Bruins: Montreal Canadiens

NEW YORK -- Given the handshake line seen around the world last spring, you better believe many players on both the Montreal Canadiens and Boston Bruins knew their first encounter this season was Oct. 16.

After a drama-filled seven-game series last spring between the two rivals, capped by Bruins winger Milan Lucic sharing his love for the Canadiens in the handshake line -- we jest, of course; heated words were exchanged with several players -- the Oct. 16 game in Montreal is certainly must-watch TV.

"Absolutely, it's going to be a lot of fun," Canadiens star winger Max Pacioretty told Tuesday during the player tour media event.

"After a series like that, there's tons of emotions. It might have been build up a little bit more than what it really was. But at the same time, they’re a great team. That’s our measuring stick team. We play against them so many times a year, they’re one of the best teams and you really can tell a lot about your team by how you measure up against the Boston Bruins. They contend every year. We get a little bit more of the juices flowing when we play against a team like that. We definitely have a lot to prove when we play a team like that."

Teammate P.K. Subban echoed the respect the Canadiens have for the Bruins, but also said the emotion and intensity between the two rivals is absolutely genuine.

"We don’t need to sugar coat it, there was a big deal made about the comments that Lucic made in the line," Subban told Tuesday during his player tour interview. "But I mean, this is hockey, this is professional sports. There’s mutual respect between all players. That series got heated. And I think it’s good for the game, it’s good for the fans to know that these guys are making millions of dollars but it’s real, guys want to win. It’s competitive. At the end of the day we still want to send kids the message of sportsmanship, but this is professional hockey. I'm not going into that game thinking about was said in the handshake line. We're just trying to win. Lucic is a big enough guy anyway that I’m sure if anyone wanted to justify it, he’d be willing to answer it. But all in all, the rivalry that's rekindled over the last few years has been great for hockey."

Asked about Shawn Thornton no longer being with the Bruins (he signed with the Panthers) to squirt him with a water bottle, Subban didn't miss a beat: "Well, I don't mind him squirting me with water in Florida because it's hot there."

The Habs upset the Bruins last spring in the second round before losing to the New York Rangers in the Eastern Conference finals, a successful season by any measure for a Habs team not picked by most to contend.

And yet, lots of changes in the offseason, the team getting younger after parting ways with veterans such as Brian Gionta, Josh Gorges and Daniel Briere.

Gionta’s free-agent departure opens up the captaincy in Montreal, and it’s expected head coach Michel Therrien will name his new captain at the end of the training camp or around that time.

Both the names of Pacioretty and Subban have been in the mix from fans and media as far as candidates to be the next captain, along with the likes of Tomas Plekanec, David Desharnais, Andrei Markov et al.

"It’s already an honor just to be in the conversation, but I know I have to step up and help lead this team no matter if there’s a letter on this sweater or not," said Pacioretty, 25, Montreal's leading scorer last season. "I feel like I'm ready for it. When Gorges and Gio were here, you don’t want to step on any toes, you want the leaders to lead and want them to be able to do their thing. But now that they’re gone, I think there’s a big gap to fill right now. I hope to be able to do so. Whoever does have the 'C' on their sweater, he's going to have a lot of help. We know a lot of guys in the room that can lead, guys who have been on Stanley Cup teams. So I think whoever gets the letter, he’ll get help."

Like Pacioretty, Subban didn’t hide what it would mean to him if he were ever named captain of the Habs.

"Obviously, I would want that honor," Subban said. "I don't think anybody sees me as a player that would shy away from that type of responsibility. Not more money, not more ice time, but more responsibility given to a player, in my opinion, makes him better. For a player that’s going to be in Montreal for a minimum eight years time, to be considered a leader of this franchise and a leader of this team, would be a great deal of responsibility but it’s exciting you could be a guy to help lead your team to a Stanley Cup."

Subban recalled a phone call he got after signing his new contract this summer from the wife of Habs legend Jean Beliveau.

"She congratulated me on the new contract, was very complimentary, and very excited to know that she'll be watching me for the next eight years," said Subban. "She spoke on Jean's behalf as well. To me that was very flattering. To be able to wear the 'C' like one of my idols Jean Beliveau, that would be a great honor."

Rapid Reaction: Canadiens 3, Bruins 1

May, 14, 2014

BOSTON -- The most promising season in recent history for the Boston Bruins came to a premature halt Wednesday night at TD Garden, as the Montreal Canadiens got a 3-1 victory in Game 7 of the second-round Stanley Cup playoff series.

The Canadiens now will face the New York Rangers in the Eastern Conference finals.

The Bruins are known for dramatic postseason comebacks, but this time Boston couldn't erase a two-goal deficit, and the Canadiens celebrated on TD Garden ice.

Boston looked tired and couldn't keep up with Montreal. Defensively, the Bruins weren't at their best, and the Canadiens took advantage.

Montreal received goals from Dale Weise, Max Pacioretty and Daniel Briere, while goaltender Carey Price finished with 29 saves.

The Bruins' Jarome Iginla scored a power-play goal, and Tuukka Rask made 15 saves.

The Bruins played one of their worst periods of the playoffs in the first 20 minutes, and it didn't take Montreal long to capitalize. The Canadiens gained a 1-0 lead at 2:18 of the first period after a defensive breakdown by the Bruins. While Boston was attempting to play the physical game and set the tone early, the Canadiens used quick puck movement before Weise provided Montreal's first tally. The play started when the Bruins failed to get the puck deep off a neutral zone faceoff, and in transition the Canadiens dumped the puck in and won the puck battle. Bruins forward Gregory Campbell took the body instead of his man in the corner to Rask's right. Daniel Briere made a cross-crease pass to Weise, who netted the backdoor goal. Both Daniel Paille and Matt Bartkowski were stationary in front as Weise scored.

