The Boston Bruins have enough to worry about as they cling to an increasingly precarious lead for one of the Eastern Conference’s final playoff spots. Unfortunately, they’ll now have to concern themselves with their daunting losing streak against the Montreal Canadiens.
Boston will try to avoid a season sweep and end a 10-game slide against their archrivals Saturday in Montreal, where the Bruins have won just once in their last 12 visits.
If the head-to-head series didn’t count, the Bruins (37-28-9) would have five more points than Montreal (41-24-10) this season. However, the Canadiens’ seven regulation wins against Boston have them fighting for the top seed in the East, while the Bruins are battling four teams for the final two playoff spots.
Montreal has outscored Boston 36-14 this season, and its dominance extends back to the 2003-04 playoffs. Since the Bruins took a 3-1 lead in a first-round series they eventually lost, they are 4-22-0 - including postseason - against the Canadiens.
Saturday’s game is the back end of a home-and-home series, as Montreal won 4-2 in Boston on Thursday. At the Bell Centre, the Bruins have lost six straight and gotten shut out four times in their last 10 trips.
The 10-game winning streak matches the Canadiens’ longest in franchise history against the Bruins - a mark set during the 1944-45 season.
“The onus is on us to change this,” Bruins defenseman Aaron Ward said following Thursday’s loss. “It sounds bad to say, but I thought we were better against them tonight. Shame on us if we are not ready for them on Saturday.”
Alex Kovalev had two goals and an assist Thursday and rookie Carey Price stopped 34 shots, including all of Boston’s attempts in the first period when the Bruins outshot the Canadiens 15-6.
Kovalev has seven goals and four assists against Boston this season, while Price has won all four of his starts against them with a 2.25 goals-against average. Boston’s Tim Thomas, meanwhile, is 0-4-0 with a 4.76 GAA versus Montreal this season.
“Some teams just play well against other teams, and that’s just the way it goes,” Price said.
The Bruins haven’t been bad only against Montreal of late. Boston has won just once in its last six games and twice in its last 10, scoring 14 goals over that span.
Even defenseman Zdeno Chara’s return from a five-game injury absence injury didn’t help Boston on Thursday. The Bruins have outshot seven of their last 10 opponents and averaged 33 shots on goal during that span, but converted just over four percent of those shots.
“I can’t put the puck in the net for the players,” Boston coach Claude Julien said. “Somewhere in that dressing room someone has to have goals in them.”
Montreal, locked in a tight race with New Jersey, Pittsburgh and Ottawa for the East’s top seed, has alternated wins and losses in its last seven games. It’s looking for consecutive wins for the first time since March 6-8.
If the Bruins can secure a playoff berth, the Canadiens are a possible first-round opponent. As one of the top two seeds in both years, Boston was upset by Montreal in the first round in 2002 and 2004.