The Detroit Red Wings brought a quick, skilled game to the ice that required the Boston Bruins to play well in transition and use their physicality to their advantage. The hated Montreal Canadiens will bring a similar style to the ice when they take on the Bruins in the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
While Pavel Datsyuk was able to get to the Bruins, he was essentially the only Detroit forward that could muster anything during the five game series. Their young talent was shut down and their speed on transition was negated. While the Canadiens don’t exactly have a Datsyuk-like wizard up front, they have playmakers and scorers on their top three lines, just as Boston does.
Max Pacioretty has established himself as one of the NHL’s top goal scorers since the infamous incident involving Zdeno Chara and the Montreal Police Department. With 39 goals in just 73 games this season, the 25-year-old American Olympian is a dangerous weapon on the left wing.
Obviously to Bruins fans’ dismay, the addition of Thomas Vanek at the trade deadline has the potential of being a very smart decision on the Canadiens’ part. The notorious Bruins killer has 62 points in 55 games against Boston and will look to keep that up this series. He racked up 15 points in 18 games since being acquired by Montreal and had three points against Tampa Bay in the first round.
Former Norris Trophy winner P.K. Subban is always a threat on the point and had a strong series against the Lightning. He may be trying to prove himself as an elite defenseman to Bruins coach and Canadian defensive coach, Claude Juilen, who barely played Subban in the Olympics. Subban has nothing to prove on the offensive end, but still has weaknesses in his own end. The Bruins will do their best to exploit the offensively-minded blueliner and make sure Julien was right in his Olympic coaching decisions.
Both teams may have a little to worry about on the goaltending front. Tuukka Rask, who is off to a terrific start this playoffs, has a horrendous history against the Canadiens. Rask only has three career wins against Montreal while posting a 2.63 GAA and .908% save percentage, both significantly worse than his career averages.
The Canadiens on the other hand are dealing with a less-than-healthy Carey Price, who has been banged up since the Olympics. TSN Canada radio host Tony Marinaro reported that Price was getting treatment following Montreal’s sweep of the Lightning. He claims Price is not 100% and is not sure if he would be playing if this was the regular season. Price wasn’t terrific in the sweep of Tampa Bay, posting a .904% save percentage, which is comparable to his playoff career save percentage of .905%.
The Bruins haven’t been great against the Canadiens the past two seasons, losing three of the four contests both years. The playoffs is a much different atmosphere though, as the Bruins proved last round against the Red Wings. However, if the Canadiens force the Bruins to get away from playing their physical style and chase Montreal around in circles, it will be a very difficult series.
Good news for the Bruins is that Daniel Paille will be back, which adds speed to both 5 on 5 play and the penalty kill. Jordan Caron will likely be sent back up to the eighth floor as a healthy scratch. Also, Dennis Seidenberg practiced with the team, as he continues to show improvement after tearing his ACL just four months ago. We’ve seen a few players rush back into playoff action ahead of their timetables so far, including Henrik Zetterberg, Vladamir Tarasenko, and Matt Duchene. There’s no doubt that Seidenberg is dying to get into the action, but we will have to wait and see how he progresses and how the coaching staff addresses the situation.
The first game of the series will be in Boston, Thursday night at 7:30. Be sure to look at the pace of play early on in the series, as both teams will be trying to set the tone.