BROSSARD, Quebec -- Montreal Canadiens forward Thomas Vanek has earned the reputation as a thorn in the side of the Boston Bruins since he entered the NHL in 2005-06 with the Buffalo Sabres.
Vanek has 30 goals and 62 points in 55 career games against the Bruins. He had just one goal in the Canadiens' sweep of the Tampa Bay Lightning in the Eastern Conference First Round, and knows he will need to find that scoring magic again when the Canadiens and Bruins start a best-of-7 series in the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
"In the first round I don't think our line played good," Vanek said of himself, Max Pacioretty and David Desharnais. "In Games 1, 2 and 3, I thought we created a lot of chances but just didn't connect. Even in Game 1, I think if [Pacioretty] scores in overtime and doesn't hit the post there's a different vibe for us. So we have to do a better job in this series to kind of just stick with it because we know our chances will be limited."
After getting off seven shots on net and scoring on one in Game 1 against the Lightning, Vanek struggled to find his scoring groove in the final three games. He did help set up two goals during that span, but he had just four shots on net and felt frustration set in for he and his linemates.
"I think just to maybe stay more positive at times," said Vanek who finished the regular season with 27 goals and 68 points. "I thought as a line -- especially the first three games -- I thought we created quite a few chances but didn't finish as much as we would like. So I think frustration kind of set in during Game 4, but we won the game and that makes it easier. But against Boston, especially it's a team that doesn't give much. So we have to stay positive on the bench, and when we get those chances we gotta make sure we bury them."
One thing Vanek likes to do is open up space and spread the opponent's defense to create scoring chances. But he realizes that will be very difficult to do against a stingy Bruins team that finished second in team defense this season, allowing 2.08 goals per game.
"I don't know if you can open things up [against Boston]," Vanek said. "For us it's to stay disciplined, play the team game that got us here, and when we do get power plays or odd man rushes in the [offensive] zone, we're going to have to do a good job bearing down."
To get those odd-man rushes and scoring chances, Vanek believes the Canadiens will need to continue to create offense from solid team defense.
"We gotta play good [defensive] zone again and not give them much room," Vanek said. "They've got some big forwards that can really grind you out. For us it's about puck managing, puck possession, and at the same time to try and get something going offensively and put some pressure on them as well."
Vanek played against the Bruins in the 2010 playoffs, when he and the Sabres lost in six games, so he understands the hostile environment he'll find himself in when the series with Boston begins. But he's excited to now become part of the long playoff rivalry between the Bruins and Canadiens when the two clubs square off for the 34th time.
"I've watched the series between Montreal and Boston in the past, but at the same time I played against them in the playoffs as well, and that's a tough building to play in but so is this one," Vanek said. "So I think it's going to be a great series and we're going to have to be ready for it."