BOSTON, MA - The Bruins host the Montreal Canadiens for the first time this season Thursday night at TD Garden.
When Boston faced them for the first time on December in Montreal, it was Reilly Smith's first time at the Bell Centre, and first time experiencing the heated Original Six rivalry that has stretched 90 years, and over 700 games.
The forward found out right away what makes this game different than the others.
"It's not the toughest game to get up for," Smith said pregame, following the team's morning skate at TD Garden. "These rivalry games are good to test the team and it should be a pretty emotional game tonight. These rivalry games are huge and they'll come out with their best game, so we have to be expecting that."
"It's always a great matchup, an intense game but also a fun game to be part of," added Patrice Bergeron. "There are only five games before the break now and it's a good challenge for us to wind up on a good note, and we have to take it a game at a time, and tonight's one of them."
The Bruins are 5-0-1 in their past six games, and have won four straight, putting up six goals apiece in their past three wins. Meanwhile, the Habs just picked up a 3-0 win over Carolina to snap a four-game losing streak.
Boston sits atop the Atlantic Division, ahead of fourth place Montreal by 10 points.
But no matter where each is at, this matchup is always welcome.
"Yeah, I think anytime's good to play Montreal," said Chris Kelly, who will be suiting up in his second game back from injury. "They're always good games, they play hard, and it will be a good test. Two teams that need points will be battling hard."
The greatest emphasis for the Black & Gold, though, will be on continuing to execute their style of play that has bred success, and not let the Canadiens get them off of their game.
"I think right now it’s really important that we continue to look at our game," said Bruins Head Coach Claude Julien. "It’s always a good game against the Montreal Canadiens, and it’s always been a great rivalry, but let’s not look at it so much as a rivalry more than we need to continue bringing our game to the table every night that we’re playing this week, and finish it off on a good note here with five games left before the Olympic break."
"And that’s where our whole focus is, and you’ve got to try to not get dragged into this big build-up that we have every time we play them."
Not Getting Complacent
You hear it often in the room: "we're happy, but we're not satisfied." The Bruins are pretty satisfied with their play as of late, but that still doesn't mean they're not looking for areas to improve.
"We're trying to work on some of the things in our game that we can be better at, and every time you do that, it keeps you grounded and makes you realize that you can be better," said Bergeron.
"It doesn't matter if you score six goals, you're still getting scored on, on goals that you think you can avoid. I think there's always room for improvement, so right now it's about keeping improving and keep going that way."
"It’s pretty simple; even though we’ve scored six goals it doesn’t mean you're playing a perfect game," said Julien. "There are some areas we still look at after games. We bring players in and show them different things that happened. Any time the other team gets scoring chances there’s something that you're not doing well. So you're always trying to improve yourself."
"We’ve been pretty good at not getting satisfied when those kind of things happen. Right now it’s not so much about worrying about that more than continuing to bring the type of effort that we brought the last little while."
What will be the biggest indication that the effort is being sustained from game to game?
"When you start losing battles, when guys start trying to get overly cute with their plays, you're seeing your team slip away from that," said Julien.
Paille with Soderberg-Eriksson
Since the Bruins' 6-1 win in Philadelphia, Daniel Paille has mostly been playing up on the third line with Loui Eriksson and Carl Soderberg. Against the Flyers and Islanders, Paille switched lines, with Jordan Caron filling in on the fourth line.
On Tuesday night against the Florida Panthers, Chris Kelly was eased back into the lineup on the fourth line in his return from injury, keeping Paille on the third. With the Bruins having a comfortable lead in their eventual 6-2 win, Kelly got time with Eriksson and Soderberg.
Expect that same process to play out again against the Habs, depending on the way the game is going.
As for now, Julien has enjoyed what he's seen the Paille-Soderberg-Eriksson trio produce.
"Well, Dan’s a first rounder, a former first rounder, and people seem to forget that," said Julien. "I think Dan’s created himself kind of a situation like [with Guy Carbonneau] where he has been utilized for defensive purposes, killing penalties, energy because he’s a good skater, but you see his playmaking ability too."
"To me, on that line [with Carl and Loui] he’s one of those guys that was getting to the pucks first and making some room and giving those guys an opportunity to play more with the puck; he was on top of it all the time. He is an underrated player in my mind to a lot of people but certainly not to us because he has been extremely valuable."
Boston Projected Lineup
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