The Bruins couldn't generate much in the first period. Boston's Jarome Iginla had a decent scoring chance, but Price made the save. Then, at the 19-minute mark, the Bruins' Brad Marchand was on the doorstep, but his shot sailed over the net. What was worse for Boston was it committed seven turnovers in the first period.

The Canadiens continued to buzz and kept the pressure on in the second period. Rask was left to make a few timely saves in the first half of the second period, but Montreal once again capitalized on a failed breakout attempt by Boston and gained a 2-0 lead at 10:22. Montreal collected the loose puck and created a quick 2-on-1 that ended with Pacioretty's one-timer from the right faceoff dot that beat a sprawling Rask.

When things appeared bleak for the Bruins, Boston received a power play late in the second period and finally capitalized to cut its deficit by a goal. Bruins defenseman Torey Krug took a shot from the top of the left faceoff circle as Iginla quickly made it to the front of the net and redirected the puck past Price at 17:58.

After killing off the remaining 1:15 of a penalty to start the third period, the Bruins created better chances. During one surge four minutes into the period, Iginla's backhand attempt in the midst of a scramble hit the outside of the post.

The Bruins continued their charge, but an interference penalty on defenseman Johnny Boychuk allowed Montreal to score a power-play goal late in the third period when a shot redirected off Zdeno Chara's skate and past Rask for a 3-1 lead at 17:07.

Game 7 provided another example of how the Presidents' Trophy means nothing other than home-ice advantage.

W2W4: Bruins-Canadiens Game 7, 7 p.m.

May, 14, 2014
BOSTON -- When the Bruins and Canadiens face off in Game 7 on Wednesday night (7 ET) at TD Garden, it will be an epic battle, another chapter in an already storied history. This will be the ninth Game 7 between the organizations, which is the most in all of the major pro sports.

“I expect us to win, simple as that,” said Bruins coach Claude Julien, whose team lost 4-0 in Game 6 in Montreal on Monday night. “Our team has been resilient at rebounds with losses, it’s done that all year. So it’s about having confidence in your group, and that I have lots of.”

The winner will face the New York Rangers in the Eastern Conference finals, which will likely begin Saturday afternoon.

“I’m excited, for sure,” said Montreal coach Michel Therrien. “But for us, Game 6 in Montreal was the same thing. It’s a matter of attitude. I believe we’ve got the right frame of mind, and the right mindset for Game 6. The attitude was there and I saw a bunch of guys yesterday with the same attitude, and this morning again. ... It was a huge challenge for us back home [in Game 6], and it’s another huge challenge for us tonight.”

Here’s what to watch for in Game 7:

Cash in: Too many times in this series the Bruins have been on the receiving end of a few unlucky bounces. Too many times they hit a post or crossbar, or missed an open net. The Bruins need to keep creating those chances ... and bury them this time.

“When you win the Stanley Cup, you have played some of your best hockey, but you have also had the breaks,” Julien said. “I’ll be the first one to tell you, if we don’t have a little bit of luck when we want it, then we don’t win the Cup [in 2011]. So it all comes with the package here. We have to play our best. We have to get some breaks and a little bit of luck. If you get all of those things, your chances are good but most importantly is control what you can control. I think our effort and our game tonight is something that is in our own hands and then you just have to hope that the other things follow.”

Boston’s third liners, specifically Carl Soderberg and Loui Eriksson, have tested the iron more than once in this series, so look for either one of them, or both, to sneak one past Montreal goalie Carey Price.

K.O. P.K.: The Bruins need to hit Montreal defenseman P.K. Subban early and often. Bruins forward Shawn Thornton did exactly that during Game 7 between these two teams in 2011, and it set the tone. Subban has been arguably the best player in this series and he’s confident Montreal can win Game 7 on TD Garden ice. Boston needs to be in his face as much as possible tonight.

“P.K. Subban’s been phenomenal since the playoffs started, even at the end of the season,” Therrien said. “He’s a gamer. He’s a guy that will bring his team to a new level, another level when the games count. He’s been a leader on the ice.”

The Canadiens have fed off Subban’s energy. That needs to end Wednesday night.

Masked men: The team that will win Game 7 will be the team whose goalie plays better. It sounds elementary, but it’s true. The Bruins’ Tuukka Rask is 1-1 with a 3.87 goals-against average in two career Game 7s. Price is 1-1 with a 1.91 GAA and one shutout in two career Game 7s. While both have played well in this series, Price’s play has stood out. But if Rask plays his best game, the Bruins will win.

Seven facts about NHL Game 7s

May, 14, 2014
1. The team scoring the first goal in Game 7 has won 113 of the 153 games (73.9 pct).

2. Home teams are 91-62 in Game 7s (59.5 percent).

3. Game 7 has gone into overtime 38 times. The home team has won 19 times and the road team has won 19 times.

4. The longest Game 7 overtime was the 1987 DSF with the New York Islanders beating the Washington Capitals at 68:47 (Pat LaFontaine goal).

5. The shortest Game 7 overtime was the 2004 CQF with the Calgary Flames beating the Vancouver Canucks at 1:25 (Martin Gelinas goal).

6. Of the 38 overtime games in Game 7, eight have been decided in double OT, one in triple OT and one in a 4-OT game.

7. Oldest player to score a Game 7 goal? Boston’s Mark Recchi, who scored a goal in 2011 against Montreal at age 43.
BOSTON -- Desperation was the buzzword in the Bruins’ dressing room Tuesday as this Stanley Cup playoff series between Boston and archrival Montreal nears its apex: Game 7.

Prior to Monday night’s elimination game at the Bell Centre, the Bruins clinging to a 3-2 series lead, coach Claude Julien stressed the need for urgency, saying “there’s one team that’s desperate tonight,” referring to the Habs. “There’s a team on the other side,” he continued, “that has to be just as desperate, because you don’t want a Game 7.”

[+] EnlargeClaude Julien
AP Photo/The Canadian Press/Ryan RemiorzWhen asked after Game 6 what he expected in Game 7, Bruins coach Claude Julien answered abruptly: "I expect us to win."
That desperate team played like a stick of dynamite, outhitting and outshooting the Bruins, who after falling behind seemed resigned that Wednesday’s Game 7 was inevitable.

