The Bruins are in the midst of one of their worst scoring droughts and stretches of power-play futility in recent memory. The team that finished first in defense and second in scoring overall last season has finally found its defensive game, but the offense may as well be a topic or theme in the next season of Lost.
On Thursday night, "The Others" invade the TD Garden, and a game with the archrival Canadiens may be just what the Bruins need to escape this island of offensive futility.
Sure, there will be questions on why they haven’t scored a power-play goal in five games and why their power play is dead last in the NHL, scoring at a measly 11.5 percent clip. There may even be mention of Phil Kessel’s debut in Toronto and questions of whether the Bruins miss his dynamic offensive skills as much as their play indicates right now.
But there will also be questions regarding a memorable moment for a lot of Bruins players and head coach Claude Julien. Those memories are of the sweep and recent domination of a team that only two seasons ago had Boston's number. Three seasons ago, Montreal fired Julien despite his winning record as head coach at the time.
The Bruins have not lost to the Canadiens in regulation since Game 7 of the 2008 Eastern Conference quarterfinals on April 21 at the Bell Centre. Riots broke out in the streets of Montreal that night, but just over a year later, on April 22, 2009, those same streets were quiet as the Bruins exacted revenge and completed their first sweep of the Canadiens since 1992, when Peter Douris scored an empty-net goal to send the old Boston Garden into hysteria.
Now these two teams meet for the first time in 2009-10, and both are searching for identities. The Bruins look nothing like the team that swept the Canadiens last April, and the Habs have struggled to jell with so many new faces. But it will only be a matter of time before such newcomers as the Habs' leading scorer Michael Cammalleri or Brian Gionta figure out the uniqueness of this rivalry. They'll soon know what it can do for the psyche of a team that is trying to bury a forgettable centennial celebration.
Canadiens goaltender Carey Price knows all about the rivalry. Last spring at the Bell Centre during Game 4, he had to silence Bronx cheers with a "Patrick Roy" wave of the arms to disgruntled fans who prematurely deemed him a savior. Chances are, after a 5-4 loss to Atlanta at the Bell Centre, Price (2-6-0) may not get the nod in net. But new head coach Jacques Martin may want to consider what a win over the Bruins could do for his confidence.
Could players such as Michael Ryder and Steve Begin decide to prove the Montreal brass wrong for letting them go. Maybe Zdeno Chara delivers a performance such as the one he had last Saturday against Edmontonto and shuts up the throngs of Habs fans that always invade the Garden. Who knows? Maybe the sight of bleu, blanc et rouge makes Dennis Wideman play like the defenseman who had four points in three games during that sweep of Montreal.
One thing is for sure: This rivalry tends to bring out emotion and heart, and with the Bruins (6-7-1) coming in trailing the Habs (7-8-0) by a point in the standings, this game has the potential to mean more than most early November games. Both teams are trying to make it off an island where the goals aren't coming, and this game could lead the winner in the right direction.
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