Thursday, December 5, 2013

Bruins-Canadiens Rivalry Renewed Thursday Night

The Boston Bruins will cross over into the Great White North Thursday night to take on their arch rivals, the Montreal Canadiens.

It will be the first match-up of the year for these two, and for both teams, it is a must-win game.  While the Bruins remain top dog in the Atlantic division, the Habs have gone 8-1-1 over their last 10, and have won three in a row coming into a three-game homestand.  The B's have 38 points on the season with a 18-7-2 record, but the hated Habs are hot on their heels with 37 points from a 17-9-3.

So what can we expect from this game?

Both, to the crowd's delight and coaches' dismay, will look to get their physical games going early, which will inevitably lead to some odd-man rushes, but barring a complete defensive meltdown, don't expect too many goals to get by Carey Price or Tuukka Rask.  The two netminders are third and fourth in the entire league for save percentage (.937, .935) and sixth and fifth in the league for their goals against average (2.00, 1.90) respectively.

Offensively, both teams average under three goals scored per game, Boston with 2.74 and Montreal with 2.69, and are the top two in North America with 1.96 and 2.03 goals allowed per game figures.  Both teams have an .824 winning percentage when scoring first.  So where do these teams differ?

Montreal makes their money is with the play of their specialty units.  When the Habs power play takes the ice, they are scoring nearly a quarter of the time, and their penalty kill has been stalwart with an 86 percent success rate.  They look to the play of their young guns, namely linemates Brendan Gallagher and Alex Galchenyuk who have combined for 15 goals on the season and this weird pumpkin carving contest.

The Bruins sport a plus-20 goal differential and have overcome several injuries that have forced players to miss time like Loui Eriksson, Adam McQuaid and Dennis Seidenberg.  They are just as hot as the Canadiens, going 7-2-1 in their last 10 and winning two straight.

Boston Red Sox manager John Farrell said several times throughout his team's World Series run that there were some games and situations that looked bleak, but his team stuck to their motto and rallying cry of: "find a way."  And that is what the Bruins have done this season.  Through injuries and bad bounces, this team has refused to stay down.  They were trounced by the Detroit Red Wings 6-1, dragged themselves to practice the next day (on Thanksgiving, no less), and two days later led a spirited comeback against the New York Rangers.

They don't rely on one player or one line.  Boston can roll four lines, and get production from the blazing one-timers by Jarome Iginla or the sneaky wristers launched by Shawn Thornton. They struggled early, but have found ways to complete a 60 minute game, and could be deadly if Montreal gets caught on long shifts.

Puck drops at 7:30.  To get your mind right for the game, check out the rivalry game of the century in the video above.  Hard to believe that was almost three years ago.

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