Bruins Game 23 Preview: Montreal Canadiens

Chara Canadiens

(Credit: Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images North America)

By: Drew Johnson | Follow Me On Twitter: @doobshmoob

The Boston Bruins travel north of the border on Saturday to rekindle one of the best rivalries in hockey with the Montreal Canadiens. The Bruins snagged six of the eight available points in their last four games, most recently topping the Pittsburgh Penguins in overtime on Friday.

On the other hand, the Canadiens march into the fray with an 11-7-5 record, trailing the B’s by just one point. With both teams currently in wild-card positions, this game could go a long way in determining the Eastern Conference’s playoff tree by the season’s end.

Who’s Hot?

Joakim Nordstrom notched the game-winning goal on Friday against the Penguins. It was the first overtime goal of his career, coming off a deflection on Torey Krug’s shot from the point. The tally was Nordstrom’s fourth of the season. It seems that his moving up and down the lineup has not hampered his game thus far. Even when he’s not producing, Nordstrom has been impressive and has proven to be a great free-agent acquisition.

David Krejci has been asked to fill the skates of Patrice Bergeron on the first line. While that’s a tall order, Krejci has done his best and has made the most of the extra ice time. The centerman registered a helper in Friday’s game but was also partially responsible for Nordstrom’s goal. The 32-year-old made a stellar play along the boards to keep the puck in the zone at the end of a long 3-on-3 shift. That possession eventually resulted in Nordstrom’s heroic deflection.

Max Domi has proven to be a great addition for the Habs. The 23-year-old leads the team in scoring with 11 goals and 15 assists through 23 games. He recently had an 11-game point streak going that came to an end on Friday in Buffalo. Domi will certainly be looking to pick apart are damaged Bruins defense and a hot-and-cold Tuukka Rask.

Jonathan Drouin, one of Domi’s linemates, has registered eight goals and 11 assists so far this season. Seven of his 19 points have come on the man advantage which has been keeping Montreal’s power play out of the dog house. The Habs have a 14.6% execution rate when up a man, while the league’s average is 20.7%.

Who’s Not?

Noel Acciari has remained almost silent for the Bruins. He has just one point in 19 games and is a minus-6. The depth forward has bounced around Boston’s bottom-six this season, averaging 11:36 in ice time per game.

Acciari Canadiens

(Credit: THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jacques Boissinot)

Anders Bjork and Danton Heinen have continued to struggle with the hockey blues. Neither forward has registered a point since November 11th. Though they have had some good shifts, execution is the trait they have lacked which is something they need to turn around. Bjork was scratched for Friday’s game which could be a sign of things to come if he can’t find the scoresheet.

Matthew Peca has struggled on Montreal’s third line. He has come up with just six points in 21 games while earning a plus-minus rating of minus-5. He’s been averaging less than 16 shifts per game and needs to up his game to give the Habs some much-needed secondary scoring.

Bruins vs. Canadiens Outlook

The Bruins have a tough test in front of them in the form of Montreal. The Canadiens weren’t originally expected to be a competitive team this season. However, they have proven the naysayers wrong and will be in contention for a playoff spot if they continue to compete at the level they have been.

The Bruins will likely need Rask to stand on his head much like Jaroslav Halak was forced to on Friday. While they aren’t facing the likes of Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, the Habs have some lethal scorers who will make a mess of Boston if they are not careful. Meanwhile, the Canadiens will look to take advantage of Boston’s banged-up defense and a number of rookies taking the ice for the Bruins on Saturday.

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The Canadiens recent moves and how they could impact the Bruins

(Photo Credit: FanRag Sports: Minas Panagiotakis)

By Mike Cratty                                                                                               Twitter: @Mike_Cratty

Over the past year, in particular, Montreal Canadiens general manager, Marc Bergevin, has shown he is willing to make a big splash in whatever way he feels is necessary. Being the rival of the Bruins and a team that always brings an intense matchup, their big splashes are ones to prepare for and monitor.

First, there was the Subban-Weber trade in the summer of 2016. Steven Stamkos re-signed in Tampa Bay for the long haul, and the Adam Larsson-Taylor Hall trade went down on the very same day. June 30, 2016, a historical date, but really a historical hour or so.

I was sitting at my first session of freshman orientation at Merrimack College on June 30. These moves all happened during parts in which everyone in the room had to be quiet. I wanted to scream in shock and excitement but couldn’t. It was bad. All memories aside, what did this trade mean from the Boston Bruins perspective and how will it affect the Bruins going forward?

In July 2012, the Philadelphia Flyers sent a 14-year/$110 million offer sheet out for Shea Weber. Of course, Nashville matched, as they didn’t want to lose their franchise defender. Fast forward to the summer of 2016, after some P.K. Subban rumors had died down. A blockbuster shocks the world. P.K. Subban for Shea Weber straight up.

Shea Weber’s contract is now Marc Bergevin’s problem. Weber is already 32-years-old and carries an AAV of $7,857,143 through the 2025-2026 season.

