This Saturday night the Boston Bruins (23-10-7) will face their arch rival Montreal Canadians (18-20-4) for the first time this season. They will play each other 3 times in an 8 day span. This matchup will pit two teams moving in different directions. The Bruins are 12-2-3 since December 1st while the Canadians are 6-7-1 in that same span.
The Bruins have been energized by an infusion of younger players this season, led by former first round pick (14th pick 2016) Charlie McAvoy. McAvoy a former standout defenseman at Boston University signed last March after his Sophomore season and made his debut in the 2017 playoffs. He was very impressive in those 5 games and has carried that play into this season as he is seeing top pairing minutes. His 5 goals and 16 assists makes him the #3 dman in rookies points, and his +14 has him #2 in rookies +/-. We saw this coming from McAvoy, but fellow rookie Denton Heinen maybe is catching many by surprise. Heinen a former 4th round pick has recorded 10 goals and 20 assists which puts him #4 in rookie scoring.
Even though there are a lot of new young faces on the roster, there are still some of the old reliable Bruins that we have come to see over the years. Patrice Bergeron who has been considered one of the best 2 way centerman in the league since he showed up 2003 is again putting his usual solid season together with 16 goals and 16 assist along with a +21. His linemate since his rookie year in 2011, also the Bruins Stanley Cup season, Brad Marchand is also having a solid season as he is leading the team with 40 points in just 32 games. Bruins most dynamic scorer David Pastrnak has potted 17 goals along with a team leading 6 on the power play.
A big reason for Boston recent surge has to be the play of goaltender Tuukka Rask. He is 10-0-2 in has last 12 games and is sporting a season long 2.23 GAA (3rd in NHL) and a 920 save pct. He had struggled earlier in the year and actually lost his starting job to backup Anton Khudobin, but when he got his chance again he has taken the job back and has silenced any talk of a goalie controversy.
When the Bruins skate into the Bell Centre this Saturday night they will see a familiar face behind the bench of the Canadians, old friend Claude Julien. Julien was the coach of the Bruins from 2007 until his dismissal on February 7th of 2017. He coached 704 regular season games and another 97 in the playoffs for the Bruins winning the stanley cup in 2011 and losing in 2013 in 6 games to the Blackhawks. Seven days after being fired by the Bruins he was hired for the second time in his career by the Canadians. His homecoming in Montreal has not been sweet, Montreal lost in the first round of the playoffs after finishing first in the Atlantic and expecting a deep playoff run. This season has been a big disappointment as well, as of now the Canadians are on the outside looking in to a playoff berth.
The Canadians are not scoring goals, which is not so much of a surprise for a Julien team which always look to play defense first. In the offseason Montreal made a big splash by acquiring winger Jonathan Drouin from Tampa Bay. Drouin scored 21 goals in 72 games last season, but one big thing has changed for him, his position. Montreal has moved him to center and he hasn’t played well. He has not handled the added defensive responsibilities and has not fared well in the faceoff dot winning only 40% of his faceoffs. His 5 goals in 37 games have been a big disappointment. Brendan Gallagher does have 16 goals, but he has added only 7 assists and has a -16, while captain Max Pacioretty whose name has been mentioned in trade talks has only 10 goals and a -21. All world goaltender Carey Price is also having an off season with a 2.89 GAA and 911 save pct. Some good news for Canadians fans, the Bruins due tend to bring the best out on Gallagher, he has 18 points in 20 games career against the B’s, the most points against any other team.
When these two team get together you can always count on an high energy, highly physical game, the fact that these teams have not played each other yet it may take a few minutes for the bad blood to reach the surface. Should be an interesting 8 days for these two teams starting Saturday night.