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If the Playoffs started tonight, how would the Bruins fare?

The Stanley Cup Playoffs are less than three weeks away, but what if they were to start tonight? The first round would be Boston vs. Detroit, Montreal vs. Tampa Bay, Pittsburgh vs. Columbus, and NY Rangers vs. Philadelphia. So how would the Bruins fare if they started a 7-game series with the Red Wings tonight? Would they be hoisting the Stanley Cup in two months after missing it by just 17 seconds last season? Would they even make it past the first round? Will the first round go to overtime of Game 7? Probably. That just seems to be the Bruins way.

The Bruins have been known to struggle through Round 1 of the Playoffs, especially against the Maple Leafs. The Leafs forced a Game 7 in last year’s first round first round series after the Bruins went up 3-1 in the series. The Bruins went down 4-1 with ten minutes left in the third period, but ended up winning the game and the series in overtime in a game that has been dubbed the “Miracle on Causeway Street.”

Right now, the Bruins are set to face the Red Wings to whom they have lost two of three games so far this season. The Red Wings haven’t had the best season so far though and are just barely sneaking into the eighth spot in the Eastern Conference playoff picture. If the Toronto Maple Leafs can break their six-game losing streak, Detroit will have a difficult time holding off the Leafs for that remaining Wild Card spot. The Bruins travel to Detroit for the last time this season on April 2nd followed by a trip to Toronto the very next day. One of these games will likely be a preview of the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

The Bruins have won two of their three matchups with the Leafs this season, including a 5-2 win on December 8th. This victory came with Chad Johnson in net, Shawn Thornton out on a 15-game suspension for an illegal hit on Brooks Orpik, and Loui Eriksson, Chris Kelly, Adam McQuaid, Johnny Boychuk and Dougie Hamilton all out with injuries. This was just the beginning of a long couple of injury-filled months for the Bruins, but the B’s managed to pull out necessary wins even with a lineup cycling through Providence call-ups and a very young defensive core. Staying out of the penalty box has been the key to beating Toronto during the regular season. The B’s had two power-play goals in each of their two victories and the Leafs had a pair of their own in the Bruins 4-3 loss. The Bruins need to find a way to beat Toronto in the Playoffs though.

It isn’t only the Maple Leafs who have given the Bruins some first round challenges though. The first round has been decided by an overtime goal in Game 7 three years in a row. The seventh-seeded Washington Capitals knocked the second-seeded Bruins out of the Playoffs in overtime of Game 7 in 2012. In 2011 before winning the Stanley Cup, the third-seeded Bruins were almost sent home early by the Montreal Canadiens before Nathan Horton scored the game- and series-winning goal in overtime of Game 7. The first round never comes easy for the Black and Gold.

This year, the second round may prove to be just as challenging for the Bruins. Boston fans will be ferociously rooting for the Lightning or whoever finds themselves face-to-face with the Canadiens in the first round. If the Playoffs started tonight, it would be Montreal vs. Tampa Bay. The Lightning are 2-1 against the Canadiens so far this season and have won five of their last seven games. That being said, the Canadiens have had the better season and thrive in do-or-die situations. The Lightning, on the other hand, haven’t made the Playoffs since the Bruins knocked them out in seven games in the Eastern Conference Finals on their way to the 2010-2011 Stanley Cup. This was the same series that saw Tyler Seguin’s breakout performance where he tallied three goals and three assists in his first two postseason games in the NHL. Vezina Tropy winner Tim Thomas was in goal for the Bruins and carried them to a 1-0 win in Game 7. A lot has changed since then, but the Bruins won all four games against the Lightning this regular season.

