BOSTON — Tell me you didn’t wake up as soon as the sun peeked over the horizon, run down stairs and look for your Christmas tree. Tell me you didn’t stop, rub your eyes and say, ‘Damn, it’s only April, why am I so excited?’
Of course, then you realized what had you so pumped. It’s the Boston Bruins, the Montreal Canadiens, the Stanley Cup playoffs, and it starts tonight. All the talking, all the pandering, all the guessing and predicting is over. Tonight at TD Banknorth Garden, Bruins head coach Claude Julien gets his wish — they’re going to drop the puck!
Trust me, the players are just as excited for these games to be played as you are. There really was nothing worse than those games the Bruins had to play down the stretch — trying to stay healthy but still look like their giving a full effort. Now it’s time for a full effort. The Bruins hope they don’t get caught like a deer in a headlights the way they did for Game 1 last year up in Montreal. And that shouldn’t be a problem. When times have gotten tough this season, Zdeno Chara, Patrice Bergeron and the Bruins’ leadership core — which for more than a month has also featured future Hall-of-Famer Mark Recchi — has steadied the ship.
Expect the Bruins to be as business-like as they can be despite the best efforts to the Habs to knock them off focus and the sure-to-be electric atmosphere that will engulf the Garden. The Bruins have come too far to let this moment go away unclaimed.
Season series: The Bruins were 5-0-1 during the regular season against the Habs. Chara led the Bruins with 3-3-6 totals, including all three goals coming on the power play.
What they’re writing: Like Boston’s Bergeron and Chuck Kobasew, Montreal’s Saku Koivu is healthy to start the series this time around. … Alex Kovalev might find it tough to get the room to work against Boston’s defense. … Hall-of-Fame columnist Red Fisher has the Bruins winning in six. … Bob Gainey could be gone if this series doesn’t go well for the Habs.
Player to watch: In six games against the Bruins in the regular season, Kovalev potted just two goals and no assists. The veteran winger surely is the straw that stirs the drink for the Habs, and that’s probably a big reason why they dropped all six games against Boston. We won’t know until the puck drops which Kovalev shows up for this series. Will it be the one who’s like a hockey-playing Spiderman, fighting off checks and making acrobatic moves up and down the ice? Or the one who shies away from the first hint of contact and looks more interested in hitting his local watering hole? That will be a big factor in this game and this series.