In my opinion, there is no rivalry in the NHL that matches that between the Boston Bruins and Montreal Canadiens. This rivalry has both a historical component, with both teams being part of the Original Six NHL franchises, and a modern element: the Bruins and Canadiens have met in the playoffs 14 times since 1984, with the Canadiens taking eight of those series. The historical rivalry between the Canadiens and Maple Leafs has been a joke for the last forty years, as the Leafs have sucked the majority of the time, while modern rivalries like Detroit-Colorado do not have the same epic scale as a matchup that once featured Bobby Orr, Ken Dryden, Guy Lafleur and Raymond Bourque.
Historical Boston-Montreal animosity is not the only thing feeding the tension in this series: far more important is the injury sustained by Max Pacioretty after an ambiguous check by Zdeno Chara left him sidelined with a concussion and broken vertebrae.
Boston and their Percentages
Having outscored their opponents by 55 goals, the Bruins have the best goal differential in the Eastern Conference and second in the NHL only to Vancouver. However, this stat misleads you into thinking the Bruins are a dominant team; in practice, they are almost even on shot differential, having outshot their opponents by only 14 shots (2113 to 2099) at even strength. Their excellent results have come primarily from one source: Tim Thomas, who has posted the highest unadjusted save percentage in NHL history. While Thomas is quite good (few believed me when I ranked