Boston’s biggest threat in the second round would be a meeting with their fierce rivals from Montreal. The Bruins have notoriously struggled against the Canadiens, in the Playoffs and otherwise. The Habs took the regular season series with the Bruins 3-1. The Canadiens embarrassed the Bruins and Tuukka Rask with a 4-1 victory at TD Garden in January. The Bruins were coming off a four-game winning streak; the Canadiens had a four-game losing streak. Rask was pulled after the third goal in favor of Johnson who let up the fourth goal just two minutes into his appearance in the game. The Bruins bounced back in the third game of the series though with a 4-1 win. Rask proved himself early with two huge stops on two early breakaways by the Habs in the first period. He would go on to make 35 saves and help the Bruins to a six-game winning streak.

On Monday night, Montreal proved once again that they thrive in do-or-die situations. The Canadiens are fighting for every point to ensure a playoff berth and stifled the Bruins 12-game winning streak with a 2-1 shootout win. The Bruins played an incredible game though with 29 shots on goal against an impenetrable Peter Budaj. The story may have been different with another 20-minute overtime period.

This would be, by far, the most difficult series for the Bruins. However, if they could come away with four wins against the Canadiens, who have won six of the last seven meetings between the two, the Cup would be theirs for the taking.

The Eastern Conference Finals would likely be a faceoff against the Pittsburgh Penguins or New York Rangers. The Rangers, with Henrik Lundqvist in goal, have been dominant as of late. Lundqvist is on a five-game winning streak and was honored Monday night for breaking the Rangers all-time win record with 305 career wins. Right now, they would be facing the Flyers in the first round, who they decisively beat 3-1 last night with 31 saves by Lundqvist. Pittsburgh shouldn’t have a problem with Columbus, who they swept in the regular season.

If Pittsburgh and the Rangers do face off in the second round, it would be a very close series. They have each have one regulation win and one shootout win in their four-game regular season series. The Penguins have two players in the top ten point-scorers in the League with Sidney Crosby in first and Evgeni Malkin tied for sixth. Pittsburgh’s League-leading offense would have the best chance of getting the puck past King Lundqvist. However, Marc-Andre Fleury has lost his last five games.

The Bruins saw both teams in last year’s Stanley Cup Playoffs and breezed by both. The Bruins skipped over the Rangers in just five games in the second round, scoring 14 goals against Lundqvist in just five games to give him a mediocre 2.80 Goals Against Average in the series. The B’s only loss came in a Game 4 overtime decision that almost gave the Bruins the sweep.

Pittsburgh put up even less of a fight. The first-seeded Penguins were swept by the Bruins in the Eastern Conference Finals and were outscored 12-2. The Bruins have yet to face Fleury in the postseason though. He was replaced with Tomas Vokoun in the first round of the 2013 Playoffs after losing two games to the New York Islanders, giving up six goals in Game 4. Vokoun played the rest of the Playoffs, but has yet to play this season after a pelvic blood clot in September benched him. Head coach Dan Blysma has stated that even if Vokoun were to return before the end of the season, Fleury and Jeff Zatkoff will be between the pipes for the Penguins come the postseason. Zatkoff has gone 12-4-1 his first season in the NHL, but has no postseason experience.

The Bruins have won two of three in the regular season series against Pittsburgh and Fleury, including a last second thriller on November 25th. Crosby tied the game 3-3 with just .3 seconds left in regulation to force overtime, but Torey Krug responded just 34 seconds into overtime to give the Bruins the win. Pittsburgh is another team that the Bruins need to be mindful of giving up penalties to. The Pens have scored three power-play goals in their three meetings this season.

If the Penguins, who have lost five of their last seven games, do fall to the Rangers, the Bruins will be facing a team and a star goalie that they have swept in the regular season. The first win for the B’s against the Rangers this season came on Rasks second game in two nights. He made 43 saves, giving up only one goal. Zdeno Chara brought a natural hat trick to the second win, including the game-winning goal. The third win, a 6-3 decision, forced Rask to make 19 saves in a first period where the Bruins were outshot 20-9. The Bruins definitely know how to beat either of these teams. And they probably wouldn’t need seven games to do it.

