(Ed. Note: With its new playoff format, the NHL is seeking to create passion for fans and teams through forced, bracketed relationships. But hey, at first glance, the matchups are pretty sexy. All of this led to one ideal theme for our 2014 Playoff Preview: Tinder, the social media dating app. We hope you swipe right this postseason ...)
The Boston Bruins and Montreal Canadiens have faced each other more in the postseason than any two teams in any sports.
They kinda hate each other. Their fans hate each other. Probably their writers, too.
Beyond that, this series features two of the best goalies in the postseason and two of the most raucous home arena experiences. It’s a rivalry series that’ll make for can’t-miss viewing.
Who comes out on top of the Atlantic Division Final?
Boston Bruins (1) vs. Montreal Canadiens (3)
May 1: Montreal Canadiens at Boston Bruins, 12:30 p.m. ET.
May 3: Montreal Canadiens at Boston Bruins, 12:30 p.m. ET.
May 6: Boston Bruins at Montreal Canadiens, 7 p.m.
May 8: Boston Bruins at Montreal Canadiens, 7:30 p.m.
May 10: Montreal Canadiens at Boston Bruins, TBA*
May 12: Boston Bruins at Montreal Canadiens, 7:30 p.m. TBA*
May 14: Montreal Canadiens at Boston Bruins, 7:30 p.m. TBA*
Milan Lucic led the Bruins with three goals in the first round, but had one goal in four games against the Habs this season. Jarome Iginla was the other multi-goal scorer at foward for the Bruins with two, and he managed just one assist against the Habs in four games. David Krejci, one of the B’s most dangerous playoff scorers, centers them, and had one assist in four games vs. Montreal.
Patrice Bergeron won 56.1 percent of his draws in the first round and tallied five points. Expect him with Reilly Smith (2 points) and uber-pest Brad Marchand, depending on his health.
Carl Soderberg and Loui Eriksson haven’t clicked yet in the postseason. The Merlot Liners of Shawn Thornton and Gregory Campbell will ensure the series remains physical. Getting Daniel Paille back from injury will also be a boost.
Brendan Gallagher led the Habs with three goals and two assists in Round 1 on just eight shots. He’s skated with Brian Gionta (3 points) and playoff terror Tomas Plekanec, who has two goals and is 53.9 on faceoffs.
The top line of Max Pacioretty (2 points), David Desharnais (2 points) and Thomas Vanek (1 goal and 2 assists) becomes infinitely more interesting thanks to Vanek’s domination of the Bruins in his career: 62 points in 55 games.
Rene Bourque was great in Round 1 with three goals, while Lars Eller had two goals and three assists. Danny Briere continued his playoff wizardry with two points, while Dale Weise scored one huge power-play goal. Brandon Prust brings the thunder, and they’ll need it vs. Boston.
Zdeno Chara struggled a bit against the Red Wings defensively with a minus -8.5% corsi rel, although he potted two goals. Dougie Hamilton (4 points) was his most frequent defensive partner.
Torey Krug had five points in five games and was a plus-2, showing some nice chemistry with Kevan Miller. Johnny Boychuk was his usual batting-ram self, while Matt Bartkowski skated over 21 minutes in three appearances.
Because life is unfair to the rest of the NHL, Dennis Seidenberg appears on his way back and Adam McQuaid is still working back from injury.
P.K. Subban had five assists skating 26:05 in the first round, and his ability as an agitator will be depended on vs. Boston. He and Josh Gorges (23:20) get the glut of the work. Andrei Markov didn’t tally a point in the Habs’ first round, but defense partner Alexei Emelin make his mark with some huge hits. Mike Weaver and Francis Bouillon round out the corps, with Douglas Murray and Jarred Tinordi in the wings.
When healthy, the B’s have the edge. But for now…
Perhaps the most anticipated goalie duel of the postseason.
Tuukka Rask has a .968 even strength save percentage, having given up four goals on 125 shots. Overall, he’s 4-1 with a 1.16 GAA and a .961 save percentage.
Carey Price wasn’t nearly as good in the first round: .926 EVSV%, 4-0 with a 2.33 GAA and a .904 save percentage overall. He’s only played one game against the Bruins this season, winning with one goal on 33 shots.
The Canadiens swept while the Bruins won in five. This is like Kate Upton vs. the Canadian equivalent of Kate Upton, they’re so hot.
Claude Julien has the Bruins chugging along, playing stellar defense in front of Rask and rolling his lines expertly.
Michel Therrien game-planned the Lightning well, and will have to do the same with the Bruins. Prepare for at least two instances in which he dumps the puzzle pieces on the ground and remakes all the lines. Because he’s Michel Therrien.
The Boston Bruins are 37.5 percent on the power play, best in the NHL, going 6 for 16. They killed 18 of 20 power plays.
The Montreal Canadiens were 2 for 13 for 15.4 percent. The Habs were only shorthanded seven times against the Lightning, killing five of them.
SERIES SLOW JAM
Slow? Maybe. A jam? Yes. An attractive French girl trying to overpower her business-like Northeasterner with overwhelming coyness? Welcome to Round 2.
Players to watch.
SWIPE LEFT ON... Max Pacioretty. He finally broke through with the winning goal in Game 4 and had three points in four games against the Bruins.
SWIPE RIGHT ON... David Krejci. It’s just a matter of time before this postseason stud gets rolling, after two assists in Round 1. Or, maybe not: He manages one assist in four games vs. Montreal.
Brutal, intense series that seems ripe for controversy. It’s possible the Bruins just turn on the steam roller, but we have a feeling the Habs take one in Boston and two at Bell Centre. But they fall short in the end. Bruins in 7.