Then: The 2010-2011 Montreal Canadiens enjoyed a highly successful season in the Northeast division, finishing second behind the division-leading Boston Bruins. Head coach Jacques Martin guided the team to a 44-30-8 record with 96 points which, going into the playoffs, left the Habs as the sixth seed in the Eastern Conference.
The Boston Bruins were the Northeast Division champions in 2010-2011 on the back of a 46-25-11 season, which was good for 103 points. With former Canadiens coach Claude Julien behind the bench, the Bruins claimed the third-overall seed in the Eastern Conference behind the Washington Capitals and the Philadelphia Flyers.
Now: The 2013-2014 Habs finished third in the new Atlantic division with a 46-28-8 record and 100 points under coach Michel Therrien. Since Therrien was brought back as the Habs' coach, the Canadiens have managed to dominate the season series with the Bruins, posting wins in six of the eight matchups including one of the best comebacks in recent memory. In their first-round matchup with the Tampa Bay Lightning, the Canadiens cruised to a four-game sweep overTampa Bay and saw them play some of their best hockey ever under Therrien.
The most recent incarnation of the Bruins saw the Boston side win the Presidents' Trophy and Atlantic Division title with a 54-19-9 record and 117 points. With Claude Julien still behind the bench, the Bruins cruised easily to a top seed in the Eastern Conference, where they were matched up against new divisional foe the Detroit Red Wings. Despite handling Detroit in just five games, the series generated quite a lot of controversy.
The Leading Scorers
Then: The 2010-2011 Habs featured a lot of familiar faces at the top of the team scoring chart, led by none other than the turtlenecked Tomas Plekanec who collected 57 points(22 G 35 A) in 77 games. Following Plekanec is 2010 playoff hero Michael Cammalleri with 47 points(19 G 28 A), team captain Brian Gionta with 46 points (29 G 17 A) and Andrei Kostitsyn who had 45 points (20 G 25 A). Rounding out the top-five was rookie and future Norris Trophy winner P.K. Subban and future compliance buyout Scott Gomez, who each had 38 points. Subban had 14 goals and 24 assists while Gomez collected seven goals and 31 assists.
Much like the Canadiens, the Bruins boast a large number of familiar faces at the head of their scoring chart for the 2010-2011 season. Leading the way are Milan Lucic and David Krejci who compiled 62 points each with Krejci posting 13 goals and 49 assists while Lucic had 30 goals and 32 assists. Following them is perennial Selke nominee Patrice Bergeron with 57 points (22 G 35 A), the newly acquired Nathan Horton posted 53 points(26 G 27 A) and then the doctor Mark Recchi chipped in 48 points (14 G 34 A). Bringing up the rear for the top-five is six-foot-nine inch Zdeno Chara, who managed 44 points (14 G 30 A) from the blueline.
Now: Less than five years later, and the Canadiens boast one of their deepest rosters since their last Cup win in 1993. Leading the way is trade deadline pickup Thomas Vanek (27G, 41A) who was acquired from the Islanders for prospect Sebastian Collberg and a second-round pick. Right behind Vanek is streaky, perimeter player Max Pacioretty (39G, 21A) and defensive liability and Norris Trophy winner P.K. Subban (10G, 43A). Rounding out the top-five is the much-maligned David Desharnais who overcame a horrendous start to the year to end up with 52 points (16G, 36A), and a tie between Tomas Plekanec (20G, 23A) and Andrei Markov (7G, 36A).
The 2013-2014 Bruins were once again led in scoring by David Krejci who posted an impressive 69 points (19 G 50 A), Krejci is followed by Patrice Bergeron who posted 62 points (30 G 32 A). Rounding out the Bruins is former good guy Jarome Iginla with 61 points (30 G 31 A), noted groin enthusiast Milan Lucic collected 59 points (24 G 35 A) and infamous diver Brad Marchand rounds out the top-five with 53 points (25 G 28 A).
Then: 2010-2011 belonged to Carey Price in Montreal, after Jaroslav Halak led the team to a conference final in 2010; he was traded to the St. Louis Blues for Lars Eller and Ian Schultz. Price would start 72 games for the Habs and compiled a 38-28-6 record with a 2.35 GAA and .923 SV%. Despite his phenomenal numbers Price was not nominated for the Vezina Trophy but managed to finish fifth in Hart Trophy voting. Backing up Price Alex Auld who played in only 16 games where he posted a 6-2-2 record alongside a 2.64 GAA and .914 SV%.
