By Joe Haggerty
NEWARK, N.J. Milan Lucic joked that the lusty Bell Centre crowd will boo Zdeno Chara like hes never been booed before while discussing the Bruins' upcoming first-round playoff matchup against the Montreal Canadiens. That might be an understatement for a frothy Montreal crowd that flooded emergency phone lines and demanded the Bruins captain be arrested after he rode Max Pacioretty into a stanchion between the benches during their last meeting on Habs home ice.Itll be interesting to see what will happen. You cant overthink it, said Lucic.
It was definitely a tough building for us this year, but we cant overanalyze things. Its a new year in the playoffs. Its a part of the rivalry and the hatred between both teams is what really makes it interesting.Pacioretty suffered a fractured vertebrae and what the Canadiens called a "severe" concussion -- though he was up and about in a matter of days, and there's even talk he may return before the end of the playoffs -- in the stanchion collision, which set off a chain reaction of lunacy north of the border that only heightened when the NHL deemed it to be a hockey play unworthy of a suspension. That meant no supplemental discipline for Chara and the Bruins, and a feeling of injustice within the Canadiens fan base an often imbalanced group, always 100 percent out of its mind for the Habs, which has done such things as burn police cruisers on their city streets when its heavily-favored hockey team beat a No. 8 seed in the playoffs, as was the case four years ago.
If nothing else, it'll be great theatre.
Its looked like we were going to play them for the last month or so. Its almost like a match made in heaven. Ive been here four years and four times in the playoffs and three of them have been against Montreal in the first round, said Lucic. The atmosphere is there, the fans are going to be into it and from a media standpoint theres going to be a lot to talk about it. So its going to be a lot of fun.Add to that the fact the Bs have managed to lose four straight games to the Habs at the Bell Centre, and havent won there in over a year. The hostile environment served as the setting of two of their worst losses this season and it would appear hockeys greatest rivalry should have at least one more compelling chapter when this first-round series has been settled.The third-seeded Bruins beat the Habs badly in a pair of games on the Garden ice to end their regular-season meetings one that was a fight-filled alley brawl and a second that was a complete annihilation with clean, old-fashioned hockey happening up and down the ice while Montreal seemed afraid to show any emotion or anger and gave Boston the confidence things are looking up with home ice advantage in their corner.It should be a classic in the 33rd playoff matchup between the two longtime Original Six rivals, who have met in more playoff games and more regular-season games than any other teams in NHL history. The Canadiens have won 24 of those postseason meetings.The 33 playoff meetings between the Habs and Bruins is actually the most playoff meetings by two specific teams in any of the four major professional sports leagues in North America.It wasnt really reignited until four years ago, and that hatred started to come back into play, said Lucic. That hatred is definitely there again. Thats what makes it fun and thats what makes it a great rivalry.One player who will make for an interesting addition to this years edition of the rivalry: rookie Brad Marchand.The Bs pest has been a vocal critic of the diving and flopping done by the Canadiens to draw penalties and gain power plays, and he expects more of the same as he lines up against similar instigators P.K. Subban and Tomas Plekanec in his first Stanley Cup playoffs series.
The Habs finished the season ranked seventh in the NHL with a power play thats clicked 19.7 percent of the time, and its pretty clear the skill and special teams game is where Montreal will attempt to do its damage. The Bruins on the other hand will counter with the size, strength and physical intimidation thats overwhelmed the Canadiens in Boston on several occasions this season. Lucic and Nathan Horton have been handful for teams lacking the strength to stand up to them, and the Habs really have no answer for Charas tower of power defensive game.Its gonna be exciting. Its going to be a long, hard-fought battle. I cant wait, said Marchand, anticipating the first playoff series hell be playing in after serving as a Black Ace during last years playoff run. It just seems like every guy on their team is a bit of an agitator, and can draw you into penalties. So you just have to play with a cool head and suck them into our game.Theyre very good on the power play, so if you give them a lot of penalties theyre going to do a lot of damage.Both teams can do damage, and both teams hate each other like poison. Sounds like theres some good hockey on tap for the next couple of weeks.
Joe Haggerty can be reached at email@example.com. Follow Joe on Twitter at http:twitter.comHackswithHaggs