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Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Habs Are Shipping Up To Boston: Second Round Preview

Greetings Habs Addicts,

The second round of the NHL playoffs is upon us.

The Habs are shipping up to Boston to take on their fierce rival: The Boston Bruins on Thursday. Why did I include a link to the famous Dropkick Murphy's song? Well the Boston-based band filmed the video following around hooligans, getting into street fights and running from the authorities. Basically, it musically sums up what we should expect in this series: It's going to be violent, intense and likely keep the referees quite busy.

Carey Price vs Tim Thomas. Sums up the rivalry.
Photo Credit
: HabsAddict.com

It's going to be fantastic.

Montreal won the regular-season series 3-1 against Boston this year. All of them were intense battles. Three of those starts had Peter Budaj in goal (2-1) while Carey Price started the first match-up of the season (1-0). It goes to show it doesn't matter who is in net for Montreal against Boston. While there has been lot of talk in the past about Budaj's recent run of success against the Bruins, Carey Price owns a 17-8-3 record, with a 2.50 goals-against average and a .919 save percentage for his career against Boston. Don't think for a minute he's intimidated about facing the Bruins. Price was snubbed in the Vezina voting, arguably should have been named ahead of Ben Bishop or Semyon Varlamov. Carey does have one thing neither of those goaltenders have: An Olympic gold medal from Sochi. Price is ready for the pressure this series will produce. He needs to be. On the other side is Vezina nominee Tuukka Rask.

Is Rask confident about facing the Habs this round?

Rask has a career record of 3-10-3 with a pedestrian 2.63 goals-against average and .908 save percentage all-time against the Habs. He does own a shutout. He also owns this hilariously failed stick breaking attempt that lands him on his arse. For those who forget, this was the 2013 game where Peter Budaj relieved Carey Price in the third period and the Habs rallied back to take the game in a shootout.


Teams At A Glance

Boston won the President's Trophy this season, with an NHL-leading 117 points. Boston also finished 2nd in the league allowing a paltry 177 goals against. The Bruins had a strong offense, scoring 261 goals which was good enough for 3rd overall in the league. Tuukka Rask is a finalist for the Vezina Trophy. Zdeno Chara is a finalist for the Norris Trophy. Patrice Bergeron is a finalist for the Selke Trophy, awarded to the best two-way forward. This is his third straight nomination and he captured the award in 2012. Boston made quick work of the Detroit Red Wings in the first round, taking the series 4-1. Detroit won game one, before the Bruins won the next four in a row.

Montreal finished 9th in the NHL with 100 points on the season, tied with the Los Angeles Kings. The Canadiens were stingy in their own right, allowing only 204 goals against; 6th best in the league. Montreal's even strength offense was not good this year. Overall, the Habs scored only 215 goals which was only good enough to rank them 21st in the league. Montreal made quick work of the favoured Tampa Bay Lightning, sweeping the first round series 4-0.

Recap of the 2013-14 regular season match-ups

Game One: MONTREAL 2, Boston 1. - 12/5/13
Max Pacioretty scored the game-winning goal but also sent Bruins' defenseman Johnny Boychuk to a Montreal hospital after a nasty check in the boards in the first period. Patches received a two-minute penalty for boarding on the play, but no suspension. Carey Price finished with 32 saves. The win extended Montreal's unbeaten streak to nine games at the time. Both Douglas Murray and George Parros were dressed for this match-up.

Game Two: Montreal 4, BOSTON 1. - 1/30/14
Montreal was in the midst of a slump while Boston was on fire. Peter Budaj received the start and made 34 saves. Max Pacioretty had the game-winning goal again, while Alexei Emelin, Brian Gionta and Daniel Briere also scored for Montreal. Both Douglas Murray and George Parros were dressed for this match-up.

Game Three: Boston 4, MONTREAL 1. - 3/12/14
Boston came into Montreal and outplayed the Canadiens on their way to winning their sixth straight game. Tuukka Rask had a rare stellar evening against Montreal, stopping 35 of 36 shots faced while Peter Budaj allowed three goals in the second period while making 28 saves. David Desharnais scored the lone Habs goal. Carey Price missed the game recovering from his Sochi Olympic injury. Douglas Murray was in the line-up while George Parros was scratched.

Game Four: Montreal 2, BOSTON 1 (SO) - 3/24/14
Montreal ended Boston's 12-game winning streak. Peter Budaj was the surprise starter in the first of back-to-back games. Most people thought Price would start against Boston, while Budaj would play the following night against the Buffalo Sabres. The tight checking, physical game ended with Budaj making 28 saves and stopping all four shots he faced in the shootout. Alex Galchenyuk scored the shootout winner. Douglas Murray was in the line-up, while George Parros was scratched.

Previewing Round Two

Boston and Montreal are two of the leagues oldest rivals. This rivalry is in my opinion the best in hockey. What should we expect this round?

- Douglas Murray played in all four regular season match-ups. While Murray is not fleet of foot nor can he handle the puck, he plays a strong and physical game which he matches up well against the Bruins. Murray did not play a single game against Tampa and it will be interesting to see if he inserts into the line-up over Francis Bouillon against Boston. Murray did not have a bad series against Boston this year. He played arguably his best game in a Habs uniform in the finale where the Habs snapped Boston`s league-best winning streak.

- Milan Lucic should have been suspended for a nasty spear against the Red Wings' Daniel DeKeyser. Lucic was not penalized on the play, but did received a $5,000 fine afterwards. This was not his first time taking a cheap shot, as he did the same thing to the Habs' Alexei Emelin last season. The Bruins' are a physical and dirty team. Coach Claude Julien has made it a habit to complain to the media after games. Expect a lot of cheap shots from Bruins players, especially on noted pest Brendan Gallagher. Gallagher thrives against Boston and the Bruins loathe the sparkplug. Expect Julien to complain about Montreal receiving penalty calls and diving at least once during a post-game interview.

