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Spoils of first place to victor of Bruins-Canadiens

by John Kreiser

There are plenty of heated rivalries in the NHL, but no teams have faced off more often than the participants in this week's Wednesday Night Rivalry matchup (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN/TSN2).

Not only have the Montreal Canadiens and Boston Bruins met 719 times in the regular season, they've played another 170 Stanley Cup Playoff games while battling each other in 33 postseason series -- by far the most between any two teams in NHL history. These longtime rivals are hockey's version of the Hatfields and McCoys.

Here's a statistical look at what's sure to be one of the most intense Rivalry Night matchups this season:

To Hab and Hab not: The Canadiens won the first two meetings between the teams in December 1924, and they've never trailed in the all-time series. They come into their second visit of the season to TD Garden with an all-time regular-season record of 346-263-103-7 against Boston -- including 33 wins in the 50 meetings since the start of the 2005-06 season. However, the Bruins have a winning record in the 360 games played in Boston, going 165-135-56-4 since the teams first met on Dec. 8, 1924.

Big stakes: The winner of this game will end the night in first place in the Northeast Division and own the second seed in the Eastern Conference. The Bruins are trying for their third consecutive division title. Not only have the Canadiens not finished first in the Northeast since 2007-08, that was also the last time Montreal finished ahead of Boston in the standings.

Familiarity breeds contempt: Since 1938-39, Montreal and Boston have been in the same division or conference for all but a seven-year stretch from 1974-75 through 1980-81. Beginning in 1981-82, Montreal, Boston and Buffalo have been together.

Quick on the draw: One aspect of the game in which the Canadiens will have to be better is winning faceoffs. The Bruins lead the NHL by winning 57.3 percent of their draws -- more than four percentage points better than second-place San Jose. In contrast, the Canadiens are 22nd at 48.9 percent. With puck possession likely to be a key, the Canadiens can't let the Bruins dominate them in the circle.

Streaks: The teams have split their first two meetings this season, and the Bruins have never won more than nine consecutive games against Montreal -- they accomplished that feat in 1941 and '42, then tacked on a pair of ties for an 11-game unbeaten streak. The Canadiens have had a couple of double-figure winning streaks against Boston, most recently in 2007 and 2008, when they won 12 in a row. They had nine straight wins and 12 games without a loss to Boston from 1977-79.

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