Boston Bruins: Canadiens pose good test for team

The Boston Bruins are winless in two games this season against their rivals, the Montreal Canadiens.  In fact, with their two losses so far this season, the Bruins have not beaten the Canadiens in their last five meetings.

Montreal is a very fast and athletic team that can take away passing lanes in the neutral zone, making it tough for Boston to gain entry into the offensive zone with any momentum.  When opponents are able to keep the Bruins from attacking with speed through the neutral zone often times the result is the Boston skaters looking slow and unable to create scoring chances on a consistent basis.  Using that formula, Montreal has dominated this rivalry as of late.

The Bruins hope that trend ends in their next meeting against the Canadiens tonight at 7:30 p.m. ET at the Bell Centre in Montreal.  If Boston can play like they have recently, 5-0-0 in their last five games, they will likely be able to end Montreal’s winning streak against them.

The team is in the midst of one of their hottest offensive stretches of the season, averaging 4.4 goals a game during their current winning streaks.  They have also outshot their opponents 189-124 which is indicative of how dominant they have been on offense as well as how solid they have been on defense.

After a shaky return from the Olympic break, in which they gave up numerous odd-man rushes and nine goals in two-games, the Bruins blue line has gotten back to playing like they were heading into the break.  A big reason for their turn around has been their decision-making and passing.  Making fewer mental mistakes has drastically reduced the number of odd-man rushes opponents have been getting and the improved passing has helped by reducing the amount of turnovers the defensemen were making.

One Bruins player in particular will have to play better than he has against the Canadiens if they hope to extend their winning streak to six in a row and that is Tuukka Rask.  Rask was pulled midway through the game in January against the Habs after he allowed three goals on only 18 shots.  That loss only added to Rask’s poor numbers against Montreal as his record dropped to 2-10-2 against them, with a 2.88 goals against average and a .900 save percentage.

Boston Bruins

Rask has struggled in his career against the Canadiens, posting a 2-10-2 record.

While the Bruins come into tonight’s game with basically the same roster that has lost to the Canadiens twice this year, Montreal added a big name at the trade deadline, Thomas Vanek.  Although Vanek is a great player and his overall abilities would make him an attractive player for any team, it is no coincidence that Montreal GM Marc Bergevin targeted a player that has incredible career stats against the Bruins.  In 53 career games against Boston, Vanek has 30 goals and 61 points and is a plus-21.

Although Bruins players and coaches have been reciting the old cliché “it’s just another game” to the media, there always seems to be a little extra motivation for the players when these two teams meet.

If Boston is able to pass the test Montreal posses this time around, it will be a huge confidence boost for the team going into the final 17 games of the regular season.