Tradition. You got it? These two do.
Allow me to set the stage
(Dim lights, Enter Morgan Freeman)
Freeman: One a ferocious, mean beast. The other, one of the few finesse from the East. Two storied franchises. One series
Freeman over clips: Cam Neely, Bobby Orr, Guy Lafleur, the one they called the Rocket, are just a few of the greats who have donned the colors. The history gone but not forgotten and the once dormant rivalry is again rearing its nasty head.
Freeman: The Slovak behemoth, the young gun reminiscent of the great Orr. Different names, same story. The Boston Bruins and the Montreal Canadiens.
(Back to Freeman)
(Fade to black)
I guarantee that what I picture in my mind is 100 times better than whatever Versus or the NHL will come up with to market this series. I had Requium for a Dream by a full orchestra accompanying Mr. Freeman. Anyway, I think that sufficiently captures the epicness (not a real word) of this series.
This will be the 33rd time these franchises meet in the playoffs. – But Rob, why didn’t you just say teams? Its way shorter you know. You could have saved a lot of time. – Hey, I have a good idea guy in my head, shut up. I used the word franchise for a reason. This year marks the first time that these teams, with these players, will meet in the playoffs, and history aside, it is one hell of a rivalry. The season series has been one of the most intriguing regular season stories this year. With two line brawls, a goalie fight, a nasty blowout, an OT thriller and the most controversial hit of the season these two teams have learned what it means to hate an opponent.
Players on each side have said something along the lines of “everything starts over in the playoffs.” I don’t buy it. These two teams might be able to play nice for a game or two, but the events from earlier this season will be lurking just below the surface. One little incident, a big, clean hit, a word, snow directed at a goalie, will be all it takes to start the mayhem.
That being said, there is more to this series than the bad blood. These are two teams who thoroughly deserve to be in the playoffs. The Habs come into the playoffs riding the stick of rookie d-man PK Subban. He has 30 GWG in his last 32 games or something ridiculous like that. The Bruins have been led by the dynamic goaltending duo of Tim Thomas (he has been the best goalie in the league this year, statistically) and Tuuka Rask. These teams have interesting dynamics, and I’ll start with the Bruins.
Look at just about any team in the league and you will be able to pick out anywhere from one to three true stars up front. I can’t say the same thing about the Bruins. The best my resident die-hard Bruins fan could come up with was David Krejci who put up 13 goals and 49 assists this year. Those are not star numbers. The Bruins do not have one player in the top 25 in scoring this year, yet they maintained an Eastern Conference high +51 goal differential. I’ve watched the Bruins probably 30 times this year, and I have yet to see a pretty goal. They don’t have stars or many finesse skill players, but their grit more than makes up for it. With guys like Milan Lucic, Nathan Hornton, Shawn Thornton, Zdeno Chara and Brad Marchand this team is full of guys who know how to get under the opponents skin and in their heads. They have eight players with 40 or more points, that’s pretty good.
The Habs are a different animal, and pretty unique in the physically tighter Eastern Conference. In my experience watching them this year it appears that they play a more Western game. The East features a small number of free flowing teams, and the Habs are one of the few. They have a lot of guys who like to possess the puck (think Plekanec, Gomez, Gionta, Cammalleri) and solid, puck moving defensemen. With three D-men carrying more than 30 points into the post season, the Habs have enjoyed ample offensive production from the back line. In a recent NHL.com article several “experts” pointed to the fact that there is a shortage of good puck moving defensemen in the East as one of the reasons the East has not fared well against the West this year. Montreal has three productive ones in Subban, Hamrlik and Wiseniewski, and that’s without one of the premier puck movers in the league, Andrei Markov, who has missed most of the year with a knee injury. We will see neither of him, nor Max Pacioretty, this post season and that seriously detracts from their chances.
The series Habs took 4 of 6 from the Bruins in the regular season, and only one in OT, but I think that the nature of the playoffs fits the Bruins better. They are a tougher team, plain and simple, and as the game gets tighter in the playoffs the Canadiens speed will not be enough to counter the Bruins ability to play in tight areas. I expect this series to be highly penalized and extremely low scoring with the games won and lost in the one on one battles. Thomas’s consistency will also play a large role. Despite his out of this world numbers, consistency has been a bit of an issue for the net minder. The styles of these teams clash, but the Bruins are better suited for the playoffs. Verdict: Bruins in 6.