OK- let me start by saying that every hockey writer on the planet is picking Montreal to win this series. And why not? They have a potentially sensational rookie goaltender in Carey Price, a lethal powerplay led by a rejuvenated Alexei Kovalev, and an overwhelming 13 straight victories against the Bruins. Also, they are the Canadiens, which historically have owned the Bruins in the playoffs (24-5 all time.) Now, here's why they won't this time:
1)Tim Thomas has consistently, over the past three seasons, been told that he is not good enough, will be the backup, won't make the team, or is the stopgap goaltender "for now". He has responded, time and time again, with excellent, clutch play. So now THIS rookie goaltender is going to outplay him? Why exactly? Because he played well in juniors? Tell that to "goalies of the future" Andrew Raycroft, Tukka Rask and Hannu Toivenen. And if you think that he's destined for greatness because Patrick Roy and Ken Dryden both won cups as rookies and he- um, wears the same color sweater? Well, you know what they didn't have? An over-the-top 24 hour internet, print and television media in Montreal telling them that they were the third coming of Christ. Yeah, I'm sure that's GREAT for a young goaltender's nerves. Edge, Tim Thomas.
2) If Alexei Kovalev is my primary offensive weapon in the playoffs, I'd be worried. A lot is made about the fact that Kovalev won a cup, and has that experience, but first of all, that was under the captaincy of Mark Messier is 1994. Montreal's captain Saku Koivu, (while very inspirational when returning from cancer,) is and was no 1994 Mark Messier. Also, his foot is broken and he may not play. I'm not saying that Kovalev wasn't lethal this season. But over a seven game series, I question his character.
3) OK- the Canadiens have won the last 13 games. That sounds bad for the Bruins. But first of all, let's go ahead and wipe away the 5 games that fell at the tail end of last season, which at that point in a devastated season was primarily a chance for the Bruins to give Mark Stuart some NHL icetime. So the Bruins went 0-8 this season. OK, that still still sounds bad, but it bears mentioning that the Bruins success down the playoff stretch was sparked by the shootout loss to the Canadiens on March 22. Sure, that was a loss, and the prognosticators can crow about how the Habs cemented their perfect record against the Bruins, but the Bruins lost their leading scorer in Marc Savard, and the Bruin rookies stepped it up, [particulary David Krejci.) The Bruins went on to take points in every single meaningful game down the stretch, and gave Krejci the confidence that he can play in this league as a #1 centerman. Now, Savard is skating. Patrice Bergeron is cleared for contact. With David Krejci, Glen Metropolit and Phil Kessel, the Bruins can all of a sudden roll 4 lines. Granted, this is based on Bergeron and Savard coming on strong, but it's the NHL playoffs, and these are two All Stars who are really hungry for playoff action, Savard having never played in the postseason, and Bergeron getting his feet wet once, against- who else? Montreal.
Bruins in 6