Round 2: Habs vs. Bruins Series Preview

Ding, Ding, Ding!! Round 2 is upon us, ladies and gents and for the 34th time, the Habs and Bruins will meet in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Let the games begin. Just like we did with the Lightning, let’s take a look and see who has the edge in this series.

Forwards:

Montreal: Before the playoffs, it looked like the Canadiens were going to have to be carried by the Max Pacioretty, Thomas Vanek and David Desharnais line in order to be successful against Tampa. Boy were we wrong. The big three combined for 7 points against the Lightning and the Habs still managed to sweep. This is largely due to the play of Lars Eller, Rene Bourque and Brendan Gallagher. If these guys can keep it up, and Alex Galchenyuk returns to the lineup, the Habs will have 3 dangerous lines that have the ability to score.

Wild card – Max Pacioretty: Despite scoring 39 times this season, Max was held to 1 goal in the 4 game series against Tampa Bay. However, Pacioretty is known to be a very streaky scorer, and if that goal were to open the flood gates, Max could be in for a massive series.

Boston: Patrice Bergeron is an MVP calibre player – incredible defensively, very underrated offensively and a player any team in the NHL would be happy to have. Despite David Krejci’s slow start, he has led the NHL in playoff points over the past couple of years- he’ll bounce back. Jarome Iginla and Milan Lucic are two big, skilled players who can put the puck in the net. The Bruins’ offence, much like the Canadiens is run by committee, and if guys like Krejci and Brad Marchand step up, the Habs may be in trouble.

Wild card – Riley Smith: Smith was one of the players traded to Boston in the Tyler Seguin deal. After a great season, he has slowed down in the playoffs with only 2 points in his first 5 games. If Smith can get back on track, the Habs may have problems slowing down three Bruins lines that can score.

Advantage: Boston… but it’s closer than you may think.

Defence:

Montreal:  With the re- emergence of PK Subban, the Habs looks to be in good shape. Andrei Markov was a beast against Tampa Bay, but I’d like to see how he’ll hold up against a much more physical Bruins team. Josh Gorges was very solid, Alexei Emelin is playing some great hockey and Mike Weaver was a reliable penalty killer and 5th defencemen throughout the first round. The big question mark if who will be the 6th and final defencemen. Franky Bouillon was very solid in round one, but a more physical presence like Douglas Murray or Jarred Tinordi may be necessary against the Bruins.

Wild card – The 6th Defencemen: Be it Bouillon, Murray or Tinordi, either of the three need to be playing their best hockey in order for the Habs to succeed. While the top 2 pairings, plus Mike Weaver, have been rock solid, it’s the 6th man that may cause some issues for Montreal.

Boston: Recent Norris trophy nominee Zdeno Chara had another solid season, posting 40 points and a +25 rating. The only stat missing from his season is attempted murder. Chara along with Johnny Boychuck, Torey Krug, Dougie Hamilton and co. are a very good top 6. While they lack some speed, their size more than makes up for it. They are big, physical and can punish forwards night in and night out.

Wild card – Kevan Miller: Miller has been an absolute beast for the Bruins this season. He’s big, he’s smart and he’s just another very solid defensemen on the Bruins’ roster. If Miller can keep up his consistently solid play, the Bruins may have an easier time slowing down the Habs speedy forwards.

Advantage: Boston

Goaltending:

Montreal: I said it last round and I’ll say it again. Carey Price is the best in the world. As long as he doesn’t have any hiccups (game 1 vs. TB), Price will give the Habs a serious shot at winning this series.

Boston: If Carey Price is number one, Tuukka Rask is a close second. Rask was nominated for the Vezina this season after another stellar year in the Bruins cage. As good as he is, though, Price is better.

Advantage: Montreal

Coaching:

Montreal: In round one, Michel Therrien showed that he may be a better coach than some originally thought. He was brilliant in his use of all four lines and handled some pressure situations quite well. He kept his cool, and kept his team on course. Therrien has taken a massive step forward since last year’s playoffs, and if this side of MT remains, the Habs could be home free.

Boston: Claude Julien has been the coach of the Bruins since the 2007-08 season. In that span, his teams have made the playoffs every year, including a cup championship back in 2011. Julien knows his players well, and understands what situation each player needs to be in in order to succeed.

Advantage: Boston

Special Teams:

Montreal: This is one area that could come back to haunt the Habs. If they can’t take advantage of their powerplay opportunities, and can’t kill of penalties like they did during the regular season, this series could be over quickly.

Boston: Boston powerplay is very efficient but it’s their penalty kill that caught my eye. Over 90% against Detroit. If they can shut down the Habs lowly powerplay, which seems likely, the Bruins will have a much easier time winning this series.

Advantage: Boston… and by a large margin. This area is the biggest gap between these two teams.

Bottom line: On paper, the Bruins will take this one, but you don’t play hockey on paper, you play it on ice. The Habs went 3-1 against Boston this season, and for whatever reason, have caused fits for Bruins over the past decade. The Habs’ speed will give Boston some problems, and if the special teams begin to click, then watch out. I believe in the boys, and so should you.

Prediction: Habs in 7.

*Note: This will be the best series of the 2013-14 NHL playoffs. Enjoy.

Follow me on Twitter: @ZieglerMikey

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