We’re less than an hour away from the beginning of the Eastern Conference semifinals series between the Montreal Canadiens and the Boston Bruins but it sure has been a long awaited one for the fans here in Quebec. After all this is one of the biggest rivalry in professional hockey if only for the fact that these two teams have met in the playoffs many times and there were often a lot at stake. The Bruins and the Habs have been in the same division for as long as I remember and the confrontations have turned ugly in many occasions. To sum it up, these two teams don’t like each other. The Bruins fans hate the Habs fans and I can confirm that the same feeling is mutual.
This season the Bruins played one of their most complete games of the season while defeating the Canadiens 4-1 on March 12 at Bell Centre. However, the rest of the season series belonged to Montreal who won two games in regulation and another in a shootout. Last season Montreal did very well against Boston as well so the team and the fans are pumped up. Perhaps too overconfident for my own taste. Carey Price was a disaster in the net against Ottawa in the first round of the playoffs last year. This year it was another story. He was Canada’s goalie number one at the Olympics and Stephane Waite – former Hawks goaltending coach – worked with him a lot to improve on his concentration. He delivered and the word in Montreal is that he will have to steal 1 or 2 games in this current series for Montreal to move on to the Conference Finals. So Price will have a lot of pressure again but it looks like he will be able to handle it this time. The rest of the team is healthy. Vanek, Pacioretty, Desharnais and Subban – Brière to a certain extent – are expected to provide some scoring. Plekanec is a good all-around player but he has the tendency to turn into a ghost during the playoffs. The Habs are known to be smaller as far as size is concerned and this will particularly hurt them as the series will progress. The Bruins are much bigger and they can hit. They have a reputation for being tenacious and they can score to come back late in any game. Take a look at all the stats a team must have and you will see the Bruins up there among all the 30 teams during the regular season. Against Detroit they were caught by surprise in Game 1 at home and after they were perfect for the rest of the series. And while all this was happening Tuukka Rask was nominated as candidate for the Vezina Trophy. No need to add anything in his case. It’s his turn this time as Tim Thomas is no longer there.
Prediction: Bruins in 6 games.