The Montreal Canadiens know what it's like to go on a lengthy winning streak.
Between November 10 and December 7, the Habs went 11-1-2 in their 14 games, propelling them to the top of the division standings. The Canadiens' opponents tonight, the Boston Bruins, have recently surpassed that accomplishment, going 12-for-12 since losing their first game of the month of March. Both streaks are impressive at face value, but below the surface, it's apparent that the Bruins are on a whole other plane right now.
When the Habs were moving up the standings during their streak, they played possession-positive hockey only half of the time. The Habs got nine goals from Max Pacioretty during that run, and Carey Price's worst single game save percentage was a just below average mark of .912. With some outstanding individual performances, and an overdose of luck, the Habs managed to put together the streak that's more or less carried them through the season.
The Bruins have taken a markedly different approach to their three weeks of perfection.
Their well-coached, suffocating defensive system - combined with their talented Finnish keeper, Tuukka Rask - allows fewer goals than any team in the conference, and during their streak, they've been even stingier than usual. Opponents have managed only seventeen goals against the Bruins over duration of their last dozen, including two shutouts. On only two occasions in the last twelve games have the Bruins failed to beat their opposition by at least two goals, tallying up a total of 47 goals of their own in the process.
The Boston Bruins are the obvious class of the Eastern Conference, and for the last twelve games, they've looked like the best team in the league. Their ten game rolling fenwick close percentage has fluctuated between "well into playoff contention," and "best team in the league" levels. As was put on display in their March 12 ransacking of the Habs, the Bruins will be a handful at best, and an unstoppable juggernaut at worst.
Tale of the Tape
Of course, dangerous as the Bruins are, there's a reason that twelve game winning streaks don't go on forever. As the Bruins outstanding possession play has persisted, and they've continued to rack up the wins, their PDO has skyrocketed as well. The Bruins are currently sitting at a PDO of 1047 for their last ten games, bringing their PDO close for the season up to a remarkable value of 1030. The Bruins are a talented team, and it's certainly plausible that they could maintain a PDO over 1000 for a sustained period of time. To put 1030 in perspective, however, one might consider that the Toronto Maple Leafs, renowned for producing results above and beyond the quality of their play, are currently sitting at 1016.
Given the quality of their squad, and the strength of their underlying numbers, it would be unwise to suggest that the Bruins are primed for a collapse. Eventually, however, the Bruins will lose, and it's simply a matter of which team will find the strength, strategy, or luck to put an end to Boston's string of wins.
The question of the moment will be answered to tonight. Are the Habs the team that can engineer the Bruins defeat?