- Max Pacioretty and Zdeno Chara have a history with each other. Chara memorably drove Pacioretty hard into the stanchion on the boards, fracturing his neck during the 2010-11 season. This year, Pacioretty inadvertently injured Johnny Boychuck with a hard check into the boards. Both players are pivotal to their teams and Patches will have to battle Chara all series long to in order to produce offensively.

- The Bruins possess one of the leagues best shut-down forwards in Patrice Bergeron. The Habs' top line of Pacioretty, David Desharnais and Thomas Vanek had a quiet series against Tampa and will be matched up with the Bruins top shutdown line and defensive pairing. The Habs need this line to perform at its strongest, while continuing to get the balanced scoring they received against the Lightning. Thomas Vanek is a noted Bruin-killer for his career, having amassed 30 goals and 62 points in 55 career games against Boston. Rene Bourque, Lars Eller and Brian Gionta will have to continue to provide the secondary scoring they did against Tampa to draw some of the defensive attention away from the top line.

- Brendan Gallagher made a name for himself as a pest in the NHL. The always-grinning Gallagher has been a thorn in the side of the Bruins since he entered the league last season and has a goal and six points in eight career games against Boston. The Bruins tend to take liberties against Gallagher, often drawing penalties. Montreal needs to capitalize on these penalties with a power-play that struggled mightily against the Lightning.

- P.K Subban was a beast against Tampa. Subban had a down year in comparison to his Norris Trophy winning 2013 season. Subban was rather invisible on the score sheet against the Bruins, only garnering a single assist in the four games played, while finishing -1. Subban also only had eight shots on goal in the four games. Subban needs to come out and have a strong, disciplined series. Bruins players will try and get under his skin and get him off his game and he cannot allow that to happen. However it seems when teams challenge Subban emotionally, he responds positively. Bring on Brad Marchand.

Quite obvious who CBC likes in this one.
Photo credit:
AwfulAnnouncing.com
- Carey Price has solid career numbers against Boston and is coming off a very strong regular season. Goaltending coach Stephane Waite has calmed down excess movement and Price has a preternatural calmness about him in the crease. Winning a gold medal for Team Canada at the 2014 Olympics, to go along with his Memorial Cup and Calder Cup winning past. Price needs to continue his strong season for Montreal to have a chance against a strong offensive team. Tuukka Rask has struggled against Montreal for his career, even this season when he had one of his best seasons overall.

- CBC sports and Don Cherry finally have something to be happy about. Expect Montreal to finally get on Hockey Night in Canada this round simply because of their opponent (see photo).

Summary

Offense: Boston had one of the NHL's top offenses, possess a balanced scoring attack. Boston had two 30 goal scorers (Patrice Bergeron and Jarome Iginla) and five players total who scored 20+ goals. Montreal struggled at even strength all year long, but have since improved dramatically after acquiring Thomas Vanek. Montreal had only one 30+ goal scorer (Pacioretty) and two who scored 20+ (Vanek and Tomas Plekanec).
Edge: Boston

Defense: Zdeno Chara is one of the NHL's fiercest defenders. Chara had 17 goals and 40 points for the season. Torey Krug broke out this season for the Bruins with 14 goals and 40 points. Overall, Johnny Boychuk, Andrej Meszaros, Dougie Hamilton and Dennis Seidenberg (injured) provide a very tough match-up for the Montreal forwards. P.K Subban and Andrei Markov led Montreal defenders in scoring with 53 and 43 points respectively. Alexei Emelin and Douglas Murray provide a strong physical presence in front of the net. Josh Gorges and Mike Weaver are shot-blocking nightmares for opposing teams.
Edge: Even

Goaltending: Both Carey Price and Tuukka Rask had all-world seasons. While Rask is a finalist for the Vezina Trophy, Carey Price arguably should be right there with him. In terms of the head-to-head match-ups, Price won his only one. Peter Budaj is a capable backup, should he be needed and will be ready if Price struggles. Rask has horrible career numbers against Montreal and it's clear that he has a hard time maintaining his composure against the Habs. While Rask could be named the leagues best goaltender at season's end, for this match-up the edge has to go to Carey Price.
Edge: Montreal

Coaching: Claude Julien is one of the NHL's best coaches. His teams are always near the top and he will do what he needs to do in the media to take the attention away from his club and put it on him. Michel Therrien has been embattled in the eyes of the fans and media all season long for his questionable line juggling, line-up changes and in-game strategy. But regular season Therrien has been replaced by playoff Therrien. The same Therrien that guided his Pittsburgh Penguins to a Stanley Cup final. He has his squad playing their best hockey at the right time, as Montreal entered the playoffs on a tear and have not eased up. His team does not give up on him at any time, often rallying in the third period to win games they did not deserve to win after 40-minutes.
Edge: Even

Prediction: Boston and Montreal physically beat each other up, score some fantastic goals and keep the fans on the edge of their seats all series long. A hot goaltender can win a series. Carey Price is that goaltender as Montreal wins the series 4-3 in another hard-fought, best of seven series. One for the ages is upon us. Enjoy it!

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Nick Malofy is a transplanted Montrealer, currently living in evil LeafLand. He is a contributor here at HabsAddict.com and give him a follow, as he can often be found rambling on Twitter.

1 comments:

Very thorough! While everyone loves to bash on The Cube I thought he was ok against TB but I think he will get chewed up vs. Bos and I hope to see Murray in there against Bos. Dang I love/hate this series!!

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