On Wednesday, the Canadiens acquired forward Thomas Vanek in a trade with the New York Islanders that drew the attention of the Bruins. Vanek has dominated Boston during his career, posting 30 goals and 31 assists for 61 points in 53 games, mostly as a member of the Buffalo Sabres.
While Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli accomplished his goal of adding depth to the team's blue line prior to Wednesday's trade deadline, the Canadiens probably made life a bit more miserable for Boston for the remainder of the season and for a possible Stanley Cup playoff matchup.
Never one to back down from a challenge, Chiarelli made a point of mentioning Montreal's newest addition.
"I know there's been talk about Vanek going to Montreal. They've strengthened their team, and good for them," Chiarelli said. "It never seems that we're an anointed winner of trade deadline day and I'm fine with that. They're a better team and I look forward to facing them."
Vanek's addition gives the Canadiens more depth up front and more options, especially when facing the Bruins. Currently, the Bruins are atop the Atlantic Division with 83 points, with Montreal in second with 75 points.
The Canadiens host the Bruins next Wednesday at Bell Centre in Montreal, and the final regular-season meeting will be played on March 24 at TD Garden. After Wednesday's deadline, Bruins forwards Chris Kelly and Gregory Campbell were available to discuss Boston's acquisitions of the day, defensemen Andrej Meszaros and Corey Potter.
The interviews, however, quickly focused on the Canadiens and Vanek.
"He's always played well against us and Montreal's always a tough team, so it's going to be a good challenge for us," Campbell said. "He's a good player and with that offensively skilled team, he'll fit in pretty well with them."
The Canadiens were in need of another top-six forward, and Vanek gives them what they were looking for.
"He fills that void," Kelly said. "He's a proven goal scorer, obviously a guy you need to focus on when you play against a guy like him.
"We need to win all of our games, regardless of how teams did or did not do during this trade deadline. We need to play our best hockey in order to get a chance to win."
Whether you want to believe it or not, the Bruins are good enough to contend for a Stanley Cup this season. The championship core from the 2011 Cup team remains intact. Boston is an experienced team with a good mix of youth. With goaltender Tuukka Rask, a deep blue line and an explosive offensive, the Bruins have a chance for another deep run this spring.
Moments after Wednesday's deadline, Campbell said he's glad Chiarelli added without subtracting from the current team.
"I'm sure everybody else will say the same thing," Campbell said. "Our team is a great team and I think successful teams are not built at the trade deadline. They're built beforehand, they're put together and it takes years and years, drafting and signing different players and putting the right players together. It's really a complicated formula. I'm glad it's not my job."
In the weeks and days leading up to the trade deadline, every player in the Bruins' locker room said this team has the ability to succeed. Players knew Chiarelli would do what he needed to do in order to improve the team.
"They obviously have a blueprint in mind and they've done a great job for a while," Campbell said. "They know what works and it's been working for us. I'm a big fan of what we have here and the character we have in our dressing room. I know we're a good team and we're going to be a team that has a great opportunity."
At the start of the season, the Bruins had a healthy in-house competition on the blue line. Matt Bartkowski, Torey Krug and Dougie Hamilton all were battling to remain in the lineup, but with injuries to Dennis Seidenberg (season-ending knee injury) and Adam McQuaid (quad), the Bruins were forced to look for reinforcements.
The additions of Meszaros and Potter should recreate that healthy competition for the remainder of the season.
"The young guys have done a real good job for us, so for us it's a bonus," Campbell said. "Everybody knows in the playoffs things happen and you're going to need depth, and you're going to need everybody at some point in time. [Meszaros] is a good addition for us, he's going to fit in well with our team and just makes our team that much stronger."
Chiarelli & Co. have built a perennial winner in Boston. After winning the Cup, the GM said he wanted to maintain and preserve the team's chemistry. He's been able to do that by not doing too much or forcing a deal, which is exactly what he did at the deadline this season.
"I liked our team even before today," Kelly said. "We've got a good group. We've got a group that has seen it all and has been through a lot together, but adding two more players helps us in areas that maybe we needed a little bit of help. We're playing well right now."
The Bruins have 21 games remaining in the regular season. Chiarelli made sure there were no dramatic changes to the roster and added exactly what this team needed with depth on the back end. Meszaros and Potter may not be household names, but they will serve a purpose moving forward.
As constituted, this Bruins team is solid and will be a threat.
"The team that we have is definitely good enough," Campbell said.