(Credit: CapFriendly)

David Poile’s brilliant mind came up with a way to dump that horrendous contract off to Montreal. The move from Montreal’s perspective baffles people to this day.

On the other side of the spectrum, the Nashville Predators have the 28-year-old P.K. Subban at $9,000,000 AAV through the 2021-2022 season. Four years younger and slightly more money? David Poile will take it.

(Credit: CapFriendly)

Weber and Subban are both very high-level defensemen, but there is a very reasonable argument favoring the Nashville Predators in this deal. More money, fewer years, younger player beats less money, more years, older player. Subban will be around Weber’s age now when his deal is done, Weber will be past his mid 30’s and possibly declining.

How does this deal affect the Boston Bruins? For starters, P.K. Subban was a Bruins agitator. No matter what time of year, P.K. Subban almost always seemed to make an impact against the Bruins. Whether it was being a pain to play against, producing offense, or both. He is an elite puck-mover and skater that handles himself well physically and in all three zones. Hopefully, the Bruins don’t run into Nashville in the Stanley Cup Finals down the road.

The Canadiens received a stud defenseman in return for him, but one who may not be elite for as long as P.K. Subban. In the end, Montreal got an elite defender for an elite defender, just an elite defender that hopefully won’t agitate the Bruins as much.

Fast forward a little over a year later and there goes Mikhail Sergachev. The Canadiens top defensive prospect drafted ninth overall in the 2016 draft. A prospect who Bergevin said publicly said he wouldn’t trade in February 2017. This is what Bergevin had to say, regarding trading Mikhail Sergachev:

Welp, there goes that. On June 15, 2017, exactly four months later, Mikhail Sergachev was traded. The Montreal Canadiens acquired 2013 third-overall pick, F Jonathan Drouin and a 2018 conditional sixth-round pick from the Tampa Bay Lightning in exchange for D Mikhail Sergachev and a 2018 conditional second-round pick. Shortly after the trade, Marc Bergevin signed Drouin to a six-year/$33 million deal. Drouin will most certainly exceed the value his contract presents. He is one of the better puck handling and distributing forwards in the NHL. Drouin will most likely see more ice time in Montreal, which will only accelerate his growth into a force to be reckoned with.

Mikhail Sergachev is one of the top defensive prospects in the NHL. Putting him on a team with Victor Hedman is very dangerous. Hedman will be an excellent mentor for the young kid. Whether Sergachev plays on the top pair with Hedman or rather on the second pair, Tampa Bay has a very nice one-two punch. Anton Stralman is locked up through 2018-2019, and Slater Koekkoek and Jake Dotchin are young prospects close to obtaining NHL ice time. Adding Sergachev to a talented team like Tampa Bay makes them all the more intimidating.

Sergachev played four games with the Canadiens last season before being sent back to the powerhouse Memorial Cup Champion Windsor Spitfires of the OHL. He has all the tools to set him up as an elite NHL defenseman and averaged 0.85 points-per-game in two regular seasons with the Spitfires, 0.75 in the playoffs.

This trade doesn’t affect the Boston Bruins like the Subban-Weber trade did, as it was made within the division, but it gives two Atlantic Division teams some different looks that the Bruins should be aware of. If Alex Galchenyuk ends up staying in Montreal, he and Jonathan Drouin will be lethal together. Add Nikita Scherbak or Brendan Gallagher to that line and they’re going to give teams big problems. Galchenyuk and Drouin are two very highly touted prospects that are on the verge of breaking out.

The Bruins do have talented forward lines and defensive pairings with some intriguing prospects on the way on the sides of the ice, but with a divisional general manager in Bergevin that is capable of making big moves, it’s got to be hard not to monitor.

Nathan Beaulieu was traded to the Buffalo Sabres, another divisional team. Not a very major move, but one that keeps a young, talented defenseman in the division. Beaulieu signed a two-year/$4.8 million extension with the Sabres at the end of July, not too long ago.

In free agency this summer, the Canadiens added defensemen Karl Alzner, David Schlemko, Jordie Benn, former Bruins defenseman, Joe Morrow, and veteran forward Ales Hemsky. The Bruins weren’t very active in free agency, which wasn’t a bad thing. They didn’t need to make waves, but the Montreal Canadiens got better. The major losses the Canadiens suffered were long-time Canadien, Andrei Markov, who they willingly let go, and scoring winger Alexander Radulov. Nathan Beaulieu and Mikhail Sergachev fall into this category as well. All of those players were replaced, whether their replacements were better or not.

It’s impossible to tell exactly how these new additions and subtractions will affect the Bruins, but it shows the Canadiens are motivated to keep pace in the Atlantic Division, constantly butting heads with the black and gold. These will especially be tough because of the fact that the Bruins roster is undergoing some significant change as well. The Canadiens have a completely new look coming into the 2017-2018 season. How the Bruins will handle their new look team has yet to be seen, but will be interesting.