One goaltender, Montreal’s Carey Price, looked terrific in posting a shutout. The other, Tuukka Rask, struggled behind a defense that looked lost at times.

“Whether it’s on the forecheck or going back for pucks and talking to Tuukka to make sure we’re breaking out pucks efficiently, that jump was missing, so we’ve got to make sure we have that back tomorrow,” defenseman Torey Krug (who was a minus-2 in Game 6 ) said following an optional skate early Tuesday afternoon at TD Garden.

And how do you find that sense of urgency?

“It’s Game 7,” he smiled. “If you don’t have it, there’s something wrong with you.”

A handful of players participated in the optional skate, most notably veterans Patrice Bergeron and Milan Lucic. In the dressing room, the mood was subdued (at times drowned out by jackhammer noises from arena construction) as fourth-liners and young defensemen spoke of embracing this winner-takes-all contest and going all-in.

Winger Shawn Thornton, a veteran of six Game 7s, characterized these moments as “awesome.”

“You can let it tighten you up or you can really feed off the fact that this is what you trained your whole life for, these situations,” Thornton said. “That’s kinda the way I’ve approached it. This is awesome. This is the best time of year.”

Conceding a more noticeable jump in Montreal’s step Monday night, defenseman Matt Bartkowski was hesitant to characterize the mood as a sense of desperation, noting that could be taken as a positive or negative. However, this talk of “puck luck” -- or the Bruins’ supposed lack of it -- is no accident.

“If it is a little puck luck for them, I mean, they earned it,” said Bartkowski, who has played in one Game 7. “A couple of the goals, call them lucky or not, you come out hard and good things are going to happen. This next game, we need to come out the way we did in Game 5. Just take from last game, fix what we can, and go from there.”

Asked about matching the Canadiens’ sense of urgency visible Monday night, Bartkowski said, “I don’t even know if they were all that urgent, or whatever it was. Next game, we’ve just got to set the pace. That’s about it.”

For Julien, this is the time of year you’re supposed to go for broke. If you’re not putting it all on the line, you’re losing it.

“I think desperation is going out there and giving it the best shot you can,” Julien said. “The last thing you want is regrets. And if you hold back the things you know you can do, and you don’t leave it all out on the ice, then you have regrets. So, that’s what desperation is all about, leaving it all out on the ice and you can walk away knowing you gave it your best shot.”

But as always, with desperation must come control.

“I think it’s kind of how we played in Game 5,” said defenseman Dougie Hamilton, a veteran of one Game 7. “I thought we were playing pretty desperate in that game, and it isn’t about changing our game, it’s about focusing on the details and working hard and focusing on the things we’re good at. It’s about having a good start again, obviously, and not having to try to come back and to try to play with the lead.”

B's must find a way to contain Subban

May, 7, 2014

BROSSARD, Quebec -- P.K. Subban has been the Montreal Canadiens' difference-maker against the Boston Bruins in this second-round Stanley Cup playoff series.

The 24-year-old defenseman has been spectacular, a beast in every aspect of the game. Subban has three goals and three assists for six points in the first three games versus Boston. Overall this postseason, he has three goals and eight assists for 11 points in seven games, including a plus-1 rating.

The Bruins have attempted to get Subban off his game with little luck.

"He's a good player," Bruins forward Gregory Campbell said. "He's a real talented offensive player with a lot of speed. He plays with a lot of emotion and he's playing well right now. With all good players, it's an in-your-face type of game and that's our game. Whether it's him or whether it's Sidney Crosby, a good player, you can't make it easy on him. [Subban's] been a big part of their offense so far and it's something we need to be aware of."

[+] EnlargeBrad Marchand
AP Photo/Charles KrupaBrad Marchand and the Bruins are struggling to slow down P.K. Subban.
Subban scored a pair of goals to help Montreal to a 4-3 double-overtime win in Game 1 against Boston. He then had two assists in Game 2, which the Bruins won 5-3. In Game 3, he scored a big breakaway goal as the Canadiens won 4-2.

Not only has he chipped in offensively, Subban has been strong in the defensive end, too.

"He's doing a good job creating space for himself," Bruins forward Shawn Thornton said. "Even sometimes when you put pucks in his corner and try to finish him, he's getting on his horse and getting back as quickly as possible. They do a really good job of getting in lanes when we're on the forecheck, making you go around them to create that extra half second. Tip your hat to him because he's playing a great series right now. Do we need to get on him quicker? Yeah, we do. He's been unbelievable."

Bell Centre is electric when Subban has the puck on his stick or is about to run an opponent into the boards. In Game 3, Subban received a two-minute roughing penalty after he hammered Reilly Smith in the neutral zone.

When the penalty expired, Subban jumped out of the box, received a pass and scored on a breakaway to give Montreal a 2-0 lead in the first period. The Canadiens feed off his energy and that's one reason Montreal has a 2-1 series lead.

"He's playing great for us right now," Canadiens right wing Brendan Gallagher said. "It's exciting. That's what we expect from him and he's certainly delivering. He's one of our best players and we expect him to show up and he's done that in the playoffs so far. He's a game-changer. For him to play with the emotion and keep those emotions in check has been big for him. He's just giving us a lot of energy right now. You see how much he's enjoying it, so it's a lot of fun to be a part of."

As loud as the fans in Montreal cheer for Subban, it's the opposite in Boston. Bruins fans boo him every time he touches the puck. He did a solid job of silencing those fans in Boston at the start of the series.

"It's a lot of fun. It's fun for us to see him take over the game, and he has been so far this series," Montreal's Daniel Briere said. "He's making big plays at big times. For us, we're trying to ride that wave. We have a few guys who have made big plays so far in the playoffs and that's the only way you'll keep moving, especially playing good teams like the Boston Bruins."

