The phrase “must-win game” is thrown around the sports world much too often. Most times, these games would be good wins or nice wins. However, tonight’s game between Montreal and Boston at TD Garden is a must win for the Bruins.
The Bruins currently sit three points in front of the Canadiens in the Northeast Division race. A Boston win tonight would give the B’s a five-point advantage with two games in hand, all but clinch the division title and, at worst, a number 3 seed in the Eastern Conference. Although Boston has not been great on home ice this season, it is still much better to have four games at TD Garden than in Buffalo, Montreal, or New York.
Furthermore, the Canadiens have absolutely owned the Bruins over the past two seasons. From reading the Montreal papers and listening to players speak, it is clear the Canadiens would welcome the Bruins as an opening round opponent, and why not? Montreal won five of six games last year and four of five games this season. There is a strong possibility the two teams will meet in the first round of this year’s playoffs, so a win tonight would send a message to the Canadiens that the Bruins can beat them. Another win for the speedy Canadiens just boosts their confidence against the more physical Bruins.
Many are expecting a blood bath tonight. Not me. Why would the Canadiens even attempt to play a physical game? To what benefit to them is that style? Montreal does not have the roster to play a physical game with the Bruins. Boston loves to play physical and plays better when they do. A fight-filled contest plays right into the Bruins’ hands.
Montreal has handled Boston using speed and finesse. They will try to do that again tonight. Boston needs to slow the Canadiens down and play a tough, grinding playoff-style game. They need their defensemen to stay home and play defense, they need their forwards to do all the little things at both ends of the ice (win faceoffs, win battles on the wall, backcheck, hold their men up, be aggressive on the forecheck), they need Tim Thomas to regain the form he played with most of the season, and they need to play physical, but under control. If they can do that, they will win. More importantly, they will set themselves up for success when the playoffs start in a couple weeks.