If you are a Bruins (24-10-8) fan, you really couldn’t have drawn things up any better this week at least in terms of what the team can potentially do their most bitter rival - the Canadiens (18-20-6) - over the next few days.
Boston beat Montreal 4-3 in a thoroughly entertaining shootout at the Bell Centre on Saturday night. Now, the Habs come to TD Garden for a game on Wednesday (7:30, NBC Sports) before the Original Six clubs meet once again on Saturday night (7, NESN) in Montreal. It’s extremely rare to see the same opponent this many times in such a short span during the regular season but nobody could possibly argue which team is in better shape heading into these two pivotal matchups.
Despite a 3-2 overtime loss to Dallas (25-17-3) on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Boston is still 7-0-3 in its last 10 games and its point-streak was extended to a whopping 13 games (9-0-4). The B’s have two games in hand over Montreal and yet they have amassed 14 more points than former head coach Claude Julien’s struggling outfit. The Canadiens lost an overtime contest of their own on Monday as they fell 5-4 to the Islanders (23-18-4) at home. In that game, Montreal fired 56 shots but they were stymied by the immortal Thomas Greiss, who made a career-high 52 saves to pick up the key two points for New York - which is in a real dog fight for a Wild Card spot in the Eastern Conference.
Let’s be honest here: the Canadiens are far from a good team in 2017-18. Beset by injuries to key players like defenseman Shea Weber and the underachievement of other top players like Max Pacioretty (who has been the subject of numerous trade rumors), the Habs are likely to finish way outside of the playoff race in the East. This is precisely what makes them so dangerous though to the Bruins and any other contender in the NHL: they have absolutely nothing to lose while they play out the string on this ill-fated campaign.
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Montreal is 3-5-2 in its last 10 games with a goal-differential of minus-23 overall. As you would expect, they are terrible on the road (7-12-1) - whereas the Bruins are great at the Garden (14-5-4) and very good on the road (10-5-4) with a solid goal-differential of plus-29.
“Teams are coming and they look at the way we play,” noted ageless Bruins captain Zdeno Chara. “They’re going to be, obviously, motivated to play us. We’ve just got to make sure we’re ready for everybody who comes into this building or who we’re going to play.”
In between these latest installments of the best rivalry in hockey, Boston visits the Islanders on Thursday and Montreal goes to Washington (28-14-3) on Friday (7:30). I’m not predicting that Julien will be fired but you’d have to think that he’s on the hot seat and after all, the easiest thing to do in times like these is to blame the coach. Plus, he’s already been fired once before from the Canadiens so this second go-around always had an expiration date on it anyway.