MONTREAL – The Bruins know they’re in a unique position coming out of their bye week with three games against their arch-rival Montreal Canadiens over the next seven days. The scorching hot Black and Gold are 17-3-3 in their last 23 games and ride an 11-game point streak that led into the last five days off. They currently sit in second place in the Atlantic Division with games in hand on all the rest of their divisional competitors.
The Montreal Canadiens have underachieved tremendously sitting eight points out of an Eastern Conference playoff spot, a distant 13 points behind Boston despite having played two more games than the Black and Gold. If the Habs want to make noise for a playoff spot they need to begin winning games, and have to make up ground against the Bruins with three head-to-head games over the next week.
It’s not a stretch to say the Bruins could plunge a dagger into Montreal’s postseason hopes with a dominant showing in their upcoming three meetings, but B’s head coach Bruce Cassidy wasn’t willing to go that far yet.
“To [talk of] ending someone’s season in January is a little premature, personally. I don’t want to go there because we want to get the two points, and then get ready to play Dallas on Monday,” said Cassidy of the Canadiens, who have lost five of their last seven games and scored just one goal or less in six of those seven aforementioned contests. “We want to take care of our own business and keep climbing up the standings. We know how valuable the points are. It’s a long grind. We’re not even halfway through. We want to keep playing well, collect our points and be a Stanley Cup contender."
“We’re not worried about who gets left behind or whatnot. We’re just taking care of our own business.”
So here’s the simple truth: The B’s can deal Montreal a death blow if they sweep all three games. A cluster of losses to a division opponent they’re chasing could thoroughly destroy the Habs’ playoff hopes, and Boston is certainly aware of that heading into the first tilt Saturday night at the Bell Centre.
“It’s kind weird that we’ve gone half the year without playing each other and now we’re going to see them three times [in a week],” said Patrice Bergeron. “But I’m looking forward to it…it’s going to be big. They are huge points and [Montreal] is trying to climb up. For us we’re trying to stay up [in the standings] and push teams down, so we know what’s at stake."
“It’s three games in a week, so it’s a really important week for them and for us. We talk about setting short term goals, and we want to make sure we keep playing the same way, keep pushing teams down and keep gaining ground on the teams that are in front of us."
Here are the Bruins line combos and D-pairings at Friday afternoon’s skate at the Bell Centre that signified the end of the bye week: