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The rivals: Bruins-Habs dream series for NHL, fans

In the NHL, it really doesn’t get any better than this. Of all the great rivalries in the game, none can hold a candle to Bruins-Canadiens in the playoffs.

In the NHL, it really doesn’t get any better than this. Of all the great rivalries in the game, none can hold a candle to Bruins-Canadiens in the playoffs.

Why?

You can start with the frequency of the meetings. The B’s and Habs will see each other in the playoffs for a record 33rd time when their first-round series kicks off tonight.

Don’t overlook the fact that both Original Six teams have been Eastern Conference powers for long stretches over the years.

But really, it’s about the passion. No city is crazier about its hockey than Montreal (sorry, Detroit), and the fans in Boston are solidly among the best in the league, too. So wherever these traditional rivals meet, they’re getting together in front of a charged audience.

The players tend to live right up to the hype. And the hatred — it doesn’t seem an overstatement to call it that — was kicked up a notch last month, when Zdeno Chara accidentally knocked Max Pacioretty into a stanchion.

The Canadien was severely injured. The fact Chara wasn’t suspended should only serve to fuel the fire of a memorable series.

Three players to watch

Boston’s Vezina Trophy favorite
We’ll be stunned if Tim Thomas doesn’t win the Vezina this year. We’ll be less stunned if he holds Montreal’s offense largely at bay in the first round. He’s just so good right now.

A marked man on the blue line
Zdeno Chara is lucky he’s about 9-foot-5, 460 pounds. He’s going to have every Canadien worth his salt going after him — hard — for the entire first round. Watch out, Captain.

The invisible man up north
Don’t forget about Montreal’s Scott Gomez. The center had an absolutely terrible year (he’s never scored fewer than 10 goals before this year), but he has all kinds of playoff experience.

 
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