This has to be one of the most anticipated matchup for the Habs this season, but then again, that's what we said about their previous encounter with the Boston Bruins too, the difference? This time, the game is held in the beantown, or if you prefer, the "goontown". The media is turning this game into a big hype already and we have all heard and reacted to the comments made by Boston's respectable veteran Mark Rechhi and not so respectable youngster Milan Lucic. On the other side, the Habs have been very quiet and no talks about any retribution, revenge, or any tough-guy call-ups are taking place.
For the final time this season, the Montreal Canadiens and the Boston Bruins will face off again at the TD Garden. The series, clearly in Montreal's favor so far (4-1) in terms of victories, has been a stressful one for Montreal's fans with the last two games being as hyped up as any. No one has forgotten the Chara-Pacioretty incident that took place in their last encounter at the Bell Center, but it's doubtful that anybody expects the Habs to, yet again, drop down to the "goonery" level displayed by the Bruins.
Their previous encounter, convincingly won by the Habs by a score of 4-1 was marred by the devastating hit that Chara landed on young rookie winger Max Pacioretty. The latter has shown much resilience to the delight of the fans and is doing very well in the healing process, but at the same time, his resilience has brought forward conspiracy theories in the Boston Media about the Habs embellishing Pacioretty's injury. The latest one to take the bait was the respectable veteran Mark Recchi.
Recchi called out the Canadiens organization for trying everything they could to get Chara suspended. It was perhaps lost on the veteran forward that Pacioretty not only had a broken vertebra but also a severe concussion as diagnosed by one of the finest medical team in the league. How a person handles a concussion can vary significantly from one to another. The injury could have been far worse and perhaps Recchi was not paying attention when Pacioretty laid on the ice, unconscious from the vicious hit by Zdeno Chara. The opinions differ as to whether Recchi has a point in his accusations, but the fact remains, Recchi or any of these so-called analysts, surprised and churning out conspiracy theories due to the rapid healing of Pacioretty, are not medically trained and are just blowing smoke.
Recchi is not the only one who spoke out yesterday, so did Milan Lucic who said: “[The Habs are] definitely a team that we hate and a team the city hates. We’re both happy to be on the right side, the Boston side.” Lucic said that with a big smile, of course, the rivalry is as alive as ever Milan.
If we were to keep all the hype surrounding the game aside due to the rivalry and the tension that exists between the two teams, the fact of the matter is that there is a hockey game that will be played at the TD Garden tonight and there will be a battle for two very important points that may decide which team will have the home-ice advantage come playoffs time.
Some of the injured Habs may be returning to the lineup as Plekanec was seen on the ice along with Mathieu Darche in an optional practice that took place today. Possibility remains that Mathieu Darche, Tomas Plekanec and Brent Sopel will all be part of the lineup but it will be a game-time decision. Boston will be playing without defenseman Shane Hnidy and of course Marc Savard.
While the final lineup remains up in the air, expect Carey Price to be in front of the net. Carey, who has played all 5 games against the Bruins this season has a 2.97 GAA and a .910 SV% despite having an 8 goal night. On the other side, Tim Thomas may be the man chosen by Coach Julien to face the Habs. Thomas has played three games against the Habs this season and has a 4.28 GAA and a .888 SV%, an extremely mediocre record for the Vezina trophy contender.
Montreal is led offensively by Brian Gionta (5G-1A) and Max Pacioretty (4G-2A) along with Scott Gomez (2G-3A) while the Bruins are led by Milan Lucic (4G-2A), Patrice Bergeron (2G-4A) and Nathan Horton (1G-4A). Both teams have racked up the penalty minutes against each other this season but Montreal has a distinct advantage over the Bruins when it comes to the special units. It will be crucial for Boston to keep their guys out of the penalty box if they want to succeed against the Habs.
It remains possible that tonights game might take an ugly turn at some point in front of a rowdy Boston crowd and it remains also possible that it will be an event less game marked by the hockey skills of the players on ice. Notably, Dan O’Halloran and Dan O’Rourke, two Irishmen, have been called upon to officiate tonights game. Whatever the outcome, expect an exciting and great game to be played out tonight at the TD Garden.