In what Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask described as a "veteran move," Subban knocked the Montreal net off its moorings as the Bruins were surging with an extra attacker in the closing seconds of Game 3. Had the referee called a penalty, the Bruins would have received a penalty shot.

After the Bruins' optional practice Wednesday at Bell Sports Complex, coach Claude Julien did not want to blame the loss on Subban's net nudge.

"This is all stuff that we can't control," Julien said. "Referees make those calls and you move forward. I'm going to be honest with you, if we rely on the referees to give us the breaks then we certainly don't have our focus in the right place. We need to make our own breaks. We have to look at ourselves and say, 'Listen, did we play well enough yesterday to win that game?' We didn't. So we can look at all this little stuff on the side and it's something that we don't control and complain about it, that's not what we do. We have to be honest here and tell ourselves we need to be better."

For the Bruins to improve, they need to minimize Subban's impact on this series, or it could be the last one in Boston's season.

Game 3 Rapid Reaction: Habs 4, Bruins 2

May, 6, 2014

MONTREAL -- This time, the Boston Bruins couldn’t mount a third-period comeback as the Montreal Canadiens earned a 4-2 victory in Game 3 of the teams' second-round Stanley Cup playoff series Tuesday night at Bell Centre.

With the win, Montreal took a 2-1 series lead with Game 4 here Thursday.

The Bruins trailed 3-0 late in the second period, then narrowed the gap to 3-2 late in the third, but couldn’t finish the comeback.

The Canadiens received goals from Tomas Plekanec, P.K. Subban, Dale Weise and Lars Eller (empty net), while goaltender Carey Price finished with 26 saves. Montreal also blocked 29 shots.

Patrice Bergeron and Jarome Iginla scored for Boston, while goalie Tuukka Rask finished with 22 saves.

In Game 1, the Bruins erased third-period deficits of 2-0 and 3-2 before eventually losing 4-3 in double overtime. In Game 2, Boston erased a two-goal, third-period deficit to win 5-3, but the Bruins couldn’t extend the comeback magic in Game 3.

There were only two penalties called in the game -- one for each team -- but the Bruins will need more physicality and more traffic in front of Price for Game 4.

Bruins captain Zdeno Chara missed a few minutes early in the first period. It appeared he suffered a left hand injury, and after being checked by a trainer on the bench, Chara went to the locker room. He returned a few minutes later and showed no ill effects.

The Canadiens grabbed an early lead when Plekanec scored a backdoor goal at 10:57 of the first period. The Bruins couldn't clear the puck and Montreal capitalized. Plekanec was all alone on the far post when teammate Thomas Vanek made the pass from the right faceoff circle. Iginla didn't get to Plekanec in time before the Canadiens forward pumped a shot past a sprawling Rask.

The Bruins had a chance to rebound on their first power play of the game, but couldn't capitalize with Subban in the box. With time expiring on the penalty, the Canadiens gained control of the puck and Eller sprang Subban with a pass as he was coming out of the box. Subban broke in alone on Rask and beat the Boston goalie to give Montreal a 2-0 lead at 14:44.

In the second period, the Bruins created a bit of a surge but couldn’t get rewarded for their effort, and when Montreal scored its third goal of the game, it served as a crushing blow for Boston. The Canadiens’ Daniel Briere threaded a pass to Weise, who broke in alone on Rask and beat him 5-hole to give Montreal a 3-0 lead at 13:52 of the second period.

The Bruins finally got on the board to cut their deficit to 3-1 when Bergeron scored at 17:48. With the faceoff to the left of Price, Bergeron won the drop back to defenseman Torey Krug. Bergeron moved to the front of the net and redirected Krug’s shot past Price.

Boston kept its pressure going in the third period and narrowed its deficit when Iginla scored at 17:44. He redirected a shot by defenseman Andrej Meszaros and beat Price, but that would be as close as the Bruins would get.

W2W4: Bruins-Canadiens, Game 1

May, 1, 2014
BOSTON -- The second-round Stanley Cup playoff series between the Boston Bruins and Montreal Canadiens begins Thursday night (7:30) with Game 1 at TD Garden.

This will be the 34th all-time playoff series between these two Original Six teams. The fact that Montreal holds 24-9 edge in the previous 33 playoff series means absolutely nothing. That Montreal won three of four games during the regular season this year means absolutely nothing. The same can be said for the Bruins winning the Presidents’ Trophy.

“The Boston Bruins are the best team in the league this year, so we understand it’s a huge challenge, not only for us, but all the teams that played the Bruins this year,” said Montreal coach Michel Therrien. “They finished in first place and it was well-deserved. We’re confident and I like the way we finished the year. The way we finished the year gave us the confidence to approach the playoffs. We had a really good first round, and the way we played in the first round gives us the confidence for the next step and this is the next step.”

Here’s what we’ll be watching for:

• Staying in control: Discipline will be a major factor for the Bruins. Montreal drew 17 penalties against the Bruins during the regular season, with Boston drawing 13. The Canadiens have the knack for pushing the Bruins over the line, but Boston is aware of that and will attempt to keep its emotions in check.

• Men behind the masks: This series will come down to goaltending. The Bruins’ Tuukka Rask hasn’t had the best career numbers against Montreal, posting a 3-10-3 record, along with a .908 save percentage and a 2.63 goals-against average. This season, he posted a 1-2-1 record, along with a 1.94 goals-against average and a .932 save percentage in four games against Montreal.

“The playoffs are always a new season,” Rask said. “You never know who you’re going to face, and if you want to be the champion you have to beat everybody. We’re focused on a series at a time, and now it’s Montreal and we’re focused on them and trying to get our game where it needs to be in order to advance.”

Canadiens goalie Carey Price played only one game against the Bruins this season and posted a 2-1 win on Dec. 5 at Bell Centre. Overall, he’s 17-8-3 with a 2.50 GAA and a .919 SP in 29 career games against the Bruins.

