By John Bishop, BostonBruins.comBoston --
Like some modern, secularized, hockeyfied, 40-person, North American version of the Magi, the Vancouver Canucks and Montreal Canadiens will travel very far and wide to visit our little town of Boston this week.
But unlike the legendary wandering Kings (based somewhere in Los Angeles, we think), these modern puck-wise men are bringing their own ice-bound hockey stars with them to the TD Banknorth Garden all the way from British Columbia and Quebec, respectively.
The Canucks Roberto Luongo and the Canadiens Saku Koivu, stars in the Northern sky, err, make that in Canadian rinks, will look to dazzle the home standing Boston Bruins and the B's faithful going into the National Hockey League holiday break -- just two short days, December 24th and 25th.
Luongo, a native of hockey crazed Montreal, is a goalie. Moreover, like his Quebecois goalkeeping predecessors Patrick Roy and Martin Brodeur, he is THE goalie -- perfectly capable of winning games on his own, not just keeping his hockey club in contests.
Late of the Florida Panthers (after playing a partial season on Long Island), Luongo traveled as far as he possibly could (in NHL terms) from FLA when he was traded for power forward Todd Bertuzzi prior to this season and has performed as advertised for the Vancouverites.
In 32 games, he is 17-13-1, with a .913 save percentage and 2.42 goals-against-average.
He also sports two shutouts and, as of this writing, Luongo also owns a three-game winning streak having defeated Phoenix, Calgary and Minnesota in succession.
The all-world goalie, nicknamed "Louie," has also won five of his last seven starts.
The Vancouver Canucks also feature forward Henrik Sedin (32 points, 28 assists), forward Markus Naslund (12 goals), defenseman Sami Salo (plus six rating) and Taylor Pyatt (five power play goals).
If history is any indicator, however, the Bruins stand a reasonable chance of returning the Canucks to Canada for more than just store credit.
Through 104 all-time games between the two franchises, the B's lead the series 65-24-15-0. At home, versus Vancouver, the Black & Gold are 38-7-7-0. The two teams have not met in Boson since November 15, 2003, when Boston earned an overtime win, 2-1.
The Montreal Canadiens present no mystery package for the Bruins and the Black & Gold have already unwrapped Le Bleu-Blanc-et-Rouge once this season.
In a wild 6-5 managerie that saw 10 different players score goals off of 69 shots and three goalies on December 4 in Montreal's Bell Centre, the Bruins held on to win before a sold out crowd in the Habs downtown palace.
But before and since that meeting, the Canadiens have already torn through the B's twice, a Bruins 3-2 loss in Boston on October 26th and most recently on December 12th, again in Montreal, a setback for the B's, 4-3.
Koivu, the Canadiens sparkplug captain has a pesky Hab-it of playing much bigger than his 5'10 frame. Having already outdistanced cancer and a career threatening eye injury, Koivu has attained legendary status in Quebec and throughout the league. Over his career, the diminutive, but utterly determined Montreal captain has amassed 151 goals, 342 assists for 493 points in 601 games.
Koivu currently has a five game point scoring streak, a 14-19-33 line and three points against the Bruins this season.
Canadiens defensemen Andrei Markov (19 assists) and Sheldon Souray (10 power play goals) also present a formidable obstacle for the Boston squad and can create havoc in both zones.
And although history is tilted in the Canadiens favor, whenever the Habs come to town you can throw out the record book -- it will be a game to remember.
So, get thee to the Garden this week for a virtual party full of Canadien superstars -- and who knows, maybe it will be the Bruins who are partying heartiest by the end of the NHL holiday break!
The Bruins will look to regain their momentum against the Ottawa Senators on Tuesday, December 19th, in a 7:30 game in Canada's capitol -- you can watch that tilt on NESN or listen on WBZ Newsradio 1030.
Boston then returns home on Thursday, December 21st, when the Vancouver Canucks make their rare appearance in the TD Banknorth Garden at 7:00. The Habs are in Saturday the 23rd at 7:00.
Tickets are available for all home games online by clicking here
, at the TD Banknorth Garden Box Office, or by phone at 617.624.BEAR.