BOSTON, MA – The rivalry is back at full strength. After a bit of a dip in the Boston-Montreal feud last season, things seems to be back to normal with both teams tied atop the Northeast Division with just over a month to go in the regular season.
The teams have split a game apiece this season, with each club winning on the other’s home ice. The Bruins came away as 2-1 winners at Bell Centre on February 6, and Montreal came back for a 4-3 victory in a heated contest at TD Garden on March 3., that included numerous scuffles and two fights.
The Canadiens scored two third period goals to erase a 3-2 Bruins lead and broke a tie for first place in the division. The same will happen for the winner of tonight’s contest.
A lot of emotion and hype come with playing against Montreal, and it can lead to a team getting away from their game. As a result, B’s Head Coach Claude Julien says staying composed and not taking penalties is key when facing Montreal.
“It’s pretty simple,” said Julien, when asked how his team stays focused on playing hockey. “Bottom line is, you’ve got to stay out of the penalty box. They’ve got a good power play, we have to play a certain way, but we’ve got to play within the rules.
“If you’re a physical team, you’ve got to be physical, but you can’t be stupid with the types of hits you’re giving, and do it cleanly. If you do that then you’re sticking to your game plan because we expect our team to be a physical team every night that we play, whether it happens or not.
“But we expect our team to be disciplined. At the end of the night, that’s what you hope has happened.”
The Bruins are aware of the importance of tonight’s game and are ready for the challenge with first place in the Northeast Division on the line.
“We know it's a big game,” said Patrice Bergeron following today’s morning skate. “Every game has been a big game, especially when you play out east every time. We know it's teams that are battling with you for a playoff spot, and right now we know it's for first place.
“It's a huge game tonight, and Montreal is a team that never stops, never quits. We know it's going to be a 60-minute effort we're going to need tonight. It's going to be a tough game again.”
Bergeron said the mixture of the Canadiens’ offensive skill, both up front and on the back end is the focus for the Bruins tonight. The Black & Gold will have to try to limit Montreal’s opportunities and play a hard, physical game.
“It's a team that has a lot of speed up front and a lot of talent,” said the B’s assistant captain. “But also defensively, I think they have some good offensive defensemen that will get some good outlet passes in the D-zone. We have to make sure we put some pressure on them and cause some turnovers.
“We're a team that works hard but also is pretty big on the puck. If we're first on pucks and if we're on our toes, usually we'll get some results like that. That's what we need tonight.”
Milan Lucic, who broke a 15-game scoreless streak on Monday night against Toronto, said he is expecting the most out of both clubs tonight.
“We're definitely both at different points in the season in where our team games are at,” Lucic said this morning. “I think this is going to bring the best out of both teams and out of everybody as individuals. We're looking forward to it tonight.”
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