This year it's the same, but a little different.
The Boston Bruins enter the postseason as the No.1 seed in the Eastern Conference, and they will battle their bitter rivals, the Montreal Canadiens, who own the eighth seed.
While at first glance it may seem like it would be an easy series victory for Boston—especially with the Canadiens top defensemen Andrei Markov out—history says, "Enough of that!"
This will be the 32nd time these two Original Six teams meet in the playoffs, and the Canadiens have the Bruins number, winning 24 out of the 31 prior series.
But, the Bruins 116 points this season is a number that can lash back at the history in favor of the Canadiens. It's the highest point total the Bruins have recorded since 1972—the last year they won the coveted Stanley Cup.
We will be in store for a great series out of these two teams, let's break it down.
Entering the 2008/2009 season, Bruins fans were asking many questions about the offense. Would Phil Kessel produce? How would Patrice Bergeron rebound from that horrific concussion that knocked him out for the 2007/2008 season? Would Michael Ryder be a valuable free agency pickup?
Those questions were answered early on in the season, and the B's haven't looked back.
Boston has a very balanced attack, led by Kessel and Marc Savard.
It doesn't stop there.
The Bruins have remarkable depth, and when you think you have stopped their big guns, a new wave comes right out. Bergeron, David Krejci, Mark Recchi, and Blake Wheeler are all big contributors when it comes to the Bruins' offense.
Montreal also has some questions that are still needing to be answered coming into the first round. The main one Canadiens fans are asking is, "Will Alex Kovalev show up in the playoffs?"
His 65 points this season was definitely a step down from last season. To be honest, I have no idea which Alex Kovalev will show up—the one who won the MVP award at this year's All-Star Game or the one that was benched in February for his lack of inspired play?
Canadiens fans better hope that it is the All-Star Game Kovalev or they will have a hard time scoring on the very good Bruins defense.
Chris Higgins, the Kostitsyn brothers, and the captain, Saku Koivu, will all need to be at the top of their games, as well.
It's no secret that Boston has one of the top defenses in the National Hockey League.
Led by Zdeno Chara, this is a defense that gave up the fewest amount of goals in the league this season (196).
This is a big, bruising defense that will dominate physically against the Canadiens.
Perhaps the biggest factor in this series will be whether or not All-Star Andrei Markov will be able to play.
Montreal's top defensemen has been sidelined with a lower body injury and his status is uncertain.
The Bruins have a Vezina Trophy candidate in Tim Thomas between the pipes, while Montreal has a shaky Carey Price in net.
The other key factor besides Markov's injury will be whether or not Price plays lights out.
If he doesn't, it will be a very quick series. The Bruins have too good of an offense and Montreal won't be able to catch up if they fall behind early in the series.
Thomas posted a 2.10 goals against average to go along with a .933 save percentage, which were tops in the league.
Although Thomas doesn't have much playoff experience, the Bruins will expect that he will be fine in the playoffs, considering he didn't falter at any point during the regular season.
In order for the Canadiens to be successful in this series, they will need Carey Price to play the series of his life.
Boston also has the edge on the power play, as theirs was fifth best in the league. Montreal's penalty killing percentage was at 82.4, so look for the Bruins to take advantage of their power plays.
In the end, I just think that Boston has too much offensive firepower to lose this series. This won't be a quick sweep though, I expect Montreal to fight hard, especially at home (where they are very good).
Prediction: Boston in 5.
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