Zdeno Chara needs to prove he can lead a team beyond the second round of the playoffs. (Photo ourtesy of yardbarker.com)

Montreal Canadiens Vs. Boston Bruins Tonight. Let The Playoffs Begin.

The night hockey fans around the world have been waiting for is upon us. The Montreal Canadiens are in Boston to take on the Bruins. It is the first game between the two clubs since the now infamous Zdeno Chara check on Canadiens forward Max Pacioretty. The check took controversy to a new high as Montreal fans in Canada called 9-1-1 demanding the Montreal police arrest Chara as Pacioretty lay on the ice with a severe concussion and broken vertebra. Chara was assessed a five minute major penalty plus a game misconduct. The Montreal police department is still investigating the incident.

It was quite interesting to see the reactions of the two cities, all of Montreal expected the Bruins captain to be suspended while Boston felt the check was “a hockey play” that resulted in a very unfortunate injury to Pacioretty. Boston fans hoped Pacioretty was not injured seriously enough to have his career ended, which we have learned will not be the case. As we know, Chara was not suspended by the National Hockey League and all of Montreal, if not, most of the province of Quebec believed the NHL was favoring Chara and Boston. The irony with that belief is that for decades the Bruins felt they could never get a fair chance of winning in Montreal.

The Canadiens, themselves, have taken the feelings of “us against the world” and used them as motivation. Since the last time the two teams met, Montreal has won 3 games and lost 4. At the same time, the Bruins have gone 2-2-2 and lost ground to the Canadiens in the standings. The two teams are separated by just 3 points with the Bruins holding onto a slim lead in the Northeast Division. A B’s win tonight will give them a 5 point cushion with less than ten games remaining for each team. A win by the Habs will put them 1 point in arrears of Boston, making every game for the rest of the schedule a playoff game . Also at stake is 3rd place in the Eastern Conference. The black and gold are currently in 3rd place while Montreal is in 6th place. If the standings remain the same for the remainder of the schedule, these two clubs will meet in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs. How much fun will that be?

Fans on both sides are expecting Montreal to seek retribution with the ice strewn with sticks, gloves, and blood throughout tonight’s contest. Sports radio in each country appears to be doing its best build fans into a frenzy. The host of the radio shows have been on air together hurling insults at each other which fans are taking personally. Fans from La Belle Province have made the trek and have been seen in local Boston hotels. The atmosphere will certainly be electric. Here’s hoping that Bruins fans act with the class that they are known for and do not do anything silly by mistreating our guests from Quebec. I urge Bruins fans to not boo the Canadian national anthem. Remember, there are 17  Canadians in your favorite team’s lineup. Do not insult your heroes.I also ask that people not try to make this into a USA vs Canada thing. It is not.

The players on each team are saying the objective is to win the game and pick up very valuable points in the standings. Through my personal experiences as a hockey player, coach, and referee, I will be surprised if there are more than three fights in tonight’s game.  I have a pair of sleepwear pants (remember when they were called pajamas) that are Christmas themed (given to me by a very special woman, named Rene, as a Christmas present) that have more red in them than I expect to see on the TD Garden ice tonight. The players know that this, for all intents and purposes, is a playoff game. The stakes are too high for this game to be anything but that. The Bruins need the two points. While some fans will want to see the Bruins focus on fighting, the players will be focused on winning.

The best part about tonight’s game is playoff hockey is making an early visit to Boston!

To get a preview of tonight’s game from the Montreal side of the ice, check out Coach K at http://awinninghabit.com/

On a personal note, I’d like to, publically, say thank you to Rene Sammarco for her support in all of my writing endeavors.

For all news pertaining to the NHL in general…..please visit  Too Many Men on the Site – Fansided`s excellent coverage of the Greatest Game on Ice !

Shawn Hutcheon can be followed on twitter by going to www.twitter.com/@shawnhutcheon. You can also become his friend on facebook by going to www.facebook.com/shawnhutcheon.

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Tags: Boston Boston Bruins Christmas Eastern Conference La Belle Province Max Pacioretty Montreal Canadiens National Hockey League NHL Northeast Division Playoffs Quebec Rene Sammarco Stanley Cup TD Garden Zdeno Chara

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