During Julien’s tenure in Boston, the Bruins have always used only one goaltender for each postseason run. If, for any reason, Bruins backup Chad Johnson needs to play, he says he’ll be ready.

“The biggest thing is not really thinking too much,” Johnson said. “It’s not about focusing on that I haven’t played in a while, or I might not, I’m just treating every practice like it’s a game and just competing. I’m trying to stay sharp and ready as much as I can during the short practices.”

• Rust vs. rest: It’s been eight days since the Canadiens completed a four-game sweep of the Tampa Bay Lightning in the first round. The longer layoff could affect Montreal. The Canadiens actually simulated a typical game day earlier this week, holding a scrimmage in order to prepare properly for the Bruins.

“Game shape is something you always need to work on,” Therrien said. “The best way to get in game shape is to play games. That’s why this week we had that day with the morning skate and had the guys play a game at night. You can practice as long as you want, but playing the game is different. I’m convinced our players are ready to play those types of games tonight.”

The Bruins eliminated their first-round opponent, the Detroit Red Wings, in Game 5 last Saturday.

B's, Habs begin new chapter in bitter rivalry

December, 3, 2013

WILMINGTON, Mass. -- Former Bruins defenseman Andrew Ference best described the hatred between Boston and the Montreal Canadiens without saying a word.

It was during Game 4 of the 2011 Eastern Conference quarterfinals when Ference scored a crucial game-tying goal and celebrated by giving the 21,273 fans at Bell Centre what appeared to be the middle finger.

After the Bruins won that game 5-4 in overtime, he called it a glove malfunction. But when the Bruins ended the series with a 4-3 overtime win in Game 7, one of Ference’s teammates described it as the turning point of the season, and it set the tone for the remainder of the playoffs en route to the team’s first Stanley Cup title in 39 years.

[+] EnlargeBruins/Canadiens
Steve Babineau/Getty ImagesThe Bruins and Canadiens have a long history of antagonizing each other, as this rivalry is considered one of the greatest in hockey.
That gesture was part of a long history of gamesmanship between these two organizations. This rivalry can be considered one of the greatest in hockey, and each new generation of players appreciates it and adds to its legacy.

“It’s special,” said Bruins forward Shawn Thornton. “If you can’t get up for the Montreal Canadiens, you’re probably in the wrong business. These are always fun games, especially playing in that barn. It’s a pretty intense barn to play in and I really enjoy it.”

Currently, only three points separate the Bruins (38) and Canadiens (35) for the top spot in the Atlantic Division. Montreal defeated the New Jersey Devils, 3-2, Monday night and will play the second game of a home-and-home series Wednesday night in New Jersey.

The standings are tight, and Thursday night at Bell Centre will be the first time this season the Bruins and Canadiens will face off.

The Canadiens are a skilled team with size and strength, and the solid goaltending of Carey Price. Bruins coach Claude Julien has done his homework and understands the challenge his team faces on Thursday.

“They’re playing well, playing really well,” Julien said. “As you can see lately, they’ve been a really good team, won a lot of games. Sometimes you get on a roll as a team and right now everything seems to be going well for them.”

Julien grew up in Ottawa and was a fan of the Canadiens. He eventually coached Montreal’s AHL affiliate, the Hamilton Bulldogs, before being named coach of the Canadiens, where he spent parts of three seasons behind their bench. He knows firsthand how each side of this rivalry works.

“There’s as much... hatred in a rivalry way on both sides,” explained Julien. “It’s pretty amazing how in this game, like when I was with the [Quebec] Nordiques I hated the Canadiens, yet I grew up a Canadiens fan. Then you go back and work there, so you become a fan again. Now, you’re with the Boston Bruins, and rivalry-wise you don’t like them.

“Right now, that’s the way I feel. I don’t like them and I really don’t like them on that side because I’m a Boston Bruin.”

Julien appreciates this rivalry, too, and believes a win on the enemy’s ice will serve the Bruins well.

“The whole atmosphere there is pretty special,” Julien said of the Bell Centre. “They’re THE team in that city, so everything revolves around the Montreal Canadiens. When you go in there you can sense the electricity in the air and it’s a special place to play, but it’s also a fun place to play. It really gets your team ready for those kinds of games.”

Even though Bruins captain Zdeno Chara wasn’t the player who made the hand gesture toward the Canadiens fans in the spring of 2011, his mere presence in Canada, especially in Montreal, gets the fans riled up.

[+] EnlargeZdeno Chara
Jim Davis/Getty ImagesZdeno Chara is a favorite target of hecklers at Bell Centre. "I really don't pay too much attention to it, he said. "They're passionate fans and always cheer for their home team and that's the way it should be."
He has a history against the Canadiens (Max Pacioretty ring a bell?), and every time his name is announced, or he touches the puck, the negative reception is deafening.

“I really don’t pay too much attention to it,” said Chara. “They’re passionate fans and always cheer for their home team and that’s the way it should be. I’m trying to focus on what I do on the ice.

“We know what’s at stake. They have a good team and play really well. Those games are always intense and full of emotions. It’s physical and I don’t expect anything less. It’s going to be the same as always.”

There are a few newcomers to this rivalry.

Bruins forward Jarome Iginla and Loui Eriksson have played against the Canadiens before at Bell Centre, but never in a spoked-B sweater. They’ve heard the stories and watched the games on television. Now, they’re looking forward to experiencing it firsthand.

“Yeah, for sure,” Eriksson said. “Obviously I’ve heard a lot about them and I haven’t played many games in that rink in Montreal. It’s going to be fun to go there and play. It’s an awesome atmosphere there, so it’ll be fun to try to win the game. It’s going to be like a playoff game. It’s going to be intense, a good battle.”

Iginla concurred.

“I’m looking forward to being a part of it in person, and to feel it, because you see it on TV and you know the history. All games are fun to play in, but it’s fun to play in the ones that have a little bit more on the line with that rivalry there,” Iginla said.