Should the Bruins make a repeat appearance to the Stanley Cup Finals, they would most likely be facing the St. Louis Blues, Anaheim Ducks or Chicago Blackhawks. While the San Jose Sharks lead the Pacific Division, they choke every postseason. This team has been Division Champions six times in ten years from 2002 to 2012, but has never won a Stanley Cup or Conference Championship. In the last two seasons, they were knocked out in the first two rounds. They made it to the conference finals in both 2010 and 2011, but lost to Chicago and Vancouver respectively.

The Bruins have never faced St. Louis or Anaheim in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. They took two points from the Blues this regular season in two games with a shootout and overtime loss. The B’s split the regular season series with the Ducks, winning at TD Garden and losing in Anaheim. With the way the Bruins are playing as of late and with all of their players healthy, they are more than capable of beating either of these teams, especially with home ice advantage.

A repeat Stanley Cup Final matchup has only happened once in the past century. The Detroit Red Wings and Pittsburgh Penguins faced off in both 2008 and 2009 with the Red Wings taking the first win and the Penguins hoisting the Cup a year later. There’s a good possibility that history could repeat itself this season. If the Bruins meet the Blackhawks in the Finals this year, Patrice Bergeron and the rest of the Black and Gold will be out for blood.

Chicago ripped the Cup out of the Bruins hands in 17 seconds that still haunt the city of Boston. The B’s went up 2-1 in the series, fought through three overtimes, played their star forward with a cracked rib, punctured lung and separated shoulder, and came within 1:16 of forcing a Game 7. However, Bryan Bickell scored with just 1:16 left in Game 6 with the goalie pulled. It looked like another grueling overtime, but the Blackhawks had a different plan. The Bruins defense never recovered from the tying goal and just 17 seconds later Dave Bolland ripped the puck past Rask to suck the life and all hope of hoisting the Cup out of the Bruins.

That’s all in the past though. The Bruins won in shootouts in Chicago earlier this season and face the Blackhawks at TD Garden tonight for the first time since those devastating 17 seconds. Now the Bruins are a different team. Rask has more experience under his belt, Patrice Bergeron is healthy, and Reilly Smith, Carl Soderberg and Eriksson have added more scoring depth to the B’s offense.

If the Playoffs started tonight, the Bruins could be hoisting the Cup by the end of May. But there are three months, 16 wins and two very good Canadian teams that stand between the Bruins and the ultimate redemption.

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The Bruins system

The Bruins roster is full of 24 men from all over the world with very different backgrounds. But all of these men have one very important thing in common. They fit the Bruins style of hockey. They have the skill and speed necessary to make it in the NHL, but their strength and physical style of playing is the name of the game. Peter Chiarelli has crafted a team based on this model of physical toughness and aggressiveness. This is the Bruins way.

A majority of the core Bruins players, especially the forwards, were drafted by Boston. The Bruins build up their players and mold them into the typical Bruin. Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, Milan Lucic and David Krejci, all prominent forwards on the first two lines and key, long-term players in the Bruins organization, were originally drafted by Boston. They came to Boston with their sharp skills and hockey knowledge, but have become so much more over their past several years with the B’s.

The Bruins like to take the time and effort to build up their new players, drawing from the many veterans on the team to help them fit the Bruins style. Enter: Tyler Seguin.

He was drafted by the Bruins in the first round, 2nd overall, in 2010. He greatly impressed the front office and Boston fans across New England with his appearance in the 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs where he put up six points off three goals in Round 1 against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

However over the next two seasons, Seguin failed to deliver that magic that was seen in the conference quarterfinals. While his off ice antics certainly contributed to his alienation with the front office, it became obvious that he just didn’t fit in with the Bruins organization. Seguin isn’t a bad hockey player, but Chiarelli and the Bruins organization are looking for a certain kind of hockey player and Seguin just wasn’t it.

It’s not about who’s the better hockey player or who can skate the fastest, it’s about who fits best into the system. For the Bruins, that has been Reilly Smith and Loui Eriksson. While Seguin is having a great year down with the Dallas Stars and Smith having a great streak with the Bruins, the deal should not be considered won or loss by either team. Each team got the players who fit best into their style of hockey.

