BOSTON — A pesky, gritty New Jersey squad was finally in the rear-view mirror after the Bruins battled to a 4-1 win last night.
While the Bruins were still relishing their victory in their home dressing room at TD Garden, they didn’t ignore the inquiries about the next match on their docket — a visit from the hated Montreal Canadiens Thursday.
More than any other regular-season Bruins-Habs game at least since the lockout, this weeks’ showdown obviously has much more acrimony because of the Zdeno Chara hit on Max Pacioretty and the ensuing outrage from the Montreal organization and fan base over both Pacioretty’s injury and the league’s decision not to discipline the Bruins defenseman for his actions on the night of March 8.
It should be noted that Pacioretty is reportedly well on his way to recovery, with the team recently predicting he could even return to play this season. So that should soften the Habs’ desire for revenge, even if they’re still going to take the ice with a “win one for Max” mantra going through their minds.
When it comes to Bruins-Habs, it’s impossible to predict what wild and weird twists and turns the next installment in the all-time series will take. But as of last night, the Bruins weren’t necessarily expecting much more than a hard-fought hockey game.
“I don’t know what to expect. I mean … they’re a small team. They don’t want to play a kind of game [with] fighting or hitting,” center David Krejci told TheBruinsBlog.net. “I think they’re just going to come here and try to get two points because they’re battling for playoffs too. So that’s what’s going to happen. And if they’re going to try to do something stupid, we have enough tough guys to handle it. So we’ll see what happens.”
Krejci has engaged in two fights — the first two of his NHL career — with Canadiens players this season, so he knows that sometimes the Habs do veer away from their beat-them-with-speed game plan. Another player that has been front-and-center in this year’s chapters of the rivalry is winger Brad Marchand. The rookie was on the receiving end of a mac-truck-like open-ice hit from P.K. Subban, which landed Marchand on the shelf for a bit. And before that infamous March 8 game — a 4-1 Montreal win — Marchand reflected on his team’s wild, fight-filled 8-6 win of Feb. 9 by sharing some choice opinions about the Habs. He called them divers and guys that like to “shoot their mouths off.”
Maybe a combination of the March 8 ugly result at the Bell Centre and Marchand’s recent two-game suspension for an elbow to the head in Columbus have cause him to tone down his rhetoric. Or maybe he’s waiting to unfurl more inflammatory remarks closer to game time.
“It’s going to be fun. It’s always fun to play Montreal,” said Marchand, after he returned from the ban against the Devils. “You know the battle we have with each other, especially with all the stuff that’s happened this year, it always makes for an interesting game. But the biggest thing is we have to get two points and we have to make sure we’re ready for that. They’re going to come out hard. We have to make sure we’re ready to battle them all night long.”
Defenseman Johnny Boychuk also says he doesn’t expect any dirty tricks once the puck drops Thursday.
“They’ll just try to play their game,” said Boychuk, “If they try do get physical, we’re a physical team too, so …”
So we’ll see what Montreal decides it wants to do most to avenge Pacioretty — win a game or inflict physical harm on the Bruins, or both. The Bruins sound like they’re prepared for anything, but know that the majority of their focus has to be on hockey.