The Boston Bruins in 2010-2011 were led by none other than Tim Thomas who in 57 starts posted a 35-11-9 record with a 2.00 GAA and .938 SV%. These numbers were good enough to have Thomas nominated and win the Vezina Trophy over Pekka Rinne and Roberto Luongo. Backing up Thomas was Tuukka Rask, who in 29 starts had an 11-14-2 record with a 2.67 GAA and .918 SV%.
Now: This past season's success for the Canadiens can be attributed largely to the play of starting goalie and Olympic gold medalist Carey Price. Price would post a 34-20-5 record with a .927 SV% and a 2.32 GAA which has landed the star goalie squarely in the middle of Vezina contention. Backing up Price is the Bruin-killer Peter Budaj, who managed a 10-8-3 record while posting a .909 SV% and 2.51 GAA. In the 2014 playoffs, Price currently owns a perfect 4-0-0 record with a 2.33 GAA and .904 SV%.
Much like the 2010-2011 season, the Habs and Bruins had fantastic goaltending throughout the season with the Habs being snubbed in terms of award nominations. The Bruins Tuukka Rask is a nominee for the Vezina this season and with a 36-15-5 record, 2.04 GAA and .930 SV%, it's easy to see why. Backing up Rask is Chad Johnson who, in limited starts, posted a 17-4-3 record with a 2.10 GAA and .925 SV%. Rask currently holds a 4-1-0 record with 1.16 GAA and .961 SV% in the playoffs.
What Happened Last Time
The 2010-2011 regular season meetings between the Habs and Bruins were heated, to put it lightly. The Habs led the season series with four wins against the Bruins' two wins. The season would be marred by several incidents, including Zdeno Chara breaking Max Pacioretty's neck with a blatant cheap shot into the stanchion that knocked Pacioretty out cold and left him motionless on the ice. Also of note was an 8-6 Bruins win, which featured six fights on the night - including Carey Price throwing down against Tim Thomas in a brief but hilarious fight.
Unlike the last time these two teams met, the Canadiens got off to a fantastic start by taking the opening games in Boston. Game One was a low-scoring affair, with the Canadiens notching a 2-0 victory on the back of two Brian Gionta goals. Carey Price posted a 31-save shutout while Tim Thomas stopped 18 out of 20 shots in the loss. Much like Game One, the Habs would open the scoring early in Game Two ... in fact, within the first three minutes of the game, the Habs had a 2-0 lead on the Bruins. Michael Cammalleri converted a James Wisniewski pass into a goal just 43 seconds into the opening frame. Less than two minutes later, Mathieu Darche converted on the powerplay to put the Habs firmly in the drivers seat. Patrice Bergeron would break the shutout streak by tipping a Brad Marchand shot past Carey Price at 7:38 of the second period. Noted Bruin killer Yannick Weber would restore the two-goal lead on a backhand shot at 17:21 of the second period to seal the win. Carey Price was outstanding in nets once again, posting 34 saves in the win, while Tim Thomas stopped 23 shots in the loss.
Game Three marked a turning point in the series for both sides. The Habs would outshoot the Bruins 36-25, but would suffer their first defeat of the series. David Krejci and Nathan Horton would open the scoring in the first period with Rich Peverley scoring in the second to put the Bruins up 3-0. The Habs would not go down without a fight, however, as Andrei Kostitsyn and Tomas Plekanec brought Montreal within one goal early in the third period. Alas, it was not to be in this game, as with the net empty, Chris Kelly scored to seal a Bruins victory. The opening three games were not exactly high-scoring situations; Game Four however was a back-and-forth affair right from the opening puck drop. Brent Sopel kicked off the scoring at 8:13 of the first period when he blasted a Cammalleri pass behind Tim Thomas. Michael Ryder would tie things up early in the second period with his first of the playoffs and less than five minutes later Cammalleri and Kostitsyn would each tally goals to put the Habs back on top 3-1. The Bruins would not be denied their own comeback as Andrew Ference and Patrice Bergeron scored to tie the game late in the second period. P.K. Subban would put the Habs back on top, 4-3 with a powerplay goal at 1:39 of the third period ... but once again, the Bruins would come back thanks to a Chris Kelly goal at 13:42. With regulation solving nothing the teams would head to overtime, where Ryder would tally his second goal of the game at 1:59 to give the Bruins the win and tying the series at two games each. Tim Thomas stopped 34 of 38 shots in the OT win while Carey Price stopped 30 of 35 in the loss.