Hockey isn’t about individual players. It’s the ultimate team sport. A team can’t win championships having a few really talented players. It takes an entire team that molds well together to be a truly successful hockey team. Hockey isn’t like the NFL or NBA where teams are almost entirely recreated every season with a new set of guys coming and going. Good NHL teams stay relatively consistent from year to year. The Bruins epitomize this.

Across the roster the Bruins have several core players with long-term contracts who, more likely than not, are in Boston for the rest of their careers. The longest contracts on the team belong to forward Bergeron, defenseman Zdeno Chara and goalie Tuukka Rask, proving that the Bruins have solid veterans and role models across the board.

Chara is perhaps the core of the Boston Bruins organization. He’s worn the spoked B for 8 years now and completely embodies the Bruins style of play. The Bruins thrive on the tough physical game and the transition from defense to offense, something that Chara has excelled at with his 13 goals already this season.

The future for the Bruins also looks bright with the acquisition of Torey Krug and Dougie Hamilton. Krug was signed by Boston directly out of Michigan State and Hamilton was drafted by the Bruins in the first round in 2011. Both have already proven that they can excel as offensive defensemen. Krug is only one goal behind Chara for the season and has racked up an impressive 32 points. Both players were brought in straight to Boston and fit the Bruins style of play. Core players are built from the bottom up.

Obviously the Bruins have acquired some of their top talent from other organizations, namely Chara and Rask, but the B’s pride themselves on long-term players who fit their mold and learn and grow along with the organization. It’s hard to imagine a Bruins team without Bergeron and Marchand lighting the lamps, Lucic dropping the gloves when necessary, Chara tearing apart the league’s best offenses, or Rask making the incredible save. And for Bruins fans there’s a very good chance that they won’t have to for quite some time.

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Going into the Olympic Break, a look back at the Bruins season

With a devastating end to the season in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Finals only three months behind them, the Bruins came out strong in the 2013-2014 season. The B’s won nine of their first 11 games and only suffered five losses in the entire month of November.

Despite some struggles and untimely injuries midway through the season, the Bruins now sit comfortably atop the Atlantic Division with a 37-16-4 record, riding a 7-2 slaughtering of the Ottawa Senators into the Olympic Break.

There have been many defining moments in the Bruins season thus far, including the emergence of backup goalie Chad Johnson and the integration of Jarome Iginla into the lineup. However, the top three moments that have defined the 2013-2014 Boston Bruins so far going into this two-week break go to Brad Marchand, the Pittsburgh Penguins and Dennis Seidenberg.

1. Marchand ends criticism with 6-game point streak

Marchand had been receiving a lot of criticism from the harsh Boston sports media and Bruins fans everywhere with his slow start to the season after a disappointing zero-point series in the Stanley Cup Finals. He posted only 4 points and 1 goal in the first month of the season and those numbers only improved marginally for the months of November and December.

The media began questioning Marchand’s position on the team and even going back to question the July trade of Tyler Seguin to the Stars. However, the winger finally put his critics to rest in the month of January, posting 14 points from eight goals, including a six-game point streak where he netted six of those goals. This surge came when the Bruins needed him most during a tough Western Conference road trip where the Bruins managed to come away with five points against the Stars, Blackhawks and Kings.

The Bruins second line, consisting of Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and Riley Smith, came alive during this stretch with each going on a six-game point and putting up 31 points total between the three. This finally silenced criticism of Marchand and the Seguin deal which brought Smith to Boston as the Bruins second line began to repeatedly capitalize on great opportunities in the offensive zone.

