There are some key things to look at when Game 1 of the Atlantic Division Final kicks off tonight in Boston between the Bruins and Montreal Canadiens.
The first 10 minutes
The Canadiens haven’t played a game April 22, four days before the Bruins last game. Playoff hockey is a very intense atmosphere. How the Canadiens respond – on the road no less – in the first 10 minutes of the first period will be telling. Their 2011 series, they were known for quick starts and also in their series against the Lightning. If they can keep it within one goal in this time and until they get their legs back, it will be a key to the game.
Getting to Rask
Tuukka Rask is a very good goaltender. He is a nominee for the Vezina trophy and a deserving one at that. However, he is only 3-10-3 against the Canadiens in his career and has never beat them (he’s 0-8) at home with a save percentage under .900. The Canadiens capitalized on some bad goals against the Lightning. The two teams are close enough that Rask needs to put his Canadiens demons behind him.
You can imagine that Patrice Bergeron will be seeing a lot of Max Pacioretty and Thomas Vanek. They are both at their best against Boston and it should be a very interesting matchup. The Canadiens beat the Lightning without this line at their best. I don’t think they will be so lucky against the Bruins.
It will also be interesting to see if the Daniel Briere line can capitalize against the fourth line of the Bruins like it did when they played the Lightning. If the fourth line – from either team – can dominate, it will create some matchup headaches for the other team.
A New Bourque
The Canadiens don’t need to count on Rene Bourque to repeat his performance against Boston from the first round but it sure would be nice. The Canadiens need him to play well in order to spread out their offence as Boston is a very good defensive team and will use any weakness they can to their advantage.