We’re unlikely to witness even a quarter of the knuckle-gnashing nonsense the Bruins and Montreal Canadiens produced the last time they were on the same rink tonight in the rematch.
The night of Feb. 9 will always be more famous for the 187 combined penalty minutes between the two teams than for the 8-6 victory Boston captured.
There should be plenty of agitating on display, just nothing that’ll ramp up anywhere near the level of venom that overflowed at TD Garden last month. In fact, both teams might be more aggravated by their attempts to get the puck past the all-world goaltenders on both sides than by one another’s physical play.
The Bruins know they can rely on top-notch netminding whether they go with Vezina Trophy favorite Tim Thomas or back-up Tuukka Rask. These days the Habs know they can trust their prime puck-stopper Carey Price.
Price yesterday was named as the NHL Third Star for last week, during which he posted a 3-0-0 record with a 1.00 goals-against average and .974 save percentage. The Habs carry a four-game winning streak into their showdown with the Bruins, and Price is one giant, red-hot reason why. For the season, Price has a 2.34 GAA and .923 save percentage, to rank eight and seventh, respectively, in the league.
In a column meant to defend head coach Jacques Martin’s tactics against the same type of seemingly irreversible criticism Claude Julien constantly faces here in Boston, Montreal Gazette columnist Jack Todd explains how dominant Price has become this season.
If anything, the Canadiens look better than they did last spring, in part because Carey Price has been steadier than Jaroslav Halak. Where Halak could be brilliant one night and pretty ordinary the next, Price can simply go out there and get it done, game after game, for an entire season.
Right now, we’re seeing something from Price I never thought we would see: he resembles another goaltender who routinely made 70 starts a season and did pretty well at it. Fellow named Martin Brodeur. When you have a Brodeur (or a Patrick Roy, in his day) you always have a chance. Price still has to prove he can do it in the pressure cooker of the playoffs, but right now, I don’t have the slightest doubt that he can and will.
For Todd, a longtime veteran of the hockey beat to even think — let alone write — Patrick Roy in the same paragraph as Price tells you just how far the 23-year-old has come in his fourth NHL season.
Leading up to tonight, both teams said the right things about focusing on the two points and not getting caught up in what happened last meeting as far the fights other physical confrontations. Some tempers might still flare. But both teams will be best served to not lose their heads and instead focus their eyes on whatever space the goaltenders allow the shooters in their efforts to find the back of the nets.