Bruins in tough against Habs

MIKE ZEISBERGER -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:48 AM ET

Even David had his believers when he slew Goliath back in the day.

The poor Boston Bruins don't even seem to have that.

Of all the first-round series in the 2008 Stanley Cup dance, no matchup has left the so-called experts predicting a sweep more than the one pitting the underdog Bruins against the Montreal Canadiens. Even Maggie The Monkey, TSN's post-season prognosticating critter from the Bowmanville Zoo, figures the Bruins are toast.

"We have to slay the dragon, so to speak," Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli said this week.

Not even the schedule is working for them. When the Bruins return to Boston for Game 3 at the TD Banknorth Garden Sunday, they will be a mere afterthought on the Beantown sporting scene. Just one hour after the puck is dropped that night, most eyes in the city will be focused some five kilometres away on Fenway Park, where the hated Yankees take on the defending world champion Red Sox in the ESPN Sunday night game.

Nope, Zdeno Chara and friends aren't getting a lot of lovin' these days, even in their own town.

But don't be fooled by that. When the Habs and Bruins open their 31st playoff series in history tonight at the raucous Bell Centre, there will be plenty of juicy story lines to tweak the interest of any fan.

THE PRICE IS RIGHT

In 1971, a gangly rookie goalie from Cornell with just six regular-season appearances on his resume helped the Habs upset Bobby Orr, Phil Esposito and the Big Bad Bruins, the league's top scoring team, in a seven-game first-round shocker. When the series was over, the kid left a message for his dad in Toronto that simply said: "Bruins ruined."

With that, the legend of Ken Dryden was born.

Thirty-seven years later, Carey Price is attempting to follow in the footsteps of Dryden (1971) and Patrick Roy (1986) as rookie goalies leading the Habs to a Stanley Cup.

"We really haven't achieved anything yet," Price, 20, said, of the Habs' Eastern Conference championship. "They don't hang conference titles in this building. Our goal is to still win the Stanley Cup."

So how do the Bruins solve him?

"We have to get in his head in a variety of ways," Chiarelli said.

Easier said than done.

HISTORY DOESN'T LIE

The Habs have won all eight meetings against the Bruins in 2007-08, stretching their regular-season success versus Boston to 11 in a row. In 30 previous playoff series against Montreal, the Bruins are 7-23.

Either the Bruins overcome history or they will be history.

BERGERON'S BATTLE

If and when Bruins forward Patrice Bergeron does return to action -- he won't be in the lineup tonight -- let's hope there is an ovation for the kid, whether it comes in his home province of Quebec or in front of the Bruins faithful.

Out for most of the season with post-concussion syndrome, the mere fact he has been cleared to play again should be applauded, given the fact his career was in jeopardy.

Bergeron went through his first full-contact practice Tuesday since suffering the injury Oct. 27.

"I asked the guys to be a little harder on me," Bergeron said with a chuckle.

The two most talented forwards on the offensively challenged Bruins are Bergeron and Marc Savard, who is recovering from a cracked bone in his back. Expect both to be rusty.

CLAUDE RETURNS

Four years ago Claude Julien, then the Canadiens coach, watched his team erase a 3-1 disadvantage in games to pull off the upset over the favoured Bruins. While he does not like to make a comparison, Julien, now the Bruins coach, understands how a bit of confidence can fuel an underdog.

If Julien is not the NHL coach of the year, he certainly should be among the top three.

HEAVYWEIGHTS WILL BATTLE

Finally, keep an eye on the battle between Bruins man-mountain Zdeno Chara and healing Habs defenceman Mike Komisarek, who is expected to return at some point in the series. Komisarek is one of the few players with the stones to get into Chara's face without the slightest hint of fear.

"He's like a big tree you have to chop down piece by piece," Montreal's Tom Kostopoulos said of Chara.

If that's not reason enough to watch this series, then what is?


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