The Bruins will spend the majority of this month on the road and it begins in Montreal. A win over the hated Habs could serve as a major momentum swing in the Atlantic Division. Thursday will be the first of four meetings between these teams, and if both continue to play well for the remainder of the season, the only finger pointing will be directed to the top spot in the division, and possibly the conference.

Need to know: Northeast teams in disarray

April, 25, 2013

There's no other way to put it: The Northeast Division is a train wreck with the playoffs just around the corner.

That may end up meaning nothing once the second season begins, but I doubt the way the Boston Bruins, Montreal Canadiens, Toronto Maple Leafs and Ottawa Senators have played of late comforts any of their fans as the postseason approaches.

The Bruins host the Tampa Bay Lightning on Thursday night having dropped five of their past six games, unwilling to cement a division title the Habs have tried to hand them on a silver platter. Bruins coach Claude Julien was incensed after the team's road loss to the Philadelphia Flyers on Tuesday night, saying among other things in a terse dressing down of his team: "We're running out of time to get this stuff going."

The Bruins should be able to beat a tired Tampa team Thursday night (the Lightning played at home Wednesday night) before visiting the Washington Capitals on Saturday, then closing out their season Sunday night at home against the Senators. Odds are the B's should win the beleaguered division, with the emphasis on should as a word that doesn't imply certainty.

The Canadiens? Mercy, they've fallen apart worse than any other club in the division -- and not just because, like Boston, they've lost five of their past six games. Rather, it's the manner in which they've lost: clobbered in most of those games and looking nothing like the juggernaut that surprised everyone this season. The team's defensive coverage has been porous and star netminder Carey Price has looked downright shaky.

Having said all that, I think the Canadiens finally showed some promise in the final 30 minutes against the New Jersey Devils on Tuesday, and perhaps that's what they build on heading into Thursday night's road game against the Winnipeg Jets. Maybe.

Otherwise, if Montreal loses again Thursday and the Maple Leafs beat the Florida Panthers, the Habs could lose home-ice advantage in the first round if Toronto beats them in regulation in Saturday night's season finale (the Leafs own the tiebreaker on the Canadiens).

Of course, the fact that the Leafs could end up with the fourth seed (and possibly the division title) would also have to suggest they have a clue right now. They've been outshot a whopping 183-114 over their past five games. They've won two of those five, but even in those wins, they were outshot 32-13 by New Jersey and 50-22 by the Senators.

On Wednesday night, with a golden chance to cut the gap to two points on both idle Boston and Montreal, the Leafs fell 5-2 in Tampa against a Lightning team that sits 14th in the Eastern Conference.

Combined with losses to the New York Islanders and Capitals last week, Toronto is mired in a mediocre stretch that mirrors that of the Habs and Bruins.

"There's things we have to shore up for sure," Leafs blueliner Cody Franson told on Wednesday night after the game in Tampa. "The last thing we're going to do is just hit the panic button over it. We know the mistakes we're making, and it's just a matter of paying attention and shoring them up."

A win in South Florida on Thursday night against the last-place Panthers would make a lot of people in Leaf Nation breathe a little easier. But just a bit.

And finally, what of the Senators?

A five-game losing streak earlier this month had people thinking perhaps the injury-riddled club had finally hit a wall. But four straight wins again made believers out of Sens fans. Then came a demoralizing home loss to the hated Leafs on Saturday, followed by another home loss to a Pittsburgh Penguins team missing Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, a game Senators players said was one of their most uninspired efforts in a while.

All of which has left the Sens just one point ahead of ninth-place Winnipeg, although with Ottawa having two more games to play than the Jets -- who wrap up their regular season Thursday night -- you have to think the Sens will get in without a problem.

Perhaps the game-changer Ottawa has been waiting for will arrive in the form of Erik Karlsson. The reigning Norris Trophy winner is on the verge of returning from what was supposed to have been a season-ending Achilles injury, taking a regular shift at practice Wednesday alongside normal partner Marc Methot, which had people in Canada's capital buzzing. Word is Karlsson and the Senators will decide after the morning skate Thursday in Washington whether it's a go that night or if he'll wait for Saturday's game against the Flyers.

The Sens will take any boost they can get, that's for sure.

Frankly, so would any playoff-bound team in the Northeast. It's ugly right now in this grouping. Somebody show the way!

Seguin, B's struggle without Bergy

April, 7, 2013
MONTREAL -- The Bruins have been reminded before how much Patrice Bergeron means to the success of their team.

While they have delivered in the past and collectively filled Bergeron's skates to survive, they showed in their 2-1 loss to the Canadiens on Saturday at the Bell Centre that it might take some time for them to find that group effort to do so once again. Bergeron now has missed the past two games due to a concussion.

"We need guys to step up more," coach Claude Julien said following his team's third straight loss to the Northeast Division-leading Canadiens, who are three points up on the Bruins. "It's as simple as that."

[+] EnlargeTyler Seguin
Eric Bolte/USA TODAY SportsTyler Seguin started out centering the second line, but moved back to wing with the Bruins trailing.
One guy who didn't step up in Julien's eyes was Tyler Seguin. After Bergeron suffered the fourth concussion of his career Tuesday, the Bruins moved Seguin into Bergeron's spot as the second-line center with Jaromir Jagr and Brad Marchand on the wings. Seguin was in this situation before as a rookie when Bergeron suffered his third concussion and missed the first two games of the Eastern Conference finals against the Tampa Bay Lightning. Seguin stepped up and delivered then with six points in two games, including two goals and two assists in Game 2 to help the Bruins tie the series at 1-1. Bergeron would return and help the Bruins go on to win the series in seven games and then eventually the Stanley Cup in seven games as well.

Although Seguin's defensive game has improved, he hasn't been able to catch fire in a bottle again the past two games. In a pivotal division game with his team trailing 1-0 early, Julien switched Seguin back to wing. So Jagr ended up paired with two very defensive-minded forwards in Gregory Campbell and Daniel Paille. Yes, Paille scored his seventh goal of the season, but when Jagr was acquired Tuesday, no one envisioned one of the game's most prolific scorers would play on an energy line. However, such is the case when your best all-around player is not in your lineup.

