Boston Bruins

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.

Marchand stepping up his twitter game to hilarious effect

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Marchand stepping up his twitter game to hilarious effect

BOSTON – It was probably only a matter of time before it happened, but it looks like Boston’s favorite Little Ball of Hate is stepping up his game on social media.

Brad Marchand is known as much for his rabble-rousing and trash-talking on the ice as he is for massive offensive production while serving as Boston’s top scorer in each of the last few seasons. So Marchand has the perfect mixture of good humor and clout as a star NHL player, and that usually combines for a pretty powerful voice on Twitter.

Marchand has been noticeably more active on Twitter in recent days with a wide-ranging group of tweets, and the big winner is the hockey fan that gets a little more exposure to some classic Nose Face Killah wit. Some of the tweets have been as a Bruins team leader where he’s praising the talented young crop of B’s prospects that he’s watching during training camp:

Some have been about chirping the NHL for their decision to skip the Olympics this winter where Marchand most certainly would have been primed for a chance at a Gold Medal:

Some have been engaging with “fans” and dropping classic pop culture references from children’s books while showing the nasty edge that routinely drives opponents up a wall:

The Charlotte’s Web reference is a devastating classic from Marchand, a noted longtime fan of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Sometimes it’s just telling a quick story in a tweet that gives you an inside look at the kind of chirping that goes on when Marchand is on the ice:

A social media platform like Twitter was made for a personality like Marchand, and a stepped-up presence is good for him and good for hockey fans. So why all of a sudden is No. 63 tweeting with greater frequency over the last few days?

It sounds like it’s a combination of training camp boredom and a genuine interest in amplifying his voice on all manner of subjects.

“I’ve just been kind of lying around with nothing to do and I jumped on [twitter]…thought it was kind of funny,” said Marchand. “I thought I’d get a little more involved. I don’t know if I’m going to have enough time to do it every day, but it’s fun.”

As fun as it’s been for Marchand, it’s no doubt even more fun for the fans that might get a chance to interact with him even if it’s as the unwitting foil for one of his well-placed chirps. 

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Cassidy: Khudobin 'has a leg up' on backup competition in Bruins camp

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Cassidy: Khudobin 'has a leg up' on backup competition in Bruins camp

BOSTON – Fresh off a strong performance allowing just a single goal on 31 shots in his preseason debut, Tuukka Rask looked close to the top of his game and exactly where he needs to be with the regular season a couple of weeks away. Nearly as important as Rask’s state as the regular season nears, the Bruins coaching staff has been keeping a keen eye through camp on the all-important backup goaltender position as well. 

It’s important that the Bruins have a quality backup goalie in place as they hope to start Rask in just 55-60 games this season, and manage the slender puck-stopper in a way where they can get the best out of him from beginning to end. Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy indicated Anton Khudobin has the inside track on the backup job after finding his groove in the second half of last season, and it would appear he’s well on his way to retaining his job with a Malcolm Subban/Zane McIntyre tandem in Providence.

“Tuukka looks good, and looks good in practice and healthy. So that’s reassuring,” said Cassidy. “[Anton Khudobin] I thought played very well in his game. He had the one unfortunate goal, but I thought he was rock-solid the rest of the game. He’s in very good shape and he’s practiced well, so he’s got a leg up on the other [goalies] based on his experience.

“We know that going in, but he’s going to get pushed. Zane [McIntyre] was good in a game, and Malcolm let in a couple where he could have been more aggressive. But it was a first game, so right now they all look good. That’s a good problem to have if they all push each other, but to get direct to the point Anton has done nothing to lose that backup spot.”

At this point, it would likely be McIntyre rather than Subban that would challenge for the NHL backup job if Khudobin did stumble at all in training camp or early in the regular season as he did last year. There will be no backup controversy, however, if the 31-year-old plays like he did in stopping 20-of-22 shots in Tuesday night’s win vs. the Red Wings or as he did going 6-1-0 with a .922 save percentage after the All-Star break last season.  

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