Game Five saw the teams return to Boston where once again the Price and Thomas would shine in double overtime. Neither team was able to score in the opening two periods; this mostly due to Michael Ryder making a brilliant glove save on the goal line to rob Tomas Plekanec. Brad Marchand finally managed to find the back of the net at 4:33 of the third period to break the drought. Jeff Halpern would answer at 13:56 to tie the game, and that's how it would stay. Regulation and one overtime solved nothing between the longtime rivals, double overtime saw Nathan Horton score the game winner at 9:03 and shifted control of the series to Boston. Carey Price and Tim Thomas were nearly flawless all game, with Price making 49 saves in the loss and Thomas stopping 44 shots for the win.
Game six was again low-scoring, due mainly to the continued outstanding performances by Price and Thomas. Cammalleri would tally his third goal of the playoffs at 10:07 of the first period on the powerplay to put the Habs up 1-0. Dennis Seidenberg would tie the games less than a minute into the second period but a Brian Gionta powerplay goal at 5:48 would put the Habs up 2-1. Carey Price would shut the door for the remainder of the game to preserve the 2-1 win that knotted the series 3-3 and would force a final showdown in Boston. Price notched 31 saves in the win while Thomas stopped 25 shots for the Bruins
Game seven ... winner moves on and the loser goes home. The Bruins and Canadiens had seven game-sevens before this one, including the infamous "too many men on the ice" game and the comeback series win in 2004 over the top-seeded Bruins. This game would add another page to the rich history between the long time rivals even if the result is less than satisfactory. Johnny Boychuk and Mark Recchi put the Bruins up early in the first period with two goals in the opening six minutes. Yannick Weber would bring the Canadiens within one when he converted a Roman Hamrlik pass on the powerplay into his second goal of the series. Not to be outdone, Tomas Plekanec would score a short-handed goal at 5:50 of the second period to tie the game up for the Habs. Much like the rest of the series this game did not stay tied however; Chris Kelly tallied his third goal to put Boston up 3-2 late in the third period. Enter ... P.K. Subban with less than two minutes remaining, Subban would blast a Plekanec feed past Tim Thomas to tie the game.
However all good things must come to an end, and Nathan Horton dashed the Habs 2011 Cup dreams with a wicked seeing-eyeshot that eluded Carey Price and won the game and series for the Boston Bruins. It sounds like a broken record but once again, Carey Price and Tim Thomas were outstanding, with Price notching 33 saves and Thomas collecting 31 saves.
This series was not without its fair share of controversial plays including a major non-call in game seven. Zdeno Chara managed to escape discipline for his attack on Pacioretty, which left many Habs fans scratching their heads, as without Chara the series takes on a new look. Game six saw Milan Lucic thrown out for violently boarding and injuring Jaroslav Spacek in the second period and, to no surprise, Lucic immediately protested the call while Spacek remained unmoving and bleeding on the ice. But the biggest controversy came on a non-call in the third period of game seven when Andrew Ference leaned a shoulder out and blindsided Jeff Halpern.
As the video shows, Halpern is blatantly interfered with and knocked out cold on a cheap shot by Ference that would go uncalled.
The real story of this entire series was the incredible play of both goaltenders, Carey Price posted a 3-4 record along with a 2.11 GAA and .934 SV%. Without Price, it is unlikely that the Habs are competitive in many of these games, and while I am a Habs fan, I would be remiss to not mention that Thomas matched Price all series in terms of play. Despite the first-round exit, Price still ranked second among all goalies in the playoffs behind only Tim Thomas, who played nearly four times as many games. Boston, of course, went on to beat the Vancouver Canucks for the Stanley Cup and Thomas would collect the Conn Smythe as the playoff MVP.
This past season has seen the Bruins outplay the Canadiens but manage only one victory in spite of Michel Therrien's out-dated dump-and-chase system. The Canadiens have rolled out an aggressive high-paced system so far in the playoffs and used it to decimate the Lightning in Round One; and given the trouble the Habs normally give Boston, it will be interesting to see how Round Two plays out. It's the Bruins and the Canadiens - so strap in, people, and hold onto your butts, because it's going to be one hell of a ride.