Game 14: Montreal Canadiens vs. Boston Bruins
How to watch
The Boston Bruins put together a performance for the ages in the 2022-23 regular season, setting a new record of 65 wins, and finishing with the second-best points percentage ever, just behind the 1976-77 Canadiens who played an 80-game campaign. They made their moves ahead of the trade deadline to bolster the roster, and went into the playoffs as heavy favourites to hoist the Stanley Cup.
Those odds only improved as they got out to a 3-1 series lead over the Florida Panthers in the opening round. Then the historic season came to a crashing halt with three consecutive losses to the eighth-seeded Panthers (much to the chagrin of Habs fans who held Florida’s first-round pick).
In the off-season, two of the Bruins’ pillars from their long window of contention hung up their skates. Both top-six centres — Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci — called an end to their careers, which seemed to signal the end of Boston’s time among the league’s elite.
It turns out that was just wishful thinking from followers of the other teams in the Atlantic Division who were hoping to take advantage of Boston’s decline. After the crushing collapse and departure of franchise stars, all the Bruins have managed is to get out to the best start of any team this year, currently holding an 11-1-1 record.
|48.2% (21st)||Scoring-chances-for %||51.6% (13th)|
|2.92 (20th)||Goals per game||3.31 (14th)|
|3.38 (21st)||Goals against per game||1.92 (1st)|
|21.8% (13th)||PP%||20.9% (14th)|
|75.4% (22nd)||PK%||92.2% (2nd)|
|0-3-0||Head-to-Head Record (22-23)||3-0-0|
Three of Boston’s 65 wins last year came versus the Canadiens. The Habs kept each game’s score respectable, and that was largely thanks to Kirby Dach who played two exceptional matches with three goals and an assist. But, like Bergeron and Krejci, Dach won’t be partaking in this season’s series, leaving the remaining forwards to pick up the slack.
If it were just the offensive battle that needed to be won to earn a victory, the Canadiens have a slight edge in the underlying numbers at five-on-five, accumulating 2.71 expected goals per 60 minutes of five-on-five time compared to Boston’s 2.61. However, the top three Canadiens players getting the chances that factor into that number are Brendan Gallagher, Michael Pezzetta, and Josh Anderson; three players whose style of play gets them to the crease, but whose finishing ability is questionable, the latter two combining for just one five-on-five goal so far.
The Bruins, meanwhile, have the other two members of the former Perfection Line — Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak — at the top of their expected-goal list, responsible for seven full-strength goals on their own. When factoring the quality of shooter along with the quality of chance, Boston is the more dangerous team, as their run of scoring at least three goals in all 13 games so far can attest.
We can weigh the offensive aptitude of each club against the other, but defensively there’s no contest. That’s the true calling card of the Bruins, who routinely finish their season with fewer than two-and-a-half goals allowed per game, and currently have that number at 1.92.
Among goalies with at least four starts this season, the Bruins have two of the top nine by save percentage. Jeremy Swayman has posted an incredible .958 mark through six starts, while Linus Ullmark has .926 efficiency. As Jake Allen slips from his high-water mark to begin the year, Montreal doesn’t have a netminder performing at that level.
One thing we always see in these rivalry games is that the level of play gets elevated for the moment. The Canadiens will be hard-pressed to come away with a win, but you can expect them to put in one of their best efforts of this young season to try to snap a losing streak versus Boston that extends back four years.