BROSSARD, Quebec (AP) — The Montreal Canadiens are ready to add another chapter to one of hockey’s greatest rivalries.
After eliminating the Tampa Bay Lightning in four games, Montreal is preparing to face Boston in the second round of the playoffs. It will be the 34th time the clubs have met in the postseason, more than any other two teams in North American pro sports, in a rivalry that dates back to 1929.
“There’s been a rivalry between these two teams way before I was ever here and before I ever even knew about hockey,” Montreal defenseman Josh Gorges said Sunday. “When you look back at previous years, and you look at the history of the organizations, those are two great organizations that have a lot of pride.”
Montreal holds a 24-9 edge in postseason series with Boston.
This series could start as early as Thursday; teams will find out once the other first-round series are complete.
Boston gets home-ice advantage because the Bruins finished ahead of Montreal with the best record (54-19-9) in the league.
“When you play this team, you know you’re in for a tough night,” said Gorges. “Nothing comes easy against Boston.”
This will be his fourth time facing the Bruins in the playoffs.
“You have to fight for everything,” Gorges said. “They’re very well structured. They don’t give you much. You have to fight for your real estate, to get on the inside, to get second chances in front of the net. They have some big bodies and a lot of talented players on that team who can create things out of nothing.”
Thomas Vanek, acquired by the Canadiens from the Islanders at the trade deadline in March, is new to the rivalry. However, he knows what to expect from a team that eliminated his former club, the Sabres, from the playoffs in 2010.
“They have some big forwards who can really grind you out,” he said. “We need to stay positive on the bench. Against Boston especially, it’s a team that doesn’t give up much. We have to adjust to a big team that plays well and is coached well.”
Vanek has been particularly successful against the Bruins in his career with 62 points (30 goals, 32 assists) in 55 career games.
“You have to beat some big teams to get the ultimate prize, and this is one of those teams,” he added.
The Canadiens won three of four games against Boston, including both games at TD Garden. The Bruins have taken seven of the last 11 playoff games between the clubs.
“What the Boston Bruins have done in the last few years in the playoffs is as good or better than any other team in the league,” said Gorges. “They’ve won a Stanley Cup in the last (three) years, they were there again last year, they won the Presidents’ Trophy … we haven’t accomplished any of that. We’re trying to surpass the top team. We know we have a great job ahead of us.”
In their most recent postseason meeting in 2011, the Bruins won Game 7 in the first round in overtime. Boston went on to win its sixth Stanley Cup.