2. Bruins come from behind to beat Penguins, Shawn Thornton receives 15-game suspension

The game between the Bruins and the conference rivals Pittsburgh Penguins on December 7 was a big moment for the Bruins this season. Leading up to this game, the Penguins were riding a five-game win streak with their last loss coming from the Bruins in a 4-3 overtime victory less than two weeks prior. The Penguins, however, had taken the first game of the series against the Bruins in a close 3-2 contest in the first game since the B’s swept them in the Eastern Conference Finals. Tensions were high.

Both teams exchanged cheap shots with Brooks Orpik taking Eriksson out of the game with a concussion, James Neal kneeing Marchand in the head while he was already down on the ice, and Shawn Thornton retaliating by taking down Orpik causing him to leave the game in a stretcher.

The Thornton hit on Orpik after he was down led to a 15-game suspension at a time the Bruins were already down players due to injuries, including Eriksson and Johnny Boychuk. Thornton also had to sit for a ten minute penalty which led to the Penguins second power-play goal of the night to put them up 2-1, a lead they would hold for most of the game.

The dramatics continued, however, at TD Garden that night when David Krejci ripped a centering pass from Iginla past Marc-André Fleury to tie up the game with only 1:29 remaining in the third with Tuukka Rask pulled. The Bruins wanted more than a point out of this game though and got exactly that when Zdeno Chara put the Penguins away for good with just 13 seconds left in regulation to push the Bruins to a 3-2 victory, bringing them within one point of the Penguins and the Montreal Canadiens for first place in the Eastern Conference. The Bruins then propelled forward from that game, winning three of four games in a tough Canadian road trip against the Maple Leafs, Flames, Oilers and Canucks.

3. Seidenberg’s receives season-ending injury, leaving the Bruins desperate to fill defensive holes

Without a doubt the most defining moment of this season has been Seidenberg’s season-ending ACL/MCL injury that came on December 28 against the Ottawa Senators. Seidenberg was a solid presence at the blue line, averaging 22:50 minutes of ice time per game. His injury left the Bruins with only three veteran defenseman, including Adam McQuaid who had already missed nearly half of the season with various lower-body injuries.

The Bruins had no choice but to start focusing on the development of their young defensemen Dougie Hamilton, Torey Krug, Matt Bartkowski and Kevan Miller. David Warsofsky was also called up from the Providence Bruins to help fill some holes on defense throughout the second half of the season.

Without Seidenberg, the Bruins showed signs of struggle losing four of their next six games including a rough West Coast road trip, but the B’s managed to turn things back around with a crucial 1-0 victory over the San Jose Sharks to finish out the trip on January 11. They have since won 10 of their last 13 leading up to the break.

While having Seidenberg out for the season was certainly not ideal, it ultimately helped the Bruins develop their young defensemen for when they really needed them with McQuaid going out again on January 19 with another lower-body injury. They were put to the test again when Chara had to leave for the Olympic Games early to carry the flag for Slovakia, leaving Boychuk as the sole veteran defensemen. His 299 career NHL games is more than all five of the remaining young defensemen’s NHL experience combined. The young, but now experienced, Bruins defense held on for the two Chara-less games, picking up three points and destroying the Senators 7-2 in the final game before the break.

The B’s have proved they are strong contenders for another solid Stanley Cup Playoff run, even with potentially crippling injuries. Peter Chiarelli will have some holes to fill on defense as the March 5 trading deadline comes around, but the Bruins can have some confidence going into the remainder of the season that their young defensive core can hold the blue line and continue to drive the Bruins through a winning season.

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Bruins manage a point in late comeback against the Blues

The hole left by Zdeno Chara proved to be too large for the Bruins to fill against the St. Louis Blues Thursday night. The B’s defense failed to protect the blue line while veteran Johnny Boychuk took multiple unnecessary penalties to leave the younger defensemen to fight for themselves.

David Warsofsky, who was recalled from the Providence Bruins at the beginning of the week to replace Chara, was put to the test early on the first power play line when former Boston University teammate Kevin Shattenkirk went to the box just 13 seconds into the game. Both power play lines looked good, but were unable to put one past Jaroslav Halak who was an iron curtain for St. Louis through two periods of play.

