For the fourth time in seven seasons and for the 34th occasion all-time, the Montreal Canadiens will face the Boston Bruins in the Stanley Cup playoffs next week.
The NHL likely won't release the schedule for the second-round series until Monday. But the earliest the series would begin in Boston would be on Thursday. The latest would be Saturday. TD Garden will host Northeastern University's commencement ceremony on Friday.
The Bruins made sure of the latest meeting between the long-time rivals after they took care of the Detroit Red Wings with a 4-2 win at home on Saturday afternoon to snatch the first-round series in five games.
The Canadiens have been waiting since they completed their opening-round sweep of the Tampa Bay Lightning on Tuesday to find out whom they would meet in the second round. But after a tight 1-0 loss to the Red Wings in the curtain raiser, there was little doubt the Bruins had control of this series, even though the final two games were close.
The Bruins won the last four in a row by a combined score of 14-5 to advance. They did it with strong goaltending, a blue-line unit that contributed offensively, domination at the face-off dot, special teams that clicked and a balanced scoring attack up front and on the back end.
In fact, just like 10 different forwards combined to score Montreal's 16 goals in its four-game series against Tampa Bay, 10 different Bruins combined to score their 14 goals against Detroit.
A lot of that offensive output came from the Boston blue-liners. They combined for four goals and 12 points.
The Canadiens will need to be good on special teams. The Bruins power play went an impressive league-leading 6-for-16 and the penalty-killing unit yielded only two goals in 20 man-short situations. With centres like Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci the Bruins have the third best face-off win percentage at 53.5 per cent.
There was concern in the pre-series analysis about Boston's ability to deal with the Red Wings speed. Detroit, after all, had won three of the four regular-season meetings between the two clubs.
The Canadiens also have speed to burn and won three of the four regular-season meetings against Boston. But Bruins coach Claude Julien has a strong skating team, too. He employed a third forward high in the offensive zone to protect his club from the Red Wings quick transition game. Boston's relentless forecheck didn't hurt either.
"The biggest thing we had to close on those guys early," Julien said.
"We had to have a good pace to our game. You could see there wasn't a big difference with the skating games for the two teams."
New faces added to rivalry
The last time these two teams met in the playoffs was back in 2011 when the Bruins required seven games to oust Montreal. It was arguably the most difficult series Boston had in its march to winning the Stanley Cup championship.
But there are new faces on both sides for the latest meeting. The Bruins newcomers include Jarome Iginla, Loui Eriksson, Reilly Smith, Jordan Caron up front and Torey Krug and Dougie Hamilton on defence. The two young defencemen, Krug and Hamilton, have been dynamite for Boston in both ends of the rink.
Meanwhile, Tomas Plekanec, Brian Gionta, David Desharnais, Ryan White, P.K. Subban, Andrei Markov, Travis Moen and Lars Eller are the only holdovers from that Montreal team three years ago. Oh yeah, and of course, there is Canadiens goalie Carey Price.
Price will face Tuukka Rask this time around with Tim Thomas long gone. Rask and Price are two of the best in the business. Of goalies who have made four-or-more starts in the 2014 postseason, Rask is tops with a save percentage of .961. Take away Price's tough start in Game 1 (four goals on 25 shots) and he has a solid .924 save percentage in his last three outings.
"We don't live in the past," Julien said. "We don't live in the future. We live in the present. We just into things one series at a time."
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