"This is a big game and they're a really good team that is really good in the offensive zone and I don't think Tyler was ready for that," Julien said. "I had to put a centerman with experience there and put [Seguin] back on the wing. I thought Jags had a good night with Paille and Campbell, and it kind of stabilized the lines a bit, but one line tonight didn't give us much and the other two were good. To win these kinds of games -- especially with the injuries we have -- we need everybody to step up, and we didn't have that tonight."

Center David Krejci, along with linemates Milan Lucic and Nathan Horton, was invisible. They most likely were the one line Julien was referring to that didn't give much. Krejci blamed the "bad" Bell Centre ice as a reason for the Bruins' failure to score on a power play in the final minute of regulation. Lucic appeared to realize that through two games without Bergeron, the Bruins have failed to step up.

"He's a big part of this lineup and he brings a lot to this team," Lucic said. "But in saying that, I think the biggest issue we've had in the past 10-15 games is consistency throughout this lineup and getting all 20 guys going at the same time. I think as much as -- and I'm not taking anything away from Bergy -- as much as he brings that extra element to our team, I think it's our system and everyone buying into it is what makes us successful. I think we need to get back to that."

Lucic referenced the 2011 Eastern Conference finals but made it clear that he and his teammates have to fill the void.

"[Bergeron] was hurt the first two games against Tampa back in the Eastern Conference finals, and we had guys step up, especially in that Game 2 where we were able to get that win," Lucic said. "So we're going to need the same thing with guys stepping up and everybody carrying the load."

Rapid Reaction: Canadiens 2, Bruins 1

April, 6, 2013

MONTREAL -- At least it wasn't another third-period collapse for the Bruins against their hated rivals, but it wasn't pretty. The Bruins couldn't overcome a flat start and 2-0 deficit, falling three points behind the Montreal Canadiens in the Northeast Division with a 2-1 loss to Montreal on Saturday night at the Bell Centre.

BruinsHabsMichael Ryder's second-period, power-play goal proved to be the difference. The Bruins just couldn't get going early, and they failed to score late on their sole power play of the game, which came with 57 seconds left in regulation. Alex Galchenyuk netted the first Montreal goal. Daniel Paille was credited with the Bruins' lone goal, tipping in a blast from Johnny Boychuk, who got the assist. Tuukka Rask made 27 saves for the Bruins, and Carey Price made 26 for Montreal.

Bad start again for Bruins: If the Bruins are to ever play to their full potential -- and there isn't much left of this regular season -- they need to find a way to have better starts and set the tone. It sounds like a broken record, but the Bruins' system is broken right now. Patrice Bergeron was out for the second straight game and there is no denying he is missed, but sluggish starts are nothing new. After being outshot 17-6 in the first period of Thursday's win, the Bruins were outshot 10-5 in the first Saturday. They trailed only 1-0 at that point, before the Habs made it 2-0 on a power-play goal by Ryder 57 ticks into the second period. None of those first-period shots by the Bruins came from a forward. It's time for the Bruins to set the tone and dictate a game from the opening faceoff.

Defense not helping Rask: The Bruins cost themselves on both goals. Galchenyuk's first-period goal went off Bruins defenseman Matt Bartkowski, and Ryder's goal deflected off Dennis Seidenberg. One could argue that Rask was a bit out of position on the Galchenyuk goal and that Bartkowski was trying to compensate for it, but other than that, Rask's game was flawless as he kept the Bruins in the contest. Meanwhile the defense continued to scramble around and lack cohesiveness in the Bruins' own end. They also can't seem to make clean breakouts from their zone, and hence the offense struggles.

Bergeron's absence forces Julien to move Seguin back to wing: No NHL player can replace two-way standout Patrice Bergeron, but Tyler Seguin does not look ready for the role, despite making strides in his defensive game this season. Coach Claude Julien switched him back to wing, altering the rest of the lines as a result. At the game-day skate, Julien had the same forward lines skating that he had in the 1-0 win over the Devils on Thursday: David Krejci centering Milan Lucic and Nathan Horton, Seguin centering Brad Marchand and Jaromir Jagr, Rich Peverley centering Jay Pandolfo and Kaspars Daugavins, and Gregory Campbell centering Daniel Paille and Shawn Thornton. But apparently Julien grew tired of the Seguin-at-center experiment. Halfway through the first period and for most of the game, Julien put Seguin back on the wing and had Peverley centering him and Marchand. That meant Jagr was skating on the wing with Campbell at center and Paille on the left wing. It also meant Thornton, Daugavins and Pandolfo saw limited ice time. The line of Lucic, Krejci and Horton remained intact.

Redden watches from above; Kelly day to day: Newly acquired Wade Redden watched from above at the Bell Centre as a healthy scratch despite practicing Friday and skating Saturday with his new team. The other healthy scratches were Jordan Caron and Aaron Johnson. Chris Kelly traveled with the Bruins after suffering a broken left tibia March 11 but missed his 14th straight game.

Bruins' third-period woes resurface

March, 28, 2013

BOSTON -- It was déjà vu for the Boston Bruins on Wednesday night at TD Garden as they saw a third-period lead disappear once again. They blew a two-goal advantage over the Montreal Canadiens and lost 6-5 in a shootout to relinquish first place in the Northeast Division. Not only was this the fifth blown third-period lead for the Bruins in the month of March; it was their second straight against the Canadiens, who came back in the final frame to beat the Bruins 3-2 on March 3.

But having netted five goals for the first time since Jan. 28 to pull themselves out of their recent scoring woes, the Bruins did not seem overly distraught after blowing another lead to their bitter rivals.