However, the Bruins put up a good fight offensively and the Chara-less defense managed to find their stride late in the game, allowing them to pick up a point in the 3-2 overtime loss.

The Blues got on the board late in the first period after an uncalled high stick by Maxim Lapierre that sent Loui Eriksson down the tunnel for some stitches. A couple of minutes later Alexander Steen easily brought the puck through the neutral zone and beat Rask pad side 15:48 into the first.

The Blues scored in transition again early in the second period when Jaden Schwartz wristed the puck through Kevan Miller’s legs and past Rask to put St. Louis up 2-0. Once again the Bruins defense showed their inability to hold the blue line without Chara allowing the Blues to generate quality chances.

The penalty kill stayed strong for the Bruins even with Boychuk in the box for the final two minutes of the second period. Boychuk, who played a majority of the penalty kill minutes through two periods, got called for the double minor for roughing with TJ Oshie after he delivered a solid hit on Torey Krug.  The B’s were able to kill the penalty and go into the locker room down only two after two periods.

In the third, Krug took his chance at Oshie himself after another collision between the two, but the size mismatch was evident. The hole left by Chara started to look even bigger.

The Bruins finally got on the board halfway through the third after a slick pass from Jarome Iginla to David Krejci who buried it in the back of the net. Milan Lucic set up the perfect screen as the first line put up important points for their second game in a row after driving the Bruins past the Canucks on Tuesday night.

Two minutes and 28 seconds later Brad Marchand tied it up off a rebound from a Johnny Boychuk rocket. The young Bruins defense was able to hold strong for the remainder of the period while Halak regained his composure long enough to force overtime.

This was the third straight game the Blues gave up a two-point lead in the second half of the game, including a shootout loss to the Senators on Tuesday night after leading 3-1 going into the third period.

It was TJ Oshie, though, who got the last laugh. He forced the puck past Rask three and a half minutes into overtime leaving the Bruins with only one point after a late comeback. The Blues are the only team this season to beat the Bruins in the overtime period.

Rask was coming off a solid performance against the Canucks in his first game back after being pulled in the second period of the Bruins/Canadiens game. However, he looked rusty once again, allowing three goals including the sloppy game-winner that Oshie managed to muscle between him and the pipes.

The Bruins outshot the Blues 32-21 and had several opportunities, but Halak proved to be the dominant goalie despite giving up the early lead.

The Bruins will take on the Ottawa Senators on Saturday afternoon at 3 p.m. for the final game before the Olympic break.

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Filling the 6’9″ gap: Three holes left by Chara’s absence

The 22nd Winter Olympics kick off in Sochi, Russia on Thursday which means hockey fans across North America are preparing for an extended break from NHL action as the 12-team Olympic hockey tournament begins on February 12. The Bruins will send five players to Russia including Patrice Bergeron (Canada), Loui Eriksson (Sweden), David Krejci (Czech Republic) and goalie Tuukka Rask (Finland).

Most notably, however, Bruins captain Zdeno Chara received the great honor of carrying the flag for Team Slovakia at the Opening Ceremonies on Thursday. While the entire Bruins organization is very proud and supportive, this means that the B’s will be down yet another defensemen for the last two games going into the Olympic break.

Chara has obviously played a huge role in the Bruins success this season, tallying 13 goals and 26 points and being a dominant force on the blue line. The last time Chara missed a game was on December 28 when the Bruins fell to the Ottawa Senators 4-3. His absence will leave several gaps in the Bruins game that they will need to fill to get to the Olympic break on a positive note.

1. The Captain of Game Minutes

Big Z is a huge presence during games both on and off the ice. He averages just under 25 minutes a game and leads the team as a vocal and supportive captain. Every member of the black and gold will be putting up greater numbers of on-ice time over the next two games against the St. Louis Blues and the Ottawa Senators. The Blues will prove to be the tougher challenge being  5 points above the Bruins and among the leaders in the Western Conference.

