Tuesday, March 11, 2014
Bruins looking to shake off Habs hex
By Joe McDonald
MONTREAL -- The Boston Bruins haven’t had much success against the Montreal Canadiens within the past calendar year, but they are hoping their recent string of success carries over into Wednesday night’s game at Bell Centre.
The Bruins are in the midst of a five-game winning streak and have outscored their opponents 22-9 during the stretch. After Sunday’s 5-2 win over the Florida Panthers, the Bruins were given Monday off to enjoy the warm weather before traveling to Montreal on Tuesday morning.
In preparation for Wednesday’s game, the Bruins held practice Tuesday afternoon at Bell Centre, and afterward coach Claude Julien remained mystified as to why the Bruins have lost five in a row to the Canadiens.
“I don’t know. I can’t answer that, but I can tell you one thing, I don’t think we’ve played well against them,” Julien said. “Have they given us trouble or have we given ourselves trouble? That’s the thing we’ve got to figure out here because, in my mind, it’s not to take any credit away from them but I’m going to talk more about this year.
“The game in Boston we just weren’t playing well at all, so hopefully tomorrow we’ll paint a different picture, and if we play the way we’ve played lately, I think it’s going to be a great game. We’ve just got to focus on that.”
The Bruins are atop the Atlantic Division with 89 points and Montreal is third with 77 points. The Canadiens have won both games against Boston this season, but Montreal coach Michel Therrien said his team is not taking Wednesday’s contest for granted.
“First of all, the Bruins, this is a good hockey team,” Therrien said. “They are battling with Pittsburgh right now for first place in the conference and every game is a new challenge. Tomorrow is no different and it’s a huge challenge for us.”
The last thing the Canadiens see when they exit their locker room is a giant picture of them celebrating a goal against the Bruins. It’s not like Montreal needs any added motivation against the Bruins, as the Canadiens always are at their best when Boston comes to town. While the Bruins are 7-1-2 in their last 10 games, Montreal is 6-3-1.
“They’re playing well, and even though they lost their last game, their lineup is strong and solid and they always give us a good run,” Bruins forward Gregory Campbell said. “It’s important for us to know that the job’s not done yet and to carry on what we did in Tampa and Florida.”
Tuukka Rask has a chance to improve his 2-10-2 record against the Canadiens on Wednesday.
Consistency is key for the Bruins, but Wednesday they will be without energy line winger Daniel Paille, who will miss at least the next two games due to a minor concussion. Bruins forward Jordan Caron practiced with Campbell and Shawn Thornton on Tuesday.
In the first matchup of the season between the teams, the Bruins dominated the majority of the game. However, Boston’s second period on Dec. 5 at Bell Centre was one of its worst 20 minutes of play this season and the Canadiens finished with a 2-1 win. Julien was disgusted after the game because of the team’s implosion.
Montreal dominated the second game of the season series with a 4-1 win over the Bruins on Jan. 30 at TD Garden. The Canadiens embarrassed the Bruins, who simply had no answers.
Now, in the midst of their longest winning streak of the season, the Bruins hope to reverse their misfortunes against the Canadiens.
“They play us hard,” Campbell said. “A lot of the matchups in the league aren’t dependent on where teams sit in the standings. It’s more of how you might match up against a team, and in this case, it’s a major rivalry, so both teams are always up for the games.”
Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask has struggled against the Canadiens. He’s 2-10-2 against Montreal and was pulled after allowing three goals on 18 shots during Montreal’s win at TD Garden in January.
Montreal goaltender Carey Price, who has been sidelined with a lower-body injury since the Olympics, practiced with the team Tuesday, and while Therrien said his No. 1 goalie is improving, he will not play against the Bruins.
From a defensive standpoint, Julien made some changes to the team’s blue line on Sunday in Florida. Defenseman Dougie Hamilton was a healthy scratch, but Julien said that will not be a permanent thing. When asked if Hamilton would be back in the lineup against the Canadiens, Julien said he hasn’t made a decision.
Hamilton has played well this season, but had a few miscues in the Bruins’ 4-3 shootout win over the Tampa Bay Lightning on Saturday. With the trade deadline additions of Andrej Meszaros and Corey Potter, the Bruins have more depth defensively, which gives Julien more options.
“Dougie’s not going to sit long. Dougie has played good hockey and he’s been good for us, so Dougie is not going to be the guy that is going to be singled out here,” Julien said. “Dougie is going to be back in our lineup, and it’s just a matter of me making those tough decisions. But the good part is we’ve got a lot of games in a short span of time, so there’s lots of room for everybody to get in there.”
After Tuesday’s practice, many of the Bruins players were asked about their lack of success against Montreal. All the answers were the same. They’re not concerned with the past five games against their storied rival; it’s only about Wednesday night.
After that game, the teams play only once more during the regular season, on March 24 at TD Garden. The Bruins could use a confidence boost from these last two games because the teams might meet in the Stanley Cup playoffs.
“It's going to be a great battle. It's always fun against them, there's always a lot of history and lots of build-up also,” Bruins assistant captain Patrice Bergeron said. “It’s always exciting to be here. It's a great building to play in, it's a tough building to play in. That's what you want. [Wednesday’s] game is going to be a tough battle, but that being said, that's why we play, and it's always fun.”