This past week has been the longest the Boston Bruins have been off all season, and what better a way to come home than to face off with their biggest enemy – the Montreal Canadiens.
In their first matchup with the Canadiens on November 11, the Bruins found themselves on the wrong side of the scoreboard, falling 3-2 in overtime at the Bell Centre. In net for Boston was Jeremy Swayman, who picked up his first loss of the season.
In their next game, the Bruins came back with a vengeance and defeated the Buffalo Sabres 5-2 up in Buffalo, their second five-goal burst this season.
When the Bruins faceoff with the Canadiens on Saturday, there will be a variety of things that they need to keep in mind in order for this one to go their way. After all, any game when the two face each other it becomes ratcheted up and becomes a close game, no matter where the standings sit.
Key #1 – Don’t shoot to shoot, capitalize on shots
In the third period of their last matchup with Montreal, Boston had seven shots in the second period and doubled that to hit 14 shots on goal in the third period alone.
While one shot did sneak past goaltender Sam Montembeault, the trick is to not try to pepper him or whoever is starting in net with shots. All that will do is get them in a rhythm and pick up patterns.
If you shoot from different angles, and try to score with different players, perhaps, just perhaps, the Bruins might be able to sneak more than one past whoever is in net for the Canadiens.
Key #2 – Take advantage of the (slight) advantage you have on the power play
In terms of league standings, Boston holds a slight advantage over Montreal in terms of effectiveness on the man-advantage. According to NHL.com, the Bruins score 22% of the time on the power play, good for 12th in league standings, and the Canadiens only kill off 75.3% of their penalties, good for 23rd in the league.
In the game on the 11th, both teams went a combined 2-for-8 (1-for-4 each) on the power play. Given Boston and Montreal’s goal differential standings of third and 21st in the league, respectively, it should pan out well for the home squad Saturday.
No offensive to the Canadiens as well, but the Bruins have more established goal scorers, so while the percentage may be below 25%, the goals will come as the season wears on.
Key #3 – Ride the “Swayves”
Yes, I just combined Swayman, saves, and waves all in one word, but to say he has been incredible this season is putting it mildly.
Going into his (presumed) start on Saturday, the University of Maine goaltender leads the NHL in GAA with a 1.69 tally, and in goaltenders with at least five games played he also leads in SV% with a .944 mark.
Yes, Swayman was the one who fell in Montreal last weekend, but playing back in Boston should catapult him to have a better showing on Saturday.
When is the game Saturday?
The Bruins and Canadiens faceoff in Boston Saturday, November 18 and will celebrate the “Big, Bad, Bruins” era that night as well. Puck drop on NESN is at 7 p.m.