Bergeron, the alternate captain, should have no problem filling Chara’s giant skates and pushing his teammates to continually give 100 percent. The center put up 12 points last month, his most of the season, and played a pivotal role in the Bruins second line that dominated the month of January.

2. Power Play Presence

Aside from leading the team in time on the ice, Chara strives on the power play, making his presence known in front of the net and creating  opportunities. Over half of his goals have come on the power play, leaving a pretty big hole for Claude Julien and the Bruins to fill.

In light of this, Boston has once again called up David Warsofsky from Providence. He played four games for the Bruins back in December where he tallied a goal against the Senators and proved to be a real threat on the power play. The Bruins scored four power-play goals during Warsofsky’s four games.

The former Boston University Terrier will be playing on the first power play line in Chara’s absence with Krejci, Torey Krug, Milan Lucic and Jarome Iginla. The second power play line will remain Bergeron, Eriksson, Dougie Hamilton, Reilly Smith and Carl Soderberg.

3. The Age Gap

With Chara gone, the loss of veteran defensemen continues for the Bruins. Dennis Seidenberg has been out of the lineup since December 27 following a torn MCL and ACL. Adam McQuaid is also missing from the roster after suffering a leg injury on January 19. McQuaid’s return for these next two games was questionable until this week when Julien announced that it would be best for the team and McQuaid if he were to continue resting and recovering through the Olympic break. He has still yet to return to the ice and Julien feels confident that his young defensemen can pick up the slack in his absence.

This leaves Joynny Boychuk as the only veteran defensemen still in the lineup. The 30-year-old is seven years older than the average age of his fellow teammates on the blue line. The Bruins will need to see solid performances out of young defensemen Hamilton (20 years old), Krug (22), Kevan Miller (26), Matt Bartkowski (25) and Warsofsky (23) in order to avoid another mini-collapse like they suffered in December after a string of defensive injuries. While Warsofsky put up good numbers, the B’s still lost five of eight games following Seidenberg’s injury which capped off a month of tough defensive injuries.

 

The Bruins have been playing solid hockey all season and will head into the Olympic break atop the Atlantic Division, but that does not negate the importance of the next two games. There’s a big difference heading into a three-week hiatus after losing two games rather than winning two games, especially with the Lightning, Canadiens and Maple Leafs all within ten points of first in the Atlantic. With good leadership, relentless power-play shifts and strong performances out of the younger defensemen, the Bruins can go into the Olympic break with four more points on the board.

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Bruins fall apart against Montreal rivals

The stage was set. Weston Adams Jr., grandson of Bruins founder Charles Francis Adams, dropped the ceremonial first puck. Rene Rancourt belted out both the Canadian and American National Anthems. One of the biggest rivalries in professional hockey was ready to go and no one knew where the game would take it. It’s never an ordinary night at TD Garden when the Montreal Canadiens are in town.

The Bruins were coming off a four-game win streak scoring six goals in their last three games. The Canadians had been struggling throughout the month of January, dropping four of their last five games and falling to fourth in the Atlantic division. The Bruins’ first two lines were putting up spectacular numbers with significant contributions from nearly every player on the ice.

The game should have been a blowout win for the Boston Bruins, but this was no ordinary game of hockey. It was Bruins versus Habs and as history proves, anytime these two teams get together, anything can happen.

The Canadiens came out flying in the first period pushing two goals past Tuukka Rask to make it 2-0 Montreal. Alexei Emelin scored his first goal in 44 games just 2:16 into the game ripping the puck past a good screen in front of Tuukka Rask.

The Habs continued to drive the puck to the net, but Rask had several spectacular saves to keep the lead at one until 14:32 into the period when Max Pacioretty slipped the puck five-hole after a bad Daniel Paille turnover. The dominant Bruins offense had a quick response to cut the lead back to one only one minute later off a deflected Dougie Hamilton shot from the blue line.

