Bruins vs Canadiens: 2014 Stanley Cup playoffs Round 2 preview and prediction

The Boston Bruins and the Montreal Canadiens have met thirty-three times in Stanley Cup playoffs history. No two franchises have warred in the spring as often.

It’s a pretty big rivalry. Wikipedia even has a separate page for it, and that page is full of interesting information about the years of enmity shared between these two great hockey adversaries.

The Canadiens won the 2013-14 season series 3-1, which included a late-season shootout win where the Bruins hemmed the Habs in their own zone for long stretches of playing time, but couldn’t score more than one goal against Canadiens’ backup goaltender Peter Budaj.

In that late March game, the Canadiens’ defence corps blocked or put stick to, many of Boston’s third-period attempts at goal. Montreal won 2-1 in a shootout. I imagine the looming Bruins-Canadiens second-round series will be much of the same: the Bruins will carry the play most often, but they’ll have trouble scoring against Montreal’s stingy defence and gritty second effort.

There are so many great one-on-one mini battles that will occur in this series. And perhaps the team that wins the most individual wars will be first to four victories.

Two of hockey’s peskiest pests — Brad Marchand and Brendan Gallagher will dive, stick, sneak, chirp and annoy each other, as well as, everyone else on the ice and even people watching at home on television, too.

Bruins’ giant Zdeno Chara and Habs’ electrifier P. K. Subban will be booed in the enemy rink, and praised on home ice. They are polarizing figures, both, because they’re great players who aren’t scared to hurt feelings out on the ice. Both these former Norris Trophy winners can end a game, or a series, with a point shot bomb or a moment of brilliance when the scenario calls for a hero’s imposition.

Tuukka Rask and Carey Price will man the cages. They might be the two best goaltenders in the NHL. They’re certainly in the conversation, at the very least — both have been strongly considered for the Vezina Trophy this season, and Rask is the favourite to win it. It could be that the better puck stopper decides the winner of the thirty-fourth instalment of Bruins-Canadiens, but I’m not convinced one team has a goaltending advantage over the other.

The last time these historic franchises met in the postseason was the first-round of the 2011 Stanley Cup playoffs. Carey Price doesn’t earn enough credit for how well he played in that seven game classic because his Habs lost, but he and Bruins goaltender Tim Thomas put on a clinic, nightly. History remembers the victors.

The Bruins won the Stanley Cup that year, beating the Vancouver Canucks in seven games. It was the franchise’s sixth championship. The reason the Bruins haven’t won more Stanley Cup titles is simple: the Montreal Canadiens.

I wasn’t alive for it, and you may not have been either, but many who walk amongst us still remember watching the great Bruins-Canadiens rivalry of the 1970s, a decade that saw the two organizations win eight Cups in ten years. The Habs won six; the Bruins two.

The Bruins and Canadiens played less remembered epics in the 1980s and early ’90s, when they met in the postseason every year from 1984 to 1992. Often, it was the winner of Bruins-Habs that made the Cup Final back then.

Between 1986 and 1990, the only Final that did not include Boston or Montreal was the Oilers’ 1987 championship win over Pat Quinn’s Philadelphia Flyers.

The Canadiens beat the Flames in the 1986 Final, and lost to them in the ’89 Final; the only time an opposing team has ever hoisted the Cup in the Montreal forum.

Conversely, the Bruins were a step-behind in the 1988 and ’90 Finals, both losses to the Edmonton Oilers.

Nostalgia makes sports franchises more intriguing, and playoff series’ too. Think Yankees-Red Sox, Lakers-Celtics — in hockey, Canadiens-Bruins is the quintessential series.

As hockey fans, we’re lucky the Bruins and the Canadiens are playing in the second-round of the 2014 Stanley Cup playoffs. Whenever they play, there is an element of magic in the air that is not detected when say, Tampa Bay touches skates to Bell Centre ice in Montreal.

The history, rivalry, and even the beautiful clash of jersey colours make this series almost feel like it’s more important than the other ones. There is even something special about the teams’ classic jerseys; they look their best while on the same ice at the same time.

Sal’s Prediction: Bruins in 7.

The Boston Bruins love Game 7, or at least they give that impression by having played so many in recent years. I believe the Canadiens will give Boston all it can handle, but they’ll lose the seventh at the TD Garden to a deeper Bruins club.