The Boston Bruins are in the midst of a season long ten game winning streak. During the streak, the Bruins have asserted themselves as the best team in the East and one of the best teams in the NHL. Boston is in great shape to repeat as the holders of the Prince of Wales trophy.
However, there is one team I believe can defeat the Bruins in a best-of-seven right now and Bruins fans will hate me for this, but the Montreal Canadiens are the biggest threat to the Bruins come playoff time.
I know that the Canadiens are 16 points out from the first place Bruins, but hear me out on this. The Canadiens have the right makeup to beat the Bruins in a best-of-seven. The Bruins seem to have an easy time beating teams like the Rangers, Penguins, Maple Leafs, but when it comes to the Montreal Canadiens, the Habs seem to always get the better out of the Bruins.
The Canadiens scored arguably the biggest prize this trade deadline by committing highway robbery in acquiring the Islanders’ Thomas Vanek. Montreal is serious about making a playoff run and they perhaps got the one guy who seems to be a thorn in the Bruins’ side.
During his NHL career, Thomas Vanek has scored 62 points, including 30 goals, against the Bruins, far and away the most against any opponent he has faced. Vanek is really hot right now, finally breaking out with his new team by scoring a hat trick against the Colorado Avalanche.
Thomas Vanek has had a great season this year despite basically living out of his suitcase, bouncing around three teams. Vanek currently has 57 points and is on pace to have his best season since the 2010-2011 season. Basically, not only is Vanek hot against the Bruins, but he is just hot in general.
Vanek, however, is very humble about his success against Boston, saying,
“You want to play your best against the best teams, but again, I think sometimes just the numbers are the numbers. I can’t really tell you why that is, but I can tell you that it’s a big game, it’s a great team and you want to play in big games.”
And no bigger games to play than the ones in the playoffs. Vanek will be a huge factor if and when they meet each other in the playoffs.
The Habs Have Tuukka’s Number
Tuukka Rask is one of the best goaltenders in the NHL, no question about it. He has represented Finland inthe Olympics and led the Bruins to within one game of the Stanley Cup title last season. He’s great, but the Canadiens have always gotten the better out of Rask.
In 16 career games, not including postseason, Rask is 3-10-2 against Montreal, the only team he has lost to at least ten times. Rask has not played particularly great against Montreal this season and this was before the addition of Vanek. Although he did beat the Canadiens in their last outing in Montreal, Rask still does struggle against Montreal. He was pulled in a game against them earlier this season , despite no explanation from head coach Claude Julien.
Rask can be kind of flaky come playoff time as well. He had to battle back and win a very tough seven game series against Toronto, he was superb against the Rangers and Penguins, and completely fell apart in the waning moments of Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Finals against the Blackhawks. Rask cannot afford to be sloppy against the Canadiens if they face each other in the playoffs.
Remember last season where Carey Price was getting criticized for his play? Yeah, that doesn’t seem to be the case this season.
Price is having a career defining season this year, he won gold at Sochi and is having a great year in Montreal. Sometimes all a team needs in the playoffs is a steady goalie and Carey Price looks to be that guy. Although he is hurt right now, it appears as if he will be ready to go and healthy well ahead of the playoffs.
Although Price was swept out of the playoffs by the Bruins early in his career, he still has good numbers against Boston. Price is 17-8-3 in 29 games against the Bruins, although his save percentage is a tad low against Boston.
Price is having a season to remember and come playoff time, he could be that hot goaltender that a team will ride all the way to the Stanley Cup like Patrick Roy before him.
The Canadiens Are a Faster Team
The Boston Bruins have usually been known as a quick team on the ice, but they are much slower this season. The Bruins traded Tyler Seguin and Rich Peverley, two of the fastest Bruins skaters, for Loui Eriksson and Reilly Smith, considerably slower than Seguin and Peverley.
Montreal is a much faster team than the Bruins and that seems to frighten to Bruins a bit. Boston made a couple turnovers against the Canadiens this season that led to breakaway goals from Max Pacioretty and Daniel Briere. Montreal can force turnovers and errors and exploit the Bruins lack of speed to their advantage, they already have and you know they will again in the playoffs. The Canadiens’ speed is going to be a huge factor if they face each other in the playoffs.
Look at the the two fastest teams the Bruins played during last year’s playoff run, the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Chicago Blackhawks. The Bruins miraculously escaped from the clutches of a Maple Leafs upset thanks to Patrice Bergeron and the Bruins imploded in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Finals against the Blackhawks thanks in large part to Chicago’s speediness.
With Montreal’s better speed combined with Vanek’s success against Boston and Rask’s struggles against the Canadiens, it’s like throwing a match in gasoline. The Canadiens have a great shot against Boston.
Montreal has to first clinch a playoff spot, but this team is very capable of making a run and they are not scared of the Boston Bruins, something the Bruins cannot say about Montreal.
Who do you think is the biggest threat to the Boston Bruins? Comment below or send me a Tweet, @MarkWGraham