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Numbers aligned against B's in series against Montreal

by John Kreiser /

Boston entered this playoff matchup having lost 11 consecutive regular-season meetings with the Habs. Habs dominate B's
There is no team the Boston Bruins would rather have avoided in the first round of the playoffs than the Montreal Canadiens. Boston entered this playoff matchup having lost 11 consecutive regular-season meetings with their longtime rival. But playing the Canadiens -- and losing to them -- is nothing new in the playoffs.
The Canadiens and Bruins are meeting for the 31st time in the postseason, by far the most of any two teams in NHL history; Toronto and Detroit are a distant second with 23. But unlike the Leafs and Wings, who've played each other evenly, the Canadiens have owned the Bruins through the years, winning 23 of the 30 meetings. No other team has beaten another in playoff competition more than 12 times -- Toronto against Detroit; Montreal and Boston against Chicago. The Canadiens won 18 series in a row against Boston, beginning with the 1946 Final and extending through the Adams Division semifinal in 1987.
The only successful decade for the Bruins against the Canadiens was the 1990s, when Boston won all four meetings (1990, '91, '92 and '94). Montreal has won both meetings in the 2000s and got a head start on another series win with a 4-1 victory Thursday night in Game 1.  It was the Canadiens' 12th consecutive victory against Boston through two seasons.

Complete domination -- At least the Bruins have a few series wins against the Canadiens -- unlike the Phoenix Coyotes, who in their previous incarnation as the Winnipeg Jets went 0-6 against the Edmonton Oilers, still the most series losses without a victory by any of the 30 NHL franchises. Ottawa is next with an 0-4 record against the Toronto Maple Leafs. Five teams are 0-3.

These numbers will stay the same for a while. None of the teams involved are meeting in the first round, and only two (Philadelphia-Pittsburgh and New York Rangers-Pittsburgh) are possibilities this year.

No advantage
-- You might think first-seeded teams, which play the No. 8 seeds in their conference, would be a better bet to advance than fourth-seeded teams, which play the fifth seed in what's usually the most evenly matched series of the opening round. Sounds logical, but it's not true.

Since the current playoff setup was adopted in 1994, top-seeded teams are 19-7 — the exact same mark posted by fourth-seeded teams, even though the No. 4s are playing tougher opponents.

Coming in second -- Washington's Alex Ovechkin finished first in a lot of scoring categories, including goals and points. But here's one in which he had to settle for runner-up. Ovechkin's 65 goals were 19 more than he scored last season, tying him with Philadelphia's Vaclav Prospal (14 to 33) for the second-biggest season-to-season increase in goal scoring. St. Louis' Brad Boyes had the biggest jump with 26, going from 17 goals in 2006-07 to 43 this season.
Ovechkin also became the first player since Jarome Iginla in 2001-02 -- and only the second since expansion -- to win the scoring title with more goals than assists. His goals-to-assists differential of 18 (65 goals, 47 assists) is the highest since New York's Bill Cook led the NHL in scoring with 37 points -- 33 goals and 4 assists -- in 1926-27, the Rangers' first season in the NHL.
One bad sign for the Philadelphia Flyers, who have to stop Ovechkin in their playoff series with Washington: Ovechkin has 12 goals and 21 points in his 12 career games against the Flyers, including three goals and five points in four games this season.

Kurt Sauer celebrates his second-period goal with teammates Wojtek Wolski and Joe Sakic against the Wild Wednesday, April 9, 2008.
Overtime hero -- Joe Sakic added to his record for playoff overtime goals Wednesday when he scored in OT to give Colorado a 3-2 victory at Minnesota. Sakic now has eight playoff overtime winners, two more than Maurice Richard, who held the record for more than four decades.

Ironically, Sakic now has more playoff OT winners than overtime goals in the regular season -- he's had seven of those in his 19 NHL seasons.
Sakic's heroics also continued Colorado's overtime excellence in road playoff games. The Avs have won their last five playoff OT games away from home and are 19-7 since moving from Quebec in 1995.
Missing Alfie -- For the first time in team history, the Ottawa Senators played a playoff game without Daniel Alfredsson in the lineup. The Ottawa captain sat out the Senators' playoff opener Wednesday against Pittsburgh with an assortment of injuries after being hit by Toronto's Mark Bell last week.

Alfredsson had played the first 99 postseason games in franchise history since the current version of the Senators joined the NHL in 1992. The Senators are 3-9-1 without Alfredsson this season, including Wednesday's 4-0 loss in Pittsburgh.
Alfredsson would have had a long way to go to match the record for most consecutive playoff games played from the start of a franchise. Denis Potvin played in the first 146 playoff games in New York Islanders' history before missing Game 3 in the first round of the 1984 Playoffs against the Rangers.

Wrong place, wrong time -- It didn't happen Thursday, but don't be surprised if Boston defenseman Zdeno Chara winds up in the penalty box when a goal is scored against the Bruins in the playoffs. Chara led all NHL players in being in the box when an opponent scored on the power play during the regular season. He was in the box in that scenario 13 times, including four goals scored while the Bruins were playing down two men.
Long time coming — How unusual was the shorthanded goal scored by the Rangers' Ryan Callahan in Wednesday night's 4-1 series-opening win against New Jersey? Consider that the last Ranger to score a shorthanded goal in the playoffs was Esa Tikkanen -- 11 years ago. Tikkanen scored against Ron Hextall 1:41 into the third period in a 3-2 loss to Philadelphia in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Finals on May 23, 1997.

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