Habs and Bruins could meet again

LANCE HORNBY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 6:40 PM ET

The Maple Leafs and Canadiens haven't met in the playoffs since 1979, yet a one-year break in the fierce Habs-Bruins April rivalry might seem an eternity to fans.

After a year to recover from consecutive meetings, the two are getting closer to meeting for an amazing 33rd time, pending weekend results. The Bruins would have to win their last two games to escape third overall, while the Canadiens needed a win over Toronto to hold off Buffalo for sixth.

Boston-Montreal would be the premiere series in the Eastern Conference, chock full of story lines, from the echo of the Zdeno Chara hit on Max Pacioretty, to a judgement on Carey Price as a money goaltender. It would match two of last year's biggest playoff stories, the upstart Habs who finally ran out of gas in the conference final, to the Bruins' choke against the Flyers when up 3-0 in the semifinal.

There would be the yappy P.K. Subban against brawny Bruin Milan Lucic, Hal Gill returning again to his native Boston, Patrice Bergeron to Quebec. Sidelined Leaf fans could track the progress of Tomas Kaberle and Tyler Seguin, who represent major trades with the Bruins.

Price was teased about fending off the abrasive Lucic in his crease.

"He's a big body in front of the net," Price agreed with a smile. "(But) that's not my job. That's the defencemen. Put P.K. on him and sic 'em."

"It doesn't really matter who we play. There are teams that you match up better against, but when the puck drops, it doesn't matter."

For now, Price is giddy at the prospect of the fourth series between the teams in less than 10 years. Montreal holds a 24-8 edge, and a 99-64 won-loss record. But the heat will be on Price to duplicate Jaroslav Halak's acrobatics last year, through seven-game upsets of Washington and Pittsburgh, before a loss to the Flyers.

There was a significant lobby against trading Halak to the Blues when one of the goalies had to go. A year later, St. Louis is out and Price is third in NHL wins (37 before Saturday) and shutouts (eight before the Leaf game).

"The best thing about the playoffs is that everything re-sets," Price said.

Coach Jacques Martin has no issues of mistrust with Price, after the goalie weathered a season when many Canadiens' defencemen were sidelined by injuries.

"You look at the stats of our hockey club and he's given us a chance to win every night," Martin said. "He's consistent and been able to make the big saves at key times.

"One of the reasons we selected Carey (and moved Halak) is we feel his upside is huge and he's proven that this year. It's up to (the rest) of our team to play the same way they did in (last year's) playoffs. Jaroslav was a big part, but also our special teams did an outstanding job. With our play away from the puck, we blocked a lot of shots and had a full commitment. We're going to need that again."

lance.hornby@sunmedia.ca


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