BOSTON — One of the goals with the NHL’s new playoff format for the 2013-14 season was to create more matchups between division rivals in the first two rounds.
As a result of that change, the league’s two most intense rivals, the Boston Bruins and Montreal Canadiens, will square off in Round 2 for a record 34th time. The Bruins finished off a five-game series triumph over the Detroit Red Wings with a 4-2 victory Saturday afternoon at TD Garden, while the Habs swept the Tampa Bay Lightning earlier in the week.
“They changed the schedule so we don’t face (the Canadiens) six times a year now, but still we’re pretty familiar from playing them,” said Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask after Game 5. “I guess when they changed these playoffs, I guess they want the rivalries to be in the second round…”
When the Bruins last won the Stanley Cup in 2011, they defeated the Canadiens in a classic first-round series that ended with a Nathan Horton goal in overtime of Game 7. Just like that series, Boston has the home ice advantage, but Montreal will be confident at the Garden after winning both games in Boston during the regular season.
“(It’s the) fourth time now since 2008 that we face (Montreal) here in the playoffs, first time that it isn’t a first-round matchup,” Bruins forward Milan Lucic said. “So another Original Six battle that we get to be a part of and a lot of hatred between the teams, the fans, the cities when it comes to this kind of rivalry, so we expect them to bring their best. We saw what they were able to do (against Tampa Bay).”
The difference in the upcoming Bruins-Habs series likely will be special teams, which is always a huge factor when these teams play. Here’s how the Bruins and Canadiens compare in special teams success through Round 1.
|Team||Power Play (NHL Rank)||Penalty Kill (NHL Rank)|
|Bruins||6-for-16, 37.5% (1st)||18-for-20, 90% (4th)|
|Canadiens||2-for-13, 15.4% (11th)||5-for-7, 71.4% (15th)|
The intensity of this rivalry creates a lot of post-whistle scrums, retaliation penalties and fights. The Canadiens did a tremendous job getting under the Bruins’ skin during the regular season, and they used it to their advantage by capitalizing on the power play.
Boston must keeps its composure and stay out of the penalty box because Montreal has several highly skilled players — specifically 39-goal scorer Max Pacioretty, noted Bruins killer Thomas Vanek and reigning Norris Trophy-winning D-man P.K. Subban — who are capable of scoring goals and generating offense with the man advantage. The Bruins are the best five-on-five team in the league, but they won’t be able to establish their physical style of play if the Canadiens are consistently on the power play.
Montreal was 12-for-13 in short-handed situations against Boston during the regular season, and it’s going to take a similar level of success to defeat Boston in a Best-of-7 series.
“We worked really hard this season to have a better power play, and we’ve got to continue to do that,” Bruins captain Zdeno Chara said. “Like everything else, you can’t be just relying on power plays. I think that the penalty kill is doing a good job for us as well. We’ve got to continue to do our job five-on-five, all the zones; pretty much we can’t just be looking at ‘OK we’re going to wait for a power play to count on’ – even if it’s better, which is nice. We scored some goals this series being on power plays but we can’t be just relying on that.”
The Bruins will get a well-deserved day off Sunday before getting to work on preparing for the Canadiens.