[+] EnlargeBrad Marchand
Steve Babineau/Getty ImagesBrad Marchand was in a feisty mood in losing to the Canadiens, but took some solace in the Bruins' scoring output.
"Well, that's the disappointing part, I think. It was nice to see us score some goals tonight; we've been a little dry lately and we managed to score five, so that was nice to see," Bruins coach Claude Julien said. "But, unfortunately, we couldn't keep it out of our net, so it ended up costing us the game."

In previous third-period collapses the Bruins folded and didn't resist the opponent's momentum. But they didn't feel that was the case Wednesday. When Michael Ryder cut the lead to 4-3 3:58 into the third period, the Bruins responded with a Tyler Seguin goal 11:50 in. But then penalties, and in the Bruins' eyes some bad bounces, allowed the Canadiens to erase that two-goal lead and eventually pull off another comeback win.

"I would tell you that tonight the lead that evaporated wasn't the same as the other ones I've seen, when we've totally collapsed as a team," Julien said. "Tonight, when everything was fine, we were doing well and then, like I said, a bad bounce, puck bounces, we try to get out, we don't get it out off the faceoff that we win, it turns over, it goes off the face, then we get the penalty. It's an unfortunate break, with eight seconds left to tie the game. I don't think we sat back. We had some chances to score. [Gregory] Campbell had a breakaway there short-handed; we had some chances and we didn't score. But I certainly don't think we held back like we did probably in some other games."

Rookie defenseman Dougie Hamilton seemed a bit more concerned about another blown lead, believing that the Bruins need to correct this issue before the playoffs begin.

"I think it's pretty tough right now," said Hamilton, who scored his fourth goal of the season. "I don't think anyone is happy in the room. We definitely got to learn and learn quickly. I think with the last couple of games that we've had, having leads and losing them, I think that's happened a bunch of times this year and we've got to be better. Hopefully, we can just keep getting better. I don't know how many games we have left, but we got to get ready for the playoffs."

But overall, the Bruins seemed encouraged that the goals were finally coming and didn't seem too worried about their efforts. As far as they saw it, they simply came out on the short end of a seesaw game.

"It is frustrating when you're up by two goals in the third. It happened last time," said Patrice Bergeron, who had a goal and three assists. "We thought we were in control, playing a good game. But, yeah, very frustrating. I don't know. We kept putting pressure. We kept netting those goals in the end. A couple of bounces, maybe a little tighter in our zone, and we should be all right."

Bergeron's linemate, Brad Marchand, who scored his team-leading 14th goal of the season, was not happy with the result either. Marchand wants to cure the third-period problems, but he too was able to take positives from the loss.

"We're very disappointed with how the game finished but we do have to be happy we scored as many goals as we did," Marchand said. "We haven't been scoring like that lately and we played a pretty good game. I thought we probably deserved that win but a couple bounces and penalties and stuff and turned out the wrong way. But, definitely, some things we can take out of that to be happy about."

Julien: Not questioning character of Habs

March, 4, 2013
WILMINGTON, Mass. -- About a half day removed from calling out the Montreal Canadiens for embellishment on the ice for the sake of getting calls, Boston Bruins coach Claude Julien didn’t back down from his stance that those actions “embarrass our game.”

“I didn’t say anything wrong,” Julien said Monday at his team’s optional skate when asked whether he expected to hear from the NHL. “I didn’t blame the refs, I didn’t blame anyone. I said the embellishment puts refs in a tough position because they call it, it’s one thing, but if they call it and the guy’s really injured, it makes them look bad. We’re not helping the referees by embellishing. It makes it tough for them. It’s not as easy to correct as it seems because there’s consequences if they make a mistake on calling an embellishment.

“Like I’ve talked about before with hits from behind, responsibility also has to come from the guy getting hit, to stop putting yourself in a vulnerable position. I think embellishment is the same thing. You’re embarrassing the game and there’s no room for it.”

Julien was emotional after Sunday night’s 4-3 loss to the Canadiens, a physical, fight-filled game that saw Bruins players spend a combined 34 minutes in the penalty box.

"Right now they've got over 100 power plays so far, and it's pretty obvious why," Julien said after the game. "We're trying to clean that out of our game, and it's got to be done soon because it's not about tonight, it's about the game, and the embellishment embarrasses our game. We need to be better at that."

Though he specifically accused P.K. Subban of trying to draw a power play by throwing himself into the glass on Sunday after a hit, Julien said Monday he wasn’t calling out the Canadiens but rather was giving an assessment of the league as a whole.

“I didn’t question their character because they play hard and they’re a good team,” Julien said. “The only thing I talked about was embellishment and it wasn’t just directed at them, it’s directed at what we’re trying to clean up in the league here. There’s times when certain things frustrate you and I thought after the game, embellishment to me is something that embarrasses the game. I have a strong opinion on things and I stick by it and we’re a professional league here. Basketball has been through it and they’ve kind of cleaned it up and I’m hoping we’re going to do the same thing with hockey.”

Julien once again praised captain Zdeno Chara for sticking up for teammate Tyler Seguin, who was the recipient of an Alexei Emelin cross-check that prompted Chara to pick a fight with the Habs' defenseman. Chara got 17 minutes in penalties, during which the Habs scored the game-tying and go-ahead goals.

“We’re a big team, we’re a physical team and sometimes that works in your favor and sometimes it doesn’t,” Julien said. “What Zdeno Chara did yesterday I support 100 percent because besides that 17 minutes of penalties he got, what he did is going to go a long ways for our hockey club; especially for Tyler Seguin. Tyler’s a good player and he needs to know that everybody’s got his back. Zdeno showed that yesterday and that will allow Tyler to become a better player.”

Bruins winger Milan Lucic backed his coach up and called on fellow NHLers to take more pride in their games.

“You definitely would like to see a lot less embellishment,” Lucic said. “I know the way that we are as a team, and how we play and the type of people that we are, we don’t accept that type of play here in this room. We definitely don’t like that. We definitely don’t like seeing that type of play around the league and hopefully the right calls will be made and guys will take pride in not being that type of guy or that type of player.”