Now the real work begins for the Habs

Update: The NHL has released the schedule for this series as follows:

Thursday, April 14 at Boston, 7:00 p.m.
Saturday, April 16 at Boston, 7:00 p.m.
Monday, April 18 at Montreal, 7:30 p.m.
Thursday, April 21 at Montreal, 7:00 p.m.
*Saturday, April 23 at Boston, 7:00 p.m.
*Tuesday, April 26 at Montreal, TBD
*Wednesday, April 27 at Boston, TBD

 

Last night was a first for me. I've seen several Toronto Maple Leafs home games, having lived in Ontario my whole life, and also travelled to see the Montreal Canadiens play both at home and on the road in numerous NHL cities.

One thing missing was the combination of the two. So for the first time ever, thanks to my brother, I had the chance to watch both clubs play each other live at the Air Canada Centre.

It was certainly the type of game you would expect between the two clubs, even for a pair of teams who's season had already been decided. The crowd at the ACC was well represented by Habs fans, and I would lean more towards 60 percent supported Le Bleu Blanc et Rouge.

The end result of course was a 4-1 victory for the Canadiens that put an end to a Leafs season that quite honestly showed promise for next year. Pension Plan Puppets will keep us up to speed  over the off season on how Brian Burke and company retool for year 45 of the search for Lord Stanley's mug

What amazed me was the camaraderie between the fans of the two clubs as they departed the ACC. Yes there were the occasional zings, and jokes at each others expense, much like we see on line, but in the end they were outnumbered by several opposing fans offering handshakes and well wishes to each other.

Even during the game, Habs and Canadiens fans alike rose from their seats to salute Hall of Famer Johnny Bower and for a member of the Canadian Armed Forces, who was a guest of Leafs defenceman Luke Schenn.

Rivalries are one thing, but the Habs and Leafs has to be one of the most respected in sports.

But while the Leafs are done for another year, the real work begins for the Canadiens.

The Habs will have four days to rest up and prepare for their first round playoff opponents, the Boston Bruins.

Given the history of the two teams over the years, and further sparked by this season's events fans of both clubs should be in for a real battle.

This will be the 33rd playoff meeting between the two clubs in their long and storied histories. The Canadiens hold the all-time mark in series won at 24-8, but their last post-season encounter didn't go well for the Habs who were swept in 2009.

That was then, and this is now as both clubs have seen major personnel changes since then.

Size and intimidation are the big advantages for the Bruins, something we saw a lot of from them in their last three meetings, but one needs to remember that the Canadiens took the season series 4-2, and were 3-0 at the Bell Centre.

The Bruins also outscored the Habs 22-20 in six games, but when you factor out the two Boston wins, a 8-6 gong show and a 7-0 breakdown, the scoring is Habs 14 Bruins 7.

The Canadiens offense will really need to get the puck behind Tim Thomas. Montreal has just 15 regulation time goals in their last nine games, which includes three consecutive games being shutout. Barring a complete breakdown from Thomas, and yes that can and has happened, the Canadiens will certainly need to step up in the scoring department.

Tomas Plekanec, who had an outstanding playoff run last season will be one of those called upon to lead the attack against Boston. Steven Hindle takes a look at the Habs center, and what will be needed of him in the post-season.

The series is already getting some early previews, with Apron Basu leading the way, noting playoff experience could be a big advantage for the Canadiens. Mike Boone also has his thoughts on the match up.

Oh, and our friends at Cup of Chowder are already getting started as well.

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