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Bruins, Canadiens to meet in 34th playoff series

by John Kreiser

The NHL's biggest postseason rivalry is ready for its next installment.

The Boston Bruins and Montreal Canadiens will meet for the 34th time in Stanley Cup Playoff history when they get together in an Eastern Conference Second Round series. The Canadiens have been off since completing a first-round sweep of the Tampa Bay Lightning on Tuesday; the Bruins held up their end by completing a five-game blitz of the Detroit Red Wings on Saturday.

Though the Bruins won the Presidents' Trophy as the NHL's top team during the regular season, they lost three of their four games against the Canadiens, including two games played in Boston (one in regulation, one in a shootout). The Canadiens have won six of the past seven games and are 351-264-103-7 in the regular season against the Bruins.

Though Canadiens backup goaltender Peter Budaj is not likely to see a lot of playoff action against the Bruins, he played three times against them in the regular season and won twice, allowing six goals and finishing with a 1.95 goals-against average and .938 save percentage. Starting goaltender Carey Price won his only start against Boston, allowing one goal.

Forward Max Pacioretty had two goals, each a game winner, against the Bruins. The only other Canadiens player to score more than once was defenseman Alexei Emelin, who scored twice and had one of Montreal's two power-play goals.

Boston goaltender Tuukka Rask played in all four games against Montreal, going 1-2-1 with a 1.94 goals-against average and .932 save percentage. Patrice Bergeron was by far the Bruins' best offensive player against the Canadiens; he led Boston with two goals and three points, and he scored its lone power-play goal and game-winner.

No teams have come close to meeting in the playoffs as many times as the Bruins and Canadiens. The 33 Boston-Montreal series are more than the 23 between the Red Wings and the Toronto Maple Leafs, and the 170 games between the Bruins and Canadiens are the most for playoff opponents; the Red Wings and Maple Leafs are next with 117.

The Canadiens have won 24 of the 33 series and 102 of the 170 playoff games, but most of that domination came from 1946-87, when the Canadiens won 18 consecutive series. Beginning with a five-game victory in 1988, the Bruins have won seven of the past 11, including the most recent meetings in 2009 and 2011.

Each team had a series or two it would rather forget.

The 1970-71 Bruins tore up the NHL during the regular season and seemed ready to repeat as Stanley Cup champions when they steamrolled the Canadiens in Game 1 of their first-round series and raced to a 5-1 lead in Game 2. But the Canadiens, with rookie (and one-time Boston draft pick) Ken Dryden in goal, rallied to win and went on to eliminate the Bruins in one of the most shocking first-round upsets in playoff history.

Eight years later, the Bruins appeared ready to end the Canadiens' domination of them when they led 4-3 in Game 7 of the semifinals. But a bench minor for too many men on the ice with 2:34 left gave Montreal a power play, and Guy Lafleur's goal sent the game into overtime. Each team had chances before Yvon Lambert scored the winning goal for Montreal. The Canadiens went on to defeat the New York Rangers for their fourth consecutive Stanley Cup.

The Bruins got a measure of revenge in 2011, though they did it the hard way. The Canadiens opened the series with back-to-back wins in Boston, only to have the Bruins bounce back with two wins in Montreal. The teams exchanged 2-1 victories at home, and Boston got an overtime goal by Nathan Horton in Game 7, marking the first time the Bruins won a playoff series after losing the first two games. Boston advanced despite going 0-for-21 on the power play, the first time in playoff history a team won a seven-game series without scoring a power-play goal.

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