-- Milan Lucic
is well aware of the rivalry about to be renewed this week in the opening round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs when his Boston Bruins
square off against the Montreal Canadiens
Despite the fact the Canadiens have won 24 of the last 32 playoff matchups between the Original Six teams throughout their illustrious history, Lucic prefers to dwell on the positives.
"It's almost like a match made in heaven," he said after Boston dropped a 3-2 decision at New Jersey. "I've been here for four years and this is my fourth time in the playoffs and third time against Montreal in the first round. Obviously, the atmosphere in both arenas is good, the fans will be into it. I know from a media standpoint, everybody loves to talk about it, so it'll be a lot of fun."
Bruins record-setting goalie Tim Thomas
is also looking forward to the challenge.
"This is familiar territory for us playing the Canadiens," he said. "There are a lot of people in this locker room who have been through that experience of playing in the first round against Montreal and hopefully that experience comes in handy, especially at Montreal where it's pretty intense, crazy and a high-energy atmosphere.
"Speaking from personal experience, I'm glad I've done it in the past because the first couple of times I had to do it, there was so much energy. You have to play a different way."
Boston won the last playoff meeting in 2009, sweeping the Canadiens out of the postseason. In 2008, Boston rallied from a 3-1 series deficit to force a Game 7, but would ultimately lose the rubber match, 5-0, in Montreal.
The Canadiens won four of the six regular-season meetings this year, but the Bruins' two wins included a penalty-filled 8-6 victory in February and a 7-0 dusting on March 24 that included a hit by Boston defenseman Zdeno Chara
that knocked Max Pacioretty
out for the regular season. Chara steered Pacioretty into a metal support for the glass between the benches. The Montreal forward, who suffered a concussion and a broken vertebra on the play, hasn't suited up since.
"Being from Western Canada, I didn't really know too much of the Bruins-Canadiens rivalry since it didn't really return until four seasons ago in 2007-08," Lucic said. "But the hatred started to come back into play when we played them in the first round that year. I remember we struggled to get into the playoffs as the eighth seed and they were the first seed. That series (won by the Canadiens, 4-3) kind of re-ignited that hatred. It's definitely returned but that's what makes this game fun. It's great to be a part of this rivalry."
In addition to the Chara and Pacioretty incident, a Feb. 9 game in Boston featured over 180 combined penalty minutes.
Does Bruins center Patrice Bergeron
feel there will be some leftover animosity from the Chara hit?
"I think Z's going to be prepared for that and, as a team, we can't worry about it," Bergeron said. "Obviously, they're going to be behind their team. They've been like that since I've played my first game in Montreal. It's going to be tough to play there, tough to win and we know what to expect … even though it's even more than what we think most of the time."
The Bruins lost all three meetings at Bell Centre this season, including a 3-2 overtime decision on Jan. 8, while being outscored, 11-6.
"They'll probably boo 'Z' like Z's never been booed before, but he's booed every time we go up there so that's nothing new for him," Lucic said with a grin. "It's definitely been a tough building for us this year but we can't overanalyze or overthink things. It's a whole new season. We have to take things one game at a time when it comes playoff time. We have to enjoy the experience and make the most of it."
The Bruins, who closed out the regular season Sunday, have certainly been bolstered by the joint effort of goalies Thomas and Tuukka Rask
Thomas nailed down the NHL record for the highest save percentage in a season (.938) following a 31-save, 3-1 victory over Ottawa on Saturday. The 36-year-old veteran broke Dominik Hasek
's record of .937, established during the 1998-99 season.
"I'm happy with the way things turned out," Thomas said. "I'm fortunate that I was able to have the success I was able to have but the bigger picture is trying to get the Cup -- that's the one thing that remains missing from my resume.
"I don't think you should spend a lot of time focusing on your season. At this point, it's more about turning it around and getting focused going forward and trying to accomplish that ultimate goal."
Thomas will be making his third appearance in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. In 18 postseason games, he's 10-8 with a 2.16 goals-against average and .926 save percentage. As a result of various ailments and the emergence of Rask last season, Thomas didn't play in any of Boston's playoff games.
"Last year was a kind of a unique experience for me because, even when I wasn't in the NHL, I was always the No. 1 guy, so it rarely happened but gave me a different perspective of the playoffs," Thomas said. "I think some of it could be used in a helpful manner for this year. I'm just looking forward to seeing what we could do."
Thomas finished the season 35-11-9 with nine shutouts and a League-low 2.00 GAA. Rask, meanwhile, closed out the regular season 11-14-2 with a 2.67 GAA and .918 save percentage.
Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale