The Boston Bruins bring out the best in the Montreal Canadiens. Arguably the NHL’s greatest rivalry has been decidedly one-sided in favor of the Habs with Montreal owning a 10–2–0 record against Boston over the last three regular seasons.
On Sunday night, Montreal completed its four-game regular season sweep of Boston with a near-perfect 3–1 win at TD Garden in Boston.
The Habs beat the Bruins with their team speed, skill, and discipline. Montreal didn’t take a single penalty and used its speed to close down Boston. When down 2–1 late in the third, Boston pulled goalie Tuukka Rask, but could not establish any possession in Montreal’s end.
Canadiens coach Michel Therrien called it a “good team victory” in his postmatch scrum broadcast in French on RDS.
“We don’t have a complex when we come and play here,” said first-line centre David Desharnais who is back playing with Max Pacioretty and hero of the hour Dale Weise.
Instrumental to Montreal’s success against the Bruins has been Weise. Weise, along with the team’s leading scorer Pacioretty, had a goal and an assist. Weise also had a goal and an assist in a 5–1 victory over the Bruins on Nov. 13, 2014.
During the series, Habs goaltender Carey Price went through a period of 159 minutes and 25 seconds of shutting out the Bruins. The goal Boston scored on Sunday to break the streak barely crossed the line and needed a review by the officials to make sure it did.
Matchup Working for Habs
Rask has been one of the NHL’s top goalies in recent years and won the Vezina Trophy last season. He has a stellar 125–73–29 career regular season record, but against Montreal, he’s 3–13–3.
“We have a tendency to shoot ourselves in the foot, for whatever reason, against them and the kind of goals we give them are certainly not the kind of goals you see from our team most of the time,” Bruins coach Claude Julien said to NHL.com reporters.
But the Canadiens didn’t capitalize on the three penalties Boston took. It was the first game this season that Montreal didn’t score a power play goal against Boston. Throughout the four-game season series, Montreal has given Boston only eight chances with the man-advantage whereas the Bruins have given the Canadiens 14. Montreal outscored Boston on the power play 4–2 over the regular season series.
Of the players who dressed on Sunday, Boston’s defensemen were, on average, three inches taller and 17 pounds heavier than Montreal’s forwards. They were also nearly four years older.
In terms of individual matchups, Chara, 37, was a liability as Habs forwards routinely evaded him and made plays. Chara and partner Dougie Hamilton were both -2 in plus/minus and got their wires crossed on Pacioretty’s game-winner. Chara also lost track of Weise on Montreal’s opener.
“It’s disappointing to see them lose races to the puck,” said Julien when discussing his team in the one-on-one battles.
Perhaps playing into Boston’s lack of success against Montreal this year is that all four of their encounters were their second game of a two games in two nights situation. This was the first time Montreal had to face Boston for its second game in two nights, however.
All that being said, regular season hockey is one thing, but playoff hockey is another thing altogether. Fewer penalties tend to be called in the playoffs and facing the same team in a best-of-seven series takes out scheduling differences. Last year Montreal needed a seventh game to get past Boston in the Eastern Conference semifinal.
“We’re very conscious that playoffs is a whole new ball game,” Therrien said. He seemed to downplay the regular season series sweep. “Take it one game at a time. There’s still a lot of hockey to play.”
Next year in an added twist, Montreal and Boston will feature in the Winter Classic on Jan. 1, 2016 at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass., which will likely be the most-watched regular season game of their historic, but recently one-sided rivalry.
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