The second round of the 2014 NHL playoffs is upon us with our beloved Habs facing their arch rival Bruins for the 34th time in NHL postseason history. Here are the HabsWorld contributors predictions for what should be another epic battle.
Montreal vs Boston
Brian La Rose predicts: Boston in 6
Alex Létourneau predicts: Boston in 7
Matt Macaskill predicts: Montreal in 6
Kevin Meldrum predicts: Montreal in 6
Simon Aronson predicts: Montreal in 6
Norm Szcyrek predicts: Montreal in 7
(Brian) One thing is for sure, excessive rest will not be a factor in this series with both the Habs and Bruins having more than enough time off following quick victories in the first round. In terms of what actually matters, I give the Bruins the edge in a couple of key categories, goaltending and defence. That isn’t a shot at Carey Price or the defence corps but Tuukka Rask has proven to be an elite goalie in the postseason while Price has yet to reach that plateau. On the blueline, Boston’s defence has some lesser known youngsters but they have done a very effective job and will limit scoring opportunities. Montreal’s defence was steady in Round 1 but will need to step it up to contain Boston’s bigger forwards. For the Habs to win this series, they will need the forwards to lead the way. The top line has to produce like a top trio while secondary scoring will once again be crucial. If that happens, this has the potential to be a long matchup. In the end, however, I think Boston unfortunately prevails in six.
(Alex) Frankly, I don’t know what to make of this matchup. Boston tends to not play its best hockey against Montreal. The last time these two teams met in the playoffs, it was a close one, and I can’t see this time around being any different. Both teams have improved since that 2011 series, with Boston obviously tasting more success in the aftermath. The key to the series will come between the pipes. Can Tuukka Rask play well against the Canadiens? Will Carey Price deny and frustrate the Bruins’ balanced attack? Boston can’t compete playing Montreal’s speed game, and Montreal can’t compete playing Boston’s physical game. Special teams will be key here, with Boston firing at a punishing rate on the powerplay in the first round. Montreal’s special teams have been less than convincing so far; they will need to start clicking to really have a shot. With the exception of a moment of sheer brilliance from Pavel Datsyuk, both teams swept their respective series, so fatigue should not be an excuse for either team. Maybe rust will be. I think it’s honestly a toss-up. It will be emotional, it will be physical, it will be draining with the scales tipped towards a Boston team that knows what it takes to win this kind of series.
(Matt) Thomas Vanek and Daniel Briere will lead the way offensively as Carey Price out-duels Tuukka Rask. The latter has not had a good career against the Canadiens and will be shell-shocked in front of a rowdy Montreal crowd at the Bell Centre for three of the Habs’ four wins in the series. Milan Lucic and Zdeno Chara will begin the series well disciplined, but as Alexei Emelin and David Desharnais frustrate them throughout the series, the Canadiens will find themselves on the powerplay often enough for P.K. Subban and Andrei Markov to find the back of the net.
(Kevin) I just think that the if the Habs play their game, they match up
really well with the Bruins. Nothing in this series will be easy for either
team; they will have to work hard for every inch on the ice. The Habs’ extreme
hatred for their greatest rival always seems to bring the best out of them. The
Habs will have to capitalize on their chances as the Bruins will only give a few good scoring opportunities per game, Montreal will have to get traffic in front of Rask, go hard to
the net, and be real aggressive in the crease. Defence wise, the forwards will have to come back to support the D and get the pucks out with quick chips and
have the forwards their speed to create scoring chances. Montreal just has to keep it simple, no distractions after the whistle, skate away and let the Bruins take the stupid penalties. They can’t back down but be smart and pick their spots. The Habs can skate,
they have speed that they have to utilize and implement like they did in the Tampa series with the cycle game and going to the outside to speed by their defenders. We all know there will be excuses from the Boston side; don’t listen to their mind games just go and beat them. If the Habs play their best they have a really good chance to advance. Every
Hab has to be at the top off their game no one more so then Carey Price. This will be the series of the playoffs go out there Montreal and show what you are really made off. By the way did I mention I hate the Bruins.
(Simon) The Bruins, as the President trophy winners are the obvious favorite to win the series. They are a deep team with no weaknesses. They boast a Norris, Vezina, and Selke finalist for the 2014 NHL awards and they’re a gritty team that has been to two cup finals in the last three years with a win to boot. That said, a President trophy does not guarantee playoff success as only
nine President’s Trophy winners have gone on to claim the cup in the last 30 years. The way I see this series is that the two teams are much closer now than regular season standings indicate in large part due to the acquisition of Thomas Vanek. Furthermore, Montreal’s style of play seems to be ideally suited to match up against the Boston which allowed the Habs to win 3 out of 4 meetings in the regular season. The fast puck movement from the Montreal defencemen goes a long way to limiting the effectiveness of Boston’s heavy fore-check. Another thing that seems apparent in this rivalry is that the Canadiens seem able to get under the skin of the Bruins causing them to take penalties and play less than their best hockey, particularly Tuukka Rask. I can’t shake the feeling in my gut that the Habs will pull off the upset.
(Norm) The Bruins-Habs rivalry is arguably the best in NHL, and arguably one of the best in all of professional sports. Traditionally the Habs have held a wide margin in playoff victories against Boston, but their opponent has won the last two recent series. On paper the Bruins are the better team in many areas but narrowly so compared to Montreal. They have improved their power play significantly thanks to the play of young defencemen Dougie Hamilton and Torey Krug. Their play has allowed the team to put Zdeno Chara in front of the the net, making him the league’s largest screen. The Bruins depth up front is well known, and have many experience veterans in their lineup. Montreal ramped up their play in all areas in the first round against Tampa Bay, and will need to elevate it again to defeat Boston. It was encouraging to see the team’s 2nd and 3rd lines contribute offensively. Their first line had several good scoring chances but did not capitalize as much as expected. However Thomas Vanek remains a big X-factor in this series, given his career stats against Boston averaging better than a point a game clip. On the other side of the ice, Tuukka Rask’s had a Vezina-like season but has a terrible record against the Habs. If the Habs can maintain their speedy style with aggressive forechecking and backchecking then they will prevail against Boston this time.