The Montreal Canadiens’ home-and-home sweep of their archrivals last month earned them a measure of redemption for their heartbreaking playoff exit and left the reigning Stanley Cup champions humbled following seven defeats in their first 10 games.
The Boston Bruins will bring a bit more confidence to the Bell Centre this time.
Unbeaten since their last trip to Montreal, the Bruins put an eight-game winning streak on the line Monday night, with their red-hot offense likely to face a goaltender who has been equally impressive lately.
Both of these clubs, which staged a riveting first-round series last spring finally won by Boston in overtime of Game 7, got off to rocky starts in 2011-12.
The Canadiens (9-8-3) were 2-5-2 when they visited the Bruins on Oct. 27, but their 2-1 win that night - followed by a 4-2 home victory 48 hours later - helped steady their season.
“I think our guys are pretty confident again,” goalie Carey Price(notes) said after the sweep. “I think that’s all it took was just a couple of wins. Now the guys are all excited to go to the rink again.”
Those defeats dropped the Bruins to 3-7-0, prompting widespread talk of a Stanley Cup hangover. Boston (11-7-0) has responded by outscoring opponents 41-14 during an 8-0-0 November, including a 6-0 win over the New York Islanders on Saturday to begin a three-game road trip.
The club’s longest winning streak since a 10-game run during the 2008-09 season has pushed the Bruins from the Eastern Conference cellar back into playoff position - one point ahead of Montreal.
With goals coming from several sources, the Bruins have scored six or more times in five of seven games. Center Chris Kelly(notes) made the biggest contributions Saturday, scoring two goals and adding an assist to give him six points in his last four contests.
“A lot of it is generated from the defensive zone,” Kelly said. “We were coming back and playing stingy in our end.”
Boston’s offense - led in goals (11) and points (21) by Tyler Seguin(notes), who wasn’t even in the lineup against Montreal in the playoffs - will expect a stiff challenge from Price, who has a shutout in each of his last two starts.
Price only needed to stop 17 shots in a 4-0 win Saturday to end another lengthy winning streak, as the Canadiens snapped the New York Rangers’ seven-game run.
Bruins captain Zdeno Chara(notes) will play in Montreal a few days after authorities in Quebec said the 6-foot-9 defenseman won’t face criminal charges for a hit on Canadiens forward Max Pacioretty(notes) there last season.
Chara called the announcement “good news,” while Bruins president Cam Neely issued a brief statement saying the team was “satisfied” and calling it a closed matter.
Pacioretty missed the rest of the season with a broken vertebra after Chara hit him into a stanchion March 8. Although he had no points against the Bruins last month, Pacioretty has at least one in each of his last five games, and his 17 points rank second on the Canadiens to Tomas Plekanec(notes).