Habs Fever: Bruins in 5
Boston Bruins center Gregory Campbell, left, celebrates his goal with teammates Shawn Thornton, middle, and Brad Marchand (63) as Montreal Canadiens goalie Carey Price (31) and Canadiens center Tomas Plekanec (14), of the Czech Republic, react at right during the first period of an NHL hockey game in Boston Thursday, March 24, 2011. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)
Published Sunday, April 10, 2011 6:55PM EDT
Before you start to shoot the messenger for some perceived bias that I don't actually have, let me be the first one to remind you that last year I predicted that the Habs would take the Capitals to the limit.
I stopped short of predicting a Habs series win over the Caps, but I took quite a lot of ridicule for suggesting the Habs had the ability to knock off the league's best team because that Caps team last season was not ready to play playoff hockey. In fact, a Washington writer said my predictions for the series were "unintentional laughable." It was I who laughed last.
This season I do not risk the ridicule of Boston journalists, instead I prepare for yours.
This year the Habs have little chance of defeating the Boston Bruins.
Firstly, let's attack the argument that the Habs were better in the regular season with a 4 and 2 record against Boston. It is simply argued that the regular season and playoffs are different and let's be thankful for it. We know exactly what playoff style games look like. The Hawks visit Tuesday in Montreal and Sunday's Hawks-Wings game were playoff style games.
When the play reverts to post season style the Habs to my mind are no match for the Bruins.
So in my argument I am not interested in regular season comparisons or even previous post seasons comparisons against the Bruins. Different players. Different seasons. You can't call on a game seven win years ago when the Habs were the number one seed in the east with Koivu, Kovalev as a reason they can win this year.
Only what is valid in a series discussion is what is in front of us and that is a breakdown of what this hockey might look like in the next two weeks.
Here is what I see and I don't see much to like if you are a Habs fan.
Claude Julien is going to make this a war. Not a battle of skills and speed, but a war of pain and brutality.
The Habs are going to have to summon up all of their courage.
Players like Plekanec, Desharnais, Kostitsyn, Pouliot and many more are going to have to sacrifice their bodies like never before. All of the Habs who might be prone to hear footsteps will not have seen the scenario last season when they did well that the Bruins will try to dish out this season.
If they are not prepared to face the pain, then that debacle in Boston when the Habs did not compete and were shellacked 7-0 will be repeated.
I expect Milan Lucic and the other aggressive players on the Bruins to be hitting everything that moves.
And most importantly, that includes Carey Price. Julien will sacrifice some early minors and let Price know that he is in for some pain himself by crowding his crease early and probably jostling him too. Julien is experienced enough to know a couple minors to get in the mind of Price is worth it.
Expect Subban to be hammered. Heck, why pick out players. Expect all of them get hammered.
A good Habs powerplay is not going to make the difference that the optimistic are hoping for. The refs are not going to judge the Bruins aggression and violence by rewarding the Habs a 10 to 3 powerplay advantage. That hope never ever comes to pass. It doesn't matter if one team is hammering the other at every turn, at the end of the night the powerplays are almost always about even.
The style of hockey as this season progressed overall also makes me believe that old style physicality will prevail.
In picking my pool team, I am not looking for finesse to go deep. I am picking the Bruins deep and physical line-up will go all the way to the Stanley Cup finals with an opponent with some size too like Anaheim or San Jose. I don't like Vancouver either, because I am not convinced their best players will not shy away from what I perceive to be an extra amount of physical sacrifice to get the job done this year.
I expect a lot of injuries these playoffs too and predict teams with defensive depth will excel in the long run.
I think overall the Habs created a speed and finesse team that coming out of the lockout would have been fine, but the team's lack of size isn't going to win puck battles in the corners, and they aren't going to gain speed in the neutral zone either with the 1-2-2 scheme destroying any head of steam that hockey used to enjoy through the neutral zone.
So it is going to be all about the soft dump for the F1 to go get and the Habs aren't proficient at that strategy. They don't have the make-up for it. The club is about transition and counter attack and that is getting harder and harder in today's NHL.
The only fly in my Boston is going far ointment is Tim Thomas. Thomas has not been good in Montreal. Thomas beat Hasek's save percentage with a .938 this season as the best ever, but in Montreal you wouldn't even think Thomas was the team's number one goalie but instead a minor leaguer he has been so bad here. The Habs have to hope that whatever Thomas can't seem to handle at the Bell Centre continues.
If I am eating all of my words in two weeks about speed vs strength and the changing face of hockey as we revert back to a more grinding game, then surely it will be because the goalie of Boston coloured the series red, white and blue.
So the prediction is Bruins win easily and when it is done the fans will be clamouring for that big centre that has been lacking in Montreal for far too long, and the vitriol for the head coach on talk radio will be strong too as many blame Martin for the physical deficiencies of his players.
Don't get me wrong. I would love to be wrong for Habs fans' sake and my own as there is no greater work enjoyment than travelling in the playoffs with all of its intensity, and I only travel if Montreal is in.
So I am not a Habs fan, but I am a fan of my own life and its good fun.
So while I cheer for myself, that doesn't impact all of the logic I am trying to bring to the discussion, and all that logic says Bruins in five.
Let's hear your prediction and why you feel it.