The Boston Bruins are about to put a painful exclamation point on a calamitous campaign for the Montreal Canadiens.
The only question entering the Habs’ first round series with Boston is if they can learn something from the pounding their old rivals are about to lay on them.
Applying statistical analysis to this match up is an exercise in poor time management. The entire chasm between these two clubs exists simply because Montreal’s best players are skilled, while Boston’s best players are skilled, tough and ornery. There isn’t enough size or second effort amongst Montreal’s top skaters to compete with the bigger, stronger, deeper Bruins.
The Canadiens are left clinging to false hope: Will the power play really get hot without Andrei Markov to start the playoff series? What genuine signs are there showing Carey Price can carry the team after his inconsistent regular season? Alex Kovalev is rolling, but how long before his next trip to outer space?
Boston is built to excel in the playoffs. It starts with a stud defenseman like Zdeno Chara, who is capable of eliminating Montreal’s entire top line every time he’s on the ice - and he’s on the ice a lot. The Bruins get scoring from everywhere, having four lines committed to the same cause and they believe in the system applied by coach Claude Julien; who’s about to extract some tasty revenge on the organization that dismissed him three years ago and the team that beat his Bruins in seven games last year.
It was a deceptive win last spring for Montreal because in truth, Boston outplayed them for much of the series. They should have placed more significance on the fact the Bruins, from top to bottom, showed more fight and willingness to battle for every puck. One year later, the B’s still have that drive, but it’s been sprinkled with an added layer of talent thanks to the emergence of players like David Krejci, Blake Wheeler and Phil Kessel and Dennis Wideman.
Montreal has no answer for that combination of touch and toughness, which brings us back to the original question, whether or not the Canadiens can learn something from the next four or five games?
This column also appears in the Montreal Metro newspaper.
Ryan Dixon is a writer and copy editor for The Hockey News magazine, the co-author of the book Hockey's Young Guns and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog appears Wednesdays and his column, Top Shelf, appears Fridays.
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