The heat is on in Montreal, and the Boston Bruins have a chance to add to their longtime rivals’ recent suffering Thursday night.
The Bruins and Canadiens will renew their rivalry for just the second time this season and the first at TD Garden, and they’ll do so with the two teams heading in opposite directions. The Bruins come in playing some of their best hockey of the year. They’ve won four in a row and five of six, with the lone setback coming in the shootout to the Chicago Blackhawks.
The Canadiens, meanwhile, can’t seem to get out of their own way right now. The Habs did win their most recent game — 3-0 over Carolina on Tuesday — with that victory ending a brutal four-game losing streak. Montreal was outscored 19-5 during that skid, with the low point the final game of the streak. The Habs were embarrassed Saturday night in front of their home crowd while being pasted 5-0 by the Washington Capitals. That’s the same Capitals team, of course, that had lost seven in a row coming into Saturday.
The Canadiens were down 4-0 at the end of the second period in that game, and Washington had outshot Montreal 27-9. By night’s end, the Bell Centre crowd was booing the Habs off the ice.
“It’s embarrassing to be at home and play the way we did,” defenseman Josh Gorges said afterward. “We have nobody to blame except ourselves, and we have to be a lot more resilient moving forward.”
The win over the Hurricanes was a step in the right direction, but it was still far from dominant despite the 3-0 final score. The Canes still outshot the Canadiens 36-30, and the total chances (shots attempted) were even more one-sided, with Washington holding the 75-48 advantage.
It’s really difficult to win with such a huge discrepancy in chances and puck possession. Teams can’t score without having and shooting the puck at the other team’s net. One thing that can sometimes counteract that is strong goalie play, and the Habs got that out of Carey Price against Carolina. But that hasn’t been the case lately. Price’s save percentage in his 11 appearances leading up to the win in Carolina was just .861, a solid 60 points below his percentage for the entire season. Price certainly has cooled off after his incredible start, and it’s definitely catching up with the Habs.
The Bruins probably aren’t the team the Canadiens want to face right now. The B’s are one of the league’s best when it comes to puck possession, and, as mentioned already, they are playing some very good hockey right now. Boston has scored six goals in each of its last three games, peppering the opposition with an average of 37 shots per game.
Unsurprisingly, however, the Bruins aren’t concerned about what’s going on with their bitter rivals. They’re more focused on what they need to do to keep winning hockey games.
“I think right now it’s really important that we continue to look at our game,” Bruins coach Claude Julien said after his team’s win Tuesday night. “Our game’s been good, but it’s always a good game against the Montreal Canadiens, and it’s always been a great rivalry. But let’s not look at it so much as a rivalry more than we need to continue bringing our game to the table every night that we’re playing this week, and finish it off on a good note here with five games left before the Olympic break. And that’s where our whole focus is, and you’ve got to try to not get dragged into this big build-up that we have every time we play them.”