It seems odd that it’s almost February by the time the Montreal Canadiens pay their first visit of the season to Boston, but that’s the case with the weird and wonderful compacted NHL schedule that has been necessitated by the Winter Olympic break.
“The schedule has been a little bit all over the place. For sure, it’s going to be a big game [against Montreal],” said Zdeno Chara. “We have a few left before the break, so we want to for sure finish on a strong note.”
The Canadiens are a distant 10 points back in the Atlantic Division standings now with both Toronto and Tampa Bay standing between the Habs and the streaking Bruins in the standings, and it’s been a bit of a rough ride recently in Montreal.
The Habs snapped a four-game losing streak with a 3-0 shutout win over the Carolina Hurricanes earlier this week, but the Canadiens had allowed 18 goals in their previous four games. After a shutout loss to Washington last weekend, a frustrated Marc Bergevin told every Habs player to sit at their stall and be available to the media for questions once the room opened up to the public.
That seemed to be what the doctor (not Dr. Mark Recchi, of course) ordered for the Habs, and the Bruins are prepared to absorb their best shot after Boston played Montreal at the Bell Centre in the middle of their best stretch earlier this season. But the Canadiens will also have to a deal with a Bruins team that’s 5-0-1 in their last six games while playing their best hockey of the season, and seemingly focused on finishing up strong with five more games remaining until the Olympic break.
“You want to give it all you’ve got with these five games left because really there’s nothing to save it for with a two-week break,” said Milan Lucic. “We have talked about that definitely -- about leaving it out there before the break, and we have five more games to do that and keep staying sharp and staying on our game and keep pushing for more.”
The new NHL schedule has made fans of the Bruins/Habs rivalry wait almost four months for their first meeting of the season in Boston.
But both longtime enemy franchises usually make it worth the wait when they hit ice as they will aim to on Thursday night.