By Mike Miccoli, Boston Bruins correspondent
Historic division rivals with no shortage of drama this season, the Boston Bruins and Montreal Canadiens will meet for the final time during the 2010-11 regular season Thursday night in Boston.
And what a season between the two it has been.
Even though Boston is currently atop the Northeast Division and have a lead of three points with two games in hand against Montreal, the Canadiens have had the Bruins’ number this season.
Out of the five games played, the Habs have won four, outscoring the Bruins, 20-13. Take away any of the talk between Zdeno Chara, Max Pacioretty, Mark Recchi and any Montreal fan quick to dial 9-1-1 and the Bruins must focus on the task at end: winning the game in order to gain ground on their division lead. The Bruins must start with the masked men in net if they wish to get the upper hand.
Carey Price has been in net for the Canadiens in each of the games, improving on his lifetime record against the B’s which currently stands at 13-3-2 with a 2.55 goals-against-average. A Bruins killer? You bet he is. He’s only been getting better as the season goes on.
On the other end of the ice, Tim Thomas has a 9-14-4 record against Montreal with a 3.16 G.A.A.. This season, Thomas is 1-1-1 against the Habs with a rough looking 4.28 G.A.A.. Tuukka Rask’s numbers aren’t much better—the Finnish netminder only has one career win against Montreal and is 0-2 this season.
Tonight, in their final meeting, follow along as two of the NHL’s elite teams face-off. I’ll be giving my take on the game, as it happens live.
0:00. 3rd: The Bruins best way to get revenge? Put it up on the scoreboard. Tim Thomas gets his 8th shutout of the year. The Montreal Canadiens will want to forget about this one in a hurry. The Bruins? Not so much.
5:52, 3rd: Even Tomas Kaberle is getting in on the action. But most impressive? Gregory Campbell’s short-handed, five-on-three breakaway goal. The Bruins now lead 7-0. TD Garden is one, big party. Hard to find any red jerseys here now.
9:53, 3rd: One negative Bruins observation: I’m not a fan of Peverley, Kelly and Seguin playing together. Seems like an awful lot of speed than they know what to do with. Still trying to find the right fit for that line. It’ll come soon.
12:27, 3rd: Plenty of Montreal fans making their way to the exits. A lot less red in the Garden crowd after that fifth goal.
15:27, 3rd: That escalated quickly. Krejci feeds Horton on a two-on-one to make it 4-0. Shortly after, Price is chased from the net as Adam McQuaid fires one from the point. Lucic, Krejci, Chara all have three assists apiece. The mock “Ole, ole, ole” chants have begun at the Garden. Canadiens weren’t ready for this at all.
0:00, 2nd: Not the best period for either team, though the Bruins got plenty of chances on multiple power plays. Price has settled down, though things started to get chippy starting with a quick punch from P.K. Subban on Brad Marchand. Campbell, who already has a goal tonight, got involved quickly after with Mara in a fight that was pretty much a draw. Big third period coming up for both teams.
2:17, 2nd: Yet another undisciplined penalty from Scott Gomez. Though Boston has only been able to capitalize once, the Canadiens are certainly making plenty of mental errors for the B’s to capitalize on.
3:40, 2nd: A couple of power play chances but no dice for the Bruins, who are beginning to look a little sloppy. Price has been controlling rebounds while the Habs d-men clear any loose pucks to the side. Tim Thomas is still making the big saves, but definitely needs more help in the defensive zone. The intermission should only help Boston catch their breath after an emotional two periods.
9:20, 2nd: After a good opening, Bruins starting to look tired. A few good rushes from Montreal leading to icing calls causes Julien to use his time out early. Canadiens are definitely showing some signs of life, outshooting the Bruins this period 5-4. All for naught, perhaps, the Bruins will go on the power play as Scott Gomez skates to the box.
13:58, 2nd: Boston wasted no time peppering Price with shots. The B’s were able to apply pressure early on during the first half of the second period…which is flying by.
0:00, 1st: Though it may seem otherwise, both teams have been playing pretty well thus far. The Bruins obviously have the upper hand (well, you know, after three goals) but Price has made some good saves himself. The physicality that everyone was hyping up is almost non-existant aside from a few good body checks. All in all, good game. Bruins need to carry momentum through the next 40 minutes in order to win this game. That’s been a problem all season.
2:32, 1st: On his first shift back, Horton pots one in at the crease on the power play. The “Carey, Carey” chants are as loud as ever now.
5:50, 1st: Bruins strike again after a tipped puck by Greg Campbell squeaks by Carey Price. Horton goes down the tunnel after a high-sticking penalty from Tomas Plenakec. B’s get four minutes of 5-4 play.
11:19, 1st: Bruins kill off an important first power play thanks to some hard-nosed efforts from Chris Kelly. Kelly went on a break and caused a holding penalty from Roman Hamrlik. B’s couldn’t do much with the man-advantage (insert redundant joke about the B’s power play here).
15:42, 1st: Dennis Seidenberg definitely hasn’t looked himself in the past few games and will take a sloppy tripping penalty after a bad turnover in front of the net. Bruins’ penalty kill has been brutal lately, slipping to 17th in the league.
18:59, 1st: It doesn’t take long for Johnny Boychuk to fire a rebound from the top of the circle past Carey Price. Those are the types of plays everyone was expecting Boychuk to make this year. Goal puts the Bruins up early, 1-0.
7:01pm: Last pre-game update…the amount of Montreal jerseys almost equal those Boston ones. Really looking forward to seeing the first shift too. If the Bruins’ 4th line starts (Marchand-Campbell-Thornton) expect that ‘toughness’ tone to be set.
6:30pm: The amount of media and other VIPs in the TD Garden’s press box is pretty impressive. For warmups, it’s Tim Thomas that leads out the Boston Bruins, Carey Price, the Montreal Canadiens. A rousing set of boos when Les Habitants took the ice, no surprise there. Based on warmups, here are what the Bruins’ lines should look like for tonight’s game.
5:00pm: Me? I’m not expecting a bloodbath–especially when both Montreal and Boston have been warned by the league to keep things cleaned. But for whatever reason, I’m just plain giddy for tonight’s game.
I’ve been hearing some comparisons to this game with the first game against Matt Cooke in Boston after the Penguin altered Marc Savard’s career with a blindside shot. The difference is that Pittsburgh was an immensely superior team at that point, playing against an AHL-type Boston roster, already depleted by injuries.
Tonight, you have two great, historical rivals separated by mere games for the top spot in the division. Forget about Montreal’s retribution against Chara for Pacioretty’s injury, the best way for Boston to show that they’re a better team than Montreal is to win. And if Montreal wants retaliation, a win and gaining two points on Boston is a great way to start. As long as Montreal playing smart hockey, they’re very much in this game–especially in front of Price.