
all he wants but unless these guys are generating the offence, it’ll be a rough
go for Montreal.  Finding a way to contain Horton and Lucic would also go a
long way.

Louis Moustakas: Much will be made of special teams and goaltending in this series, and
rightly so. But, there is another element that could be just as important to the
Habs success: pressuring Zdeno Chara. During the tamer regular season, the
hulking blueliner is able to handle oncoming forecheckers due to his impressive
mix of reach, strength and size. However, he does not always react especially
well under pressure and certainly does not have Lidstrom-like hockey sense. With
the bright lights of the postseason and the added intensity associated with
this time of the year, it is possible for Montreal to force Boston’s
top defender into committing costly errors.

Michael R.: Obviously the easy answer to this question is the
play of Carey Price.  He will probably have to repeat a similar feat to Halak
circa ’10 in order for the Habs to advance past the first round.  The other key
will be the play of special teams considering the Habs were top 10 in both
categories they will have to continue their good play to have any success.

Norm Szcyrek: Carey Price is the key, plain and simple.  If he can continue to play the way he has this season, then the Habs success will be assured.

Question 2: Who is your dark horse candidate to have a breakout in

Matt Dilworth: With a career 0.71 points per
game in the playoffs (95 points in 133 games), it’s hard to consider Scott Gomez
as a dark horse in the playoffs.  But given his 0.50 points-per-game production
in the 2010-11 season, I think it is safe to say that consistent production from
Gomez would come as a great surprise, and as a result, he gets my vote.  Despite
massive criticisms throughout the year, I’ve never felt that Gomez was slacking
off, and I think that he will kick into the next gear come Round 1.

Brian La Rose: If the Habs are going to crash the crease as
they claim they will, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Mathieu Darche surprise a
few people this series.  He has been willing to go into the traffic areas
before and as he’ll at least start with Gomez and Gionta, he should get some
opportunities to score some goals. 

Louis Moustakas: David Desharnais. The size issue does not merit consideration
here. It has been overplayed throughout his whole career and it is being
discussed ad nauseum in relation to this series. At the end of the day,
Desharnais has an above average touch around the net, is able to thread good
passes and is one of the hardest workers on the squad. Add to that the fact that
he will be kept away from the coverage that Plekanec and Gomez will endure, and
the Quebec centre seems like a good candidate for a breakout.

Michael R.: I would love to see David Desharnais capitalize on
his first NHL playoff experience and become a key contributor to the Habs
offense.  As the Bruins will be focusing on the top two lines, the Canadiens
will need some timely scoring from the third line in order to pick up the slack.

Norm Szcyrek: Andrei Kostitsyn. His regular season has been a
roller coaster of ups and downs, but I like the way he finished. His playmaking
ability & his play without the puck have been pleasant surprises during the
stretch run, and should carry forward into the playoffs. 

Question 3: Who on the Bruins should the Habs be most worried

Matt Dilworth: Although Zdeno Chara and Milan
Lucic certainly merit concern, one of my personal fears is what Nathan Horton might
accomplish should he get going.  Horton preyed upon the Habs this season,
recording 3 goals and 4 assists in 5 games, all while posing an imposing
physical presence in front of Carey Price.  He showed zero hesitation to get
nasty and since these are his first NHL playoffs, one has to wonder how hungry
he will be given the circumstances.

Brian La Rose: When you’re facing off against a goalie who just
set a record in save percentage, he has to be a concern for any team, including
the Canadiens.  Yes, his numbers vs Montreal haven’t been great but you
don’t exactly fluke into a .938 SV%.  To get that, he had to get hot
(several different times during the year might I add) which means he’s fully
capable of doing the same against the Habs.

Louis Moustakas: Milan Lucic. Super pest extraordinaire, Lucic not only has a
knack for getting under opponents skin, but he also put up a very respectable 62
points this season. While he may not have the most menacing scoring touch in the
league, it will be imperative for the Habs to not get goaded into any
undesirable, post-whistle scrums or penalties.  

Michael R.: Zdeno Chara will obviously be key to the Bruins
play but I think the biggest difference maker for them may be Milan Lucic.  His
line with Nathan Horton and David Krejci may cause some real problems to the
Habs defence with their size and skill.  He had a career year scoring 30 goals
and 62 points so it will be important not to let him get into the series.

Norm Szcyrek: Rich Peverley
was a true Habs killer while he donned an Atlanta jersey, on both offence and
defence.  Since being traded to Boston, he has not paid immediate dividends for
the Bruins. However, his speed and tenacity on the forecheck have been a thorn
in the Habs defence in the past. He finished the season with 3 points in his
last 3 games, and may surprise some Habs followers.


Matt Dilworth: There are so many ways that this
series might play out, that I struggled coming up with a prediction.  On one
hand, if the Bruins assert their physical dominance and depth at forward, it
could be lights out for the Canadiens very quickly.  On the other hand, if the
Canadiens prevail on the special teams front and play their smart, calculated
game, things might turn out quite well for the Habs.  In reality, I expect to
see both of these scenarios at times, and depending on the coaching staff’s
abilities to get their matchups out, I still anticipate a tightly-contested
series.  All factors considered, I ultimately think (and hope) that Montreal
will relish the role of underdog, get into the Bruins’ heads and emerge
victorious.  I would be much more confident making this prediction if Max
Pacioretty was in the lineup, but I will prognosticate Montreal in 6.

Brian La Rose: I think the series will go long as the Habs have
been very strong on home ice throughout the regular season.  However, I
don’t expect the Bruins to go 0-3 at the Bell Centre which means that in order
for Montreal to win, they’ll have to take two in Boston.  Given their road
struggles and inconsistencies this year, I can’t say I see that in the cards. 
I can, however, see them getting 1 road game which means I suspect it will do
the distance, but with Boston winning.  If it does get to Game 7 though,
the Habs should at least feel comfortable with the situation having faced the
exact scenario twice last season, it could be an advantage.

Louis Moustakas: Although Boston lost the season series 4-2, it is evident that
they can hammer Montreal if the game is played a certain way. If the Canadiens
are to have any hope in this series, they will have to avoid the sort of
disjointed, overly physical contests that provoked the two regular season
losses. It will also be of utmost importance for Montreal to focus on three
important failings on the Bruins squad. The first, as I illustrated above, is to
take advantage of Zdeno Chara’s deficiencies under the pressure. Beyond that, it
will also be key to expose both the Boston defense and the potential shakiness
of Tim Thomas. Although the Bruins have the second lowest goals against in the
league, it is worth noting that the team has conversely allowed the second most
shots per game in the league. Combine that with Thomas’ dismal numbers versus
Montreal, and it is clear that there are exploitable weaknesses. In the end, I
believe the Habs will stick to Jacques Martin’s structured approach and expose
the above flaws. Montreal in 7.

Michael R.: I believe it will be a long and close series but
both my heart and head say the Habs will win in 7 games.  Considering they won
the series 4-2 and also lost the last game in embarrassing fashion, the Habs
will be ready to go when the series starts.  As long as Carey Price can outplay
Tim Thomas, which he has done before, the Canadiens have a real chance of making
it 25 for 33 against the Bruins in the postseason.

Norm Szcyrek: This match should prove to be another epic war between these two hated rivals.
 Few pairs of teams hold the same bitterness towards each other on a
consistent basis, year in and year out.  The Habs are truly the underdogs when
the regular season standings are considered by themselves.  Montreal held an
overall advantage with a 4-2-0 record against the Bruins; however both of the
last two games were won by Boston in a more than decided fashion.  I predict
that the mystique of the Habs against Boston in the playoffs will continue to
frustrate Bruins fans and Don Cherry. Montreal in 7.

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