The second period showed a much better early effort from the Bs, but they were unable to put the puck past Peter Budaj. Then it was back to much of the same as the Bruins continued to their sloppy play. The Canadiens got on the board again with a power-play goal by Brian Gionta just 10 seconds after a double-minor roughing call against Brad Marchand.

A hotheaded Rask was pulled for just the fourth time this season in favor of Chad Johnson. However, the defensive miscues continued for the Bruins and just two minutes later Danny Briere beat Johnson high glove side off a breakaway to put the Canadiens up 4-1. The Bruins were booed off the ice in front of a home crowd after an abysmal end to the second period.

In the third, the Bruins were unable to put anything together. They frequented the penalty box and failed to put the puck in the net. Subaj finished the game with 34 saves as the Habs managed to keep the score at 4-1 to pick up their fifth straight win against the Bruins, extending their unbeaten streak against the Bruins to nearly a full calendar year.

With this win, the Canadiens jumped over their Canadian foes, the Toronto Maple Leafs, and back into third place in the Atlantic. The Bruins remain at the top of the division with help from the Ottawa Senators who beat the second-place Tampa Bay Lightning.

Ironically, on a night TD Garden paid tribute to the 1920s Bruins, Boston fans saw their team slip back into its old ways. B’s fans were reminded of a time when the Bruins simply could not defeat the Montreal Canadiens for several decades in the last century.

The Stanley Cup Playoffs could easily bring out another matchup between these two rivals. The Bruins need to find what it takes to finally push past this Canadien team that always manages to pull out a win against Boston.

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Bruins vs. Canadiens Preview

One of hockey’s biggest rivalries returns to Causeway Street for the first time this season when the Bruins take on the Montreal Canadiens at TD Garden Thursday night at 7 p.m. The Bruins lost a close 2-1 battle with the Habs during their last meeting back in December at Bell Centre in Montreal. This time around the Bruins look to extend their four-game win streak and impressive offensive success to further pull away from the Canadiens in the Atlantic Division.

The Canadiens are currently in fourth place in the division and stand 10 points behind the B’s, but have dropped four of their last five games. In the last two weeks they have fallen well out of the playoff comfort zone losing their nine point lead over their Canadian foes, the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Trade rumors have been swirling around the organization, including a potential trade with the Avalanche that would exchange Rene Bourque for P.A. Parenteau. The future of head coach Michel Therrien is also in question right now after just one and a half seasons back in Montreal.

On the other side of the ice, the Bruins offense has proven unstoppable. The B’s have scored six goals in their last three straight games with contributions from all four lines and Zdeno Chara who tallied his 500th career point Monday against the Islanders and his 100th goal as a Bruin in last night’s game against the Panthers.

The focus at the beginning of the week was all on the Bruins second line, consisting of Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand and Reilly Smith, all of whom were on six-game point streaks going in to last night’s matchup. However, it was the first line that racked up seven points and three goals last night with Jarome Iginla and David Krejci both registering two assists with Krejci tacking on a goal and Milan Lucic putting two goals past former teammateTim Thomas.

The Bruins/Habs rivalry is as ferocious in the minds of Bostonians as the Red Sox/Yankees, Celtics/Lakers and the old Patriots/Jets rivalries. The Bruins and Canadiens have met 888 times with Montreal leading the series 448-337-103. The Canadiens put up even more impressive numbers in the postseason beating the Bruins 24 out of 33 postseason meetings knocking the Bruins out of the Stanley Cup Playoffs nearly every time they made a playoff run in the 50s, 60s and 80s.

However, since 1988 the Bruins have won 7 out of 11 playoff series against the Habs including the 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs where the Bruins knocked the Canadiens out in the first round in double overtime of Game 7. The Bruins would go on to win the Stanley Cup for the first time since 1972.

Even with the Bruins on a dominant winning streak and the Canadiens ending the month of January in a downward spiral, this game is far from being decided already. History has proven that just about anything can happen when these two teams take the ice together.

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