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Desperate Bruins head to Montreal

by David Kalan

(Montreal leads best-of-seven series, 2-0)


Big story: To say this isn't how the Bruins expected this series to go would be a dramatic understatement. As the third overall seed in the East and with home ice in the first round at least, Boston was considered a potential Cup contender by many, but with a 2-0 deficit as the series crosses the border to Quebec, the B's are dangerously close to returning home for good after Game 4.

Team Scope:

Canadiens: Perhaps given Montreal's plucky postseason run a season ago, when the Habs rode a hot Jaroslav Halak to the Eastern Conference Final despite being the eighth overall seed, it shouldn't seem surprising that the Canadiens find themselves in a commanding position as the series crosses the border. After all, it was just a year ago that Montreal shocked the Presidents' Trophy-winning Capitals with a first-round upset.

But given the typically staunch play in net of Boston's Tim Thomas and a Bruins' offense that scored the fifth most goals in the League this season, it is somewhat jarring to see the Habs with a chance to wrap up a sweep at home. The stellar netminding of Carey Price and quick strikes of Brian Gionta and Michael Cammalleri have been crucial to taking the Boston crowd out of the game early, but there could be a downside. Now that Montreal has a two-game edge without having set foot on its own ice, there could be a great deal of pressure from the Bleu, Blanc et Rouge faithful to see an expected sweep of the hated Bruins.

Bruins: Regardless of whether or not the Bruins expected to be in this position, Boston must make do and act quickly or the season will evaporate before the team notices. Most in the Hub are hoping a return to the lineup by Zdeno Chara can be a panacea for what ails the B's, but even that is no certainty. Chara's surprise absence from Game 2 certainly impacted the outcome Saturday night, and while his status is unknown at this point for Game 3, he did travel with the team to Montreal and as a result of the Bruins not practicing Sunday, there is a chance he could recover in time for puck drop.

That said, Chara's absence alone is not the reason the Bruins are down. Boston has had difficulty recovering from the early shocks of going down just minutes into Game 1 and only 43 seconds into Game 2. In the course of two games, one of the best offenses of the regular season hasn't even held a lead. For Boston to have any hopes of getting back into the series, there will need to be a wholesale improvement in production on offense as well as in net, where Tim Thomas has played well below the standards set by his League-leading save percentage and goals-against average.

Who's hot: Price may be the best player on the ice for Montreal, having stopped 65 of the 66 shots he's faced this season, including 34 saves in Game 2 Saturday night alone. ... While it's tough to say who has performed well for Boston this series, Patrice Bergeron does have the Bruins' lone goal.

Injury report: Chara's absence, which loomed large over Game 2, could linger into Game 3, as the Boston captain is listed as questionable due to dehydration. ... Montreal is likely to be without Andrei Kostitsyn, who is listed as questionable with a foot injury, while Jeff Halpen is questionable with a lower-body injury.

Stat pack: Boston was one of the best teams in the League on the road this season, authoring a 24-12-5 mark away from TD Garden. But not at the Bell Centre. The Bruins have lost their last four visits to Montreal, going without a win in Quebec for more than 14 months.
Puck drop: A 3-0 series deficit isn't insurmountable, if any team knows that it is these Bruins, but the smart money is that Boston would rather not find out if they have it in them to make a historic comeback. Game 3 is easily the most important game the Bruins have played all season and if they can't quiet the crowd at the Bell Centre like Montreal has at TD Garden, they may not get another chance to hear their crowd until October.

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