Bruins-Habs preview: It's all about the rivalry

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Bruins-Habs preview: It's all about the rivalry

MONTREAL Here is the MontrealBoston rivalry, same as it ever was.
While the Canadiens had a brief detour into the land of terrible last season due to injuries and some dubious roster decisions by former GM Pierre Gautier, it appears Montreal is back and as good as theyve ever been. The Habs are killing it on home ice with a 5-1-0 record and theyve been bolstered by some energetic young bodies (Alex Galchenyuk and Brendan Gallagher) as well as the return to good health of franchise defenseman Andrei Markov.
That leaves the Canadiens just a single point behind the Boston Bruins in the Northeast Division with both teams already holding eight games in the books, and it leaves Wednesday night as a showdown first place in the division. That will add a little something to the stakes between two proud rivals that have tangled since the very beginnings of the NHL, but most players from both sides were expecting a pretty good tilt either way.
Its always a hard game against the Canadiens, said Andrew Ference. Its funny how teams can change and personnel can change, but its always a hard game with them. From year to year the feeling and the preparation doesnt change at all because you know its going to be a hard game.
Theyre always physical games. I know there have been times where we were supposed to come in as the big, tough team and they have out-hit us. Its funny with our two teams: whether teams are on hot streaks or losing streaks it always turns into a close game between us.
While its been great to the have NHL officially back from the lockout, it was never going to truly really feel like the NHL was back for the Bruins until they suited up against Les Habitants.PLAYER NEEDING HIS TIRES PUMPED: Tuukka Rask is 1-6-1 with a 2.76 goals against average and a .908 save percentage in nine career appearances against the Montreal Canadiens, and struggled a bit against them in each of the last two years in backup duty to Tim Thomas. However in his one year of playing regularly when Thomas was struggling with a sore hip Rask posted a 2.05 goals against average and .929 save percentage in five games against the Habs in the 2009-10 NHL season. If nothing else Rask could use a big performance against Montreal to make that career record a little less unsightly and officially announce it to be the Rask Era in the rivalry between the Habs and Bruins. DRESSING ROOM MANTRA HEADED INTO THE GAME: No matter what the situation is and no matter where we are in the standings, there always seems to be good games between the two of us. There is a rivalry that exists that creates good games between the two teams, and its been like that forever. Claude Julien on the HabsBruins rivalry, which appears ready to return to full luster after being a little off with Montreals funk last year. KEY MATCHUP: The Montreal Canadiens power play is clicking at a 23.9 percent success rate this season, which ranks them ninth in the NHL this season through the first two plus weeks. Andrei Markov leads Montreal with four power play goals and eight PP points, so it will be up to an outstanding Bruins penalty kill unit to neutralize the Russian defenseman. The job becomes a little more difficult with two of their ace penalty killers and fastest skaters in Daniel Paille and Brad Marchand out of the Bruins lineup line-up due to injury. That means yeomans PK work by Patrice Bergeron and Gregory Campbell along with perhaps a new face or two added to the special teams mix.STAT TO WATCH: 6-5-1 the identical record for the Bruins and Habs against each other over the last two seasons in an evenly-matched series.INJURIES: The Bruins are without Shawn Thornton (concussion) and Daniel Paille (upper body injury as a result of a high stick) after both Bs fourth line players didnt make the trip to Montreal. Brad Marchand (upper body) is out after crashing awkwardly into the boards in Toronto over the weekend. The Canadiens are without center and former Bruins depth guy Petteri Nokelainen.GOALTENDING MATCH-UP: As mentioned earlier Tuukka Rasks career numbers against Montreal arent anything outstanding as his 1-6-1 record against the Habs would attest to, so hell be looking to up his performance for his eighth start in nine games played this season. Carey Price is 6-1 with a 1.70 goals against average and a .938 save percentage in seven games for the Habs thus far this season and has been arguably the best goaltender in the entire NHL. Rask and Price have always been intertwined as the two were coming up through the ranks as the top goaltending prospects in their age group, so this should be the first of many of these showdowns over the years.

Haggerty: Reports of Seidenberg's demise were greatly exaggerated

Haggerty: Reports of Seidenberg's demise were greatly exaggerated

Hindsight is always 20/20, of course, but it appears the Bruins made a mistake buying out veteran defenseman Dennis Seidenberg from the final couple of years of his contract. 

Seidenberg just finished up a wildly successful stint with host Team Germany at the IIHF World Championships, where he was named Directorate Best Defenseman (the tournament’s best defenseman) after leading all D-men with a goal and eight points. This came after Seidenberg, at age 35, posted 5 goals and 22 points in 73 games for the Islanders, with whom he signed after being cut loose by the B's, while averaging a shade under 20 minutes per game.  Seidenberg also had an excellent World Cup of Hockey tournament for Team Europe last summer (where he was teamed once again with Zdeno Chara), thus managing to play at a high level from September all the way through May.

A faction of Bruins fans thought he was on the serious decline after the 2015-16 season and, clearly, the Bruins agreed, opting to buy him out with two more years still left on a sizable contract extension. (They owe him $2.16 million next season and then will be charged $1.16 million on their salary cap over the next two seasons.) But the B's could have used a durable, defensive warrior like Seidenberg in the playoffs, when they lost three of their top four defensemen against the Ottawa Senators. A rejuvenated Seidenberg, able to play both the left and right side, would have been a better option than Colin Miller.

The Bruins made a conscious decision to hand things over to younger defensemen like Miller, Torey Krug, Brandon Carlo and Joe Morrow in cutting ties with Seidenberg. But they also perhaps miscalculated how much Seidenberg still had left in the tank after his best season in at least three years. 

“Well, at the time we felt like [Seidenberg's] game had really dropped off to where we thought he couldn’t contribute, and we wanted to see if some younger players could come in and help us out,” Bruins president Cam Neely said at the end-of-the-season press conference earlier this month. “I’ve got to say he played well this year for Long Island. But at the time we thought it was the right move. You can’t envision us having three of our top four D’s get hurt [in the playoffs]. We went through a lot of D’s in the postseason. You can’t predict that.”

Neely is referring to the decision made after Seidenberg’s second straight minus season in Boston, when back injuries and a major knee injury had seemed to slow him down a bit. It seemed the only way to properly evaluate some of their other, younger defenseman was to cut Seidenberg loose, but one has to wonder if the Bruins would have possibly done it had they known he was still capable of playing like he did this season for the Islanders. 

Either way, the buyout of Seidenberg is an extremely legitimate second guess of Bruins management in a year where they did a lot of things right. 
 

Monday, May 22: Senators all out of playoff magic?

Monday, May 22: Senators all out of playoff magic?

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while feeling like we’ll be getting a Pittsburgh/Nashville Stanley Cup Final, which I suppose would be the best possible outcome at this point.

*You hear the name and it just gets you angry all over again if you grew up watching the Bruins. Ulf Samuelsson is in the running for an assistant coaching job with the Chicago Blackhawks, according to a report.

*FOH (Friend of Haggs) Chris Johnston says it appears that the time is running out on a Cinderella season for the Ottawa Senators.

*A taste of winning at the world championships with Team Sweden could fuel Alex Edler’s desire for a change from the rebuilding Vancouver Canucks.

*Interesting piece on a former can’t miss goaltending prospect with the Nashville Predators that ended up totally missing, and what he’s been up to in life since then.

*Guy Boucher explains to Pro Hockey Talk why he kept changing goaltenders in the Game 5 blowout loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins.

*Don Cherry explains that he hates afternoon hockey during his Coach’s Corner from Hockey Night in Canada in the Game 5 blowout between the Penguins and Predators.

*A good piece from FOH (Friend of Haggs) Alex Prewitt on the Nashville Predators, and the evolution of the franchise into a team on the verge of a Stanley Cup Final appearance.

*For something completely different: What a win by the Boston Celtics in Game 3 in Cleveland, and quite an interesting, fired up interview with Al Horford afterward.