- Pro Sports Blogging - http://www.prosportsblogging.com -

Habs-Bruins Series Preview

Posted By Corey Krakower On Apr 16 2009 @ 4:19 pm In Montreal Canadiens | No Comments

With a 24-7 lifetime advantage of playoff series wins, the Habs take on the Bruins for the 32nd time in the NHL playoffs. These two teams have had many historic battles in the postseason, especially in recent years. It wasn't long ago when the #1 Bruins in 2002, featuring the likes of Sergei Samsonov (when he was good), Joe Thornton, Bill Guerin, Brian Rolston and Glen Murray, faced off against the #8 seeded Montreal Canadiens, whose leading scorer Yanic Perreault had 56 points, and whose goalie, a pre-propecia Jose Theodore, came out of nowhere to lead the Canadiens into the playoffs. Somehow, that Montreal team beat the heavily favored Bruins in 6 games.

Two years later, the 2004 playoffs, once again the heavily favored Bruins (#2 seed) were up against the Canadiens (#7 seed) in the first round. This time around, the Bruins had even more depth on their roster. Up front, Thornton, Murray, Rolston and Samsonov were not alone; Mike Knuble, Patrice Bergeron and Michael Nylander helped create a deep forward group that on any given night could get contributions from as many as 3 lines. On D, the Bruins were tough as nails. Their top 5 D in the playoffs were Nick Boynton, Dan McGillis, Sean O'Donnell, Sergei Gonchar and Hal Gill. Not to mention, they had the eventual Calder Trophy winner in goal. As for the Habs; their leading goal scorer had 26 goals (Richard Zednik), their second line featured a one way player in Mike Ribeiro, a rookie sniper with no experience in Michael Ryder and a marginal winger in Pierre Dagenais. Their major acquisition at the deadline, Alex Kovalev, had 1 goal in 12 games in Montreal. With the odds stacked against them, Jose Theodore took the team on his back once again, this time with the help of Alex Kovalev, and the Canadiens overcame a 3-1 deficit to win the series in 7 on the road. 

Last year, their was a role reversal. It was the Canadiens who were the big favorites, and the Bruins the underdogs. Even though the series was closer than it should have been, the Habs managed to win the series in 7, eventually losing in the 2nd round. The common theme is that no matter what, Montreal always seems to have Boston's number in the playoffs.

Until now…..

This is the year we will likely see a changing of the guard. With that, I present to you my official playoff formula, that should help determine the outcome of a playoff series based on what I feel are the 10 most important factors that play a role in a team's likelihood of success in the postseason. Teams either get a 0 (even), +1 (slight advantage), +2 (significant advantage), +3 (major advantage). 


Bruins vs. Habs Comparison 

Reliable Scorer/Line

The old saying is true; your best players need to be your best players. A team needs to be able to bank on a certain player or line to score goals consistently. The Bruins' top forwards are Phil Kessel and Marc Savard, while the Habs have their newly formed #1 line of Tanguay – Koivu – Kovalev. The edge goes to Boston, but not by much, because Tanguay has won a cup and Koivu and Kovalev have proven that they elevate their games come playoff time.

Score: Bruins +1 (slight advantage) 


Secondary Scoring 

It is true that your best players need to be your best players, but due to matchups, gameplans and fatigue, teams also need secondary scoring. In additon to their top line, Montreal has Andrei Kostitsyn who had 23 goals, Tomas Plekanec who had 20 and Maxim Lapierre who had 15. Outside of Savard and Kessel, the Bruins got secondary scoring from Ryder (27), Recchi (23), Krejci (22), Kobasew (21), Wheeler (21), Chara (19) and Lucic (17). Don't forget Patrice Bergeron who isn't a big scorer but he can be a good 2 way player and a great playmaker as well. Especially because Plekanec and Kostitsyn disappeared down the stretch, Boston has a major advantage in this department.

Score: Bruins +3 (major advantage) 


Shutdown Line

The Wings have Kris Draper, the Ducks had the Moen-Pahlsson-Niedermayer line. A good shutdown unit can take a team's best players out of a series and force their opponent out of their comfort zone. Montreal really has 2 potential checking lines. They have the Latendresse-Lapierre-Kostopoulos line and the Higgins-Metropolit tandem which will likely feature Laraque or Stewart. Boston has their shutdown line in Lucic-Bergeron-Kobasew, and also have their 4th line of Wheeler-Yelle-Thornton. I like the Bergeron line better than Lapierre's because not only can they play defense, they can score too. And the Bruins' 4th line is also slightly better than the one the Habs throw out. Another slight advantage for Boston.

Score: Bruins +1 (slight advantage) 


Shutdown Defenceman / Pairing

Another trend is that most teams that win the cup have at least one D-man or D-pairing that can change the outcome of a game with their presence. With the loss of Markov, this isn't even close. Chara-Wideman is exponentially better than Hamrlik-Komisarek. I will only give the Bruins a +2 because the possibility exists that Markov might return.

Score: Bruins +2 (significant advantage)


Defensive Depth 

You can only assume that a team's top D-pairing can play 26-28 mins per game. So, the guys that play the other 30-34 mins is also very important in a series. The Habs have Josh Gorges, an experienced but old Patrice Brisebois, a banged up but effective Mathieu Schenider, a swingman in Mathieu Dandenault and either a struggling rookie in Ryan O'Byrne, a young PP specialist in Yannick Weber, or the return of Francis Bouillon, which appears to be a longshot. On the other hand, the Bruins are without one of their top 6 in Andrew Ference. However, they have reliable veteran Aaron Ward (+16 rating), 24 year old Mark Stuart who has been impressive this season (+20 rating), deadline acquisition Steve Montador adds some sandpaper (+17 rating) and rookie Matt Hunwick who has made major strides in becoming a regular in the top 6 (27 points, +15 rating). There are no major holes on the Bruisn blueline, but the same can't be said for Montreal. Advantage Boston.

Score: Bruins +2 (significant advantage)


Consistent/Reliable Goaltending

All factors are weighted equally, however, this is the one factor that should be worth more because a stellar goaltender can literally steal a series all by himself. Carey Price has been inconsistent at times this season, but when he is on his game, watch out. He has proven at every level that he has that gamebreaker ability, and he is the one player that can change the outcome of this series. People still have questions about Tim Thomas and they also will until he wins a playoff series. But we are talking about the probable Vezina Trophy winner, and a guy who all year has been consistent and reliable. He has a bad game like everyone, but it's hard to find a stretch where he was consistently below average for an extended period of time. I am only giving a slight advantage to Boston because even though on paper it is significantly in Boston's favor, when Carey Price is at his best, he is next to impossible to beat.

Score: Bruins +1 (slight advantage)



A good powerplay is especially important in this series but other than Carey Price, it is the one thing that if Montreal gets production out of it, they can win the series. Boston's PP runs at 23.6% while Montreal's produces at 19.3%. Even though Montreal's play with the man advantage has improved in the second half, the absence of Markov keeps the advantage in Boston's favor.

Score: Bruins +1 (slight advantage)


Penalty Killing

The new NHL's crackdown on obstruction, and now that every faceoff to start a powerplay is in the offensive zone, a good penalty killing unit is that much more important. The C
anadiens and Bruins are both 82.4% on the year, so this matchup is even.

Score: EVEN



Bob Gainey has tons of experience and is notoriously very smart when it comes to hockey, but he has limited experience in the new NHL. Claude Julien coached Montreal when they upset the Bruins, and he also coached the Bruins last year when they almost upset the top seeded Habs. Julien is one of the NHL's elite coaches and he has shown that he can do so in the playoffs, but he has never gotten as far as Gainey has as a coach. We'll call this one a tie. 

Score: EVEN



Things like leadership, experience, effort, and hockey IQ can't be measured on paper, but they play a major role in determining a team's fate. I actually like Montreal's leadership group and they have more experience than Boston does when it comes to players who have had success in the playoffs. You can't discount Boston's team first attitude and how few mistakes they make on the ice. Both teams work hard and want to win, making this a tough category to decide. I will give this one to Montreal, simply because there are more cups in their dressing room. 

Score: Montreal +1 (slight advantage) 



PREDICTION – Bruins in 6 


Montreal has their work cut out for them. For them to have a chance to win, they will need better special teams and better goaltending than Boston. The Habs are huge underdogs, but stranger things have happened.





To see all of my Round 1 predictions CLICK HERE [1] 

About the Author Subscribe to author's RSS feed [2]

Article printed from Pro Sports Blogging: http://www.prosportsblogging.com

URL to article: http://www.prosportsblogging.com/2009/04/16/habs_bruins_series_preview/

URLs in this post:

[1] CLICK HERE: #mce_temp_url#

[2] Subscribe to author's RSS feed: http://www.prosportsblogging.com/author/corey-krakower/feed/

Copyright © ProSportsBlogging.com. All rights reserved.