The Canadiens and Bruins meet for the second time this season, this time for a classic Saturday night matchup at the Bell Centre in Montreal.
Although the Bruins struggled out of the gates to start the 2015-2016 season, the team is currently firing on all cylinders. Winners of seven of their last nine games, Boston heads into Montreal looking for redemption after losing the first game of the season against the Habs at TD Garden on October 10, 2015.
As captain Max Pacioretty urged, this is not a team the Canadiens can afford to take lightly.
“I think they are a difficult team to play against, they’ve just had a tough start to the year. They are definitely a hungry team right now and they are playing their best hockey of the season. It seems like all of their top players are playing at the top of their games. Boston is a very dangerous team to play against, so we have to show up ready to play,” explained Pacioretty, who has collected 12 goals and 11 assists in 27 career games against the Bruins.
Although the 2015-2016 version of the Boston Bruins is noticeably different from the lineups seen in recent years, the rivalry between the two teams has remained unchanged.
“They are still a team we don’t like and they don’t like us. It doesn’t matter what style they play,” said Pacioretty, who recently modelled the Canadiens’ new 2015 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic jersey during its unveiling Friday afternoon.” I think we will see a faster paced game than we’ve seen in the past. They are trying to create more offense and use their speed up front. That’s a different style than we’ve typically seen from Boston. Maybe that’s why it took them a little while to get going, but they have found their groove and they are playing with confidence.
Getting his first taste of playing in the historic Boston-Montreal rivalry is Needham, Massachusetts native Mike Condon. The Habs’ rookie netminder, who currently leads the league with a sparkling goals against average of just 1.50, was confirmed by coach Therrien as Saturday night’s starter.
Asked if he’d given his goaltender any advice about the Habs-Bruins rivalry, P.K. Subban explained that until you experience it for yourself, it is hard to put into perspective.
“You know what? You can explain all you want before the game, but once the puck drops and the game starts, you can feel the energy in the building. So part of it is just experiencing it. It is one of the biggest rivalries in professional sports. There will not be a lack of motivation on either side tonight. I think everybody is going to be pretty pumped up for the game,” clarified Subban, who has seen his fair share of the Montreal-Boston matchup having played in 25 regular season games against the Bruins.
“For Condon, being from the Boston area it’s going to be pretty special for him. It is exciting for everybody. I’ve played against them many times but it always seems extra special. It is not about the players, it’s about the uniform. It doesn’t matter who is wearing the uniform as long as it is Boston-Montreal there is still going to be a rivalry.”
Coach Michel Therrien also noted that the Massachusetts native needs little motivation to get ready for Saturday night’s rivalry game.
“I’m sure it’s going to be a special game for him. He’s from Boston, as a young kid he saw what this rivalry is all about. I won’t have to sit down with him to explain it to him.”
The Canadiens would be wise to try and avoid trips to the penalty box against Boston, as the Bruins lethal power play is presently clicking at a league leading 35% as Boston has converted on 14 of their 40 opportunities with the man advantage this season.
“Well their top players are on the power play, and a guy like [David] Krejci is off on a whole new level this year. We know they have one of the best power plays in the league. Best way to defend against that is to stay out of the box,” advised Pacioretty, who has evidently take notice of Bruins’ David Krejci’s hot start to the season which has the Czech forward tied for 6th place in the NHL’s scoring race.
In the visitor’s camp, backup goaltender Jonas Gustavsson is expected to get the start against the Canadiens. The 6’4 goaltender has won all three games he’s appeared in as a member of the Boston Bruins since joining the team this year.
Following the Habs’ morning skate at the Bell Centre, coach Michel Therrien confirmed that he will not make any lineup changes ahead of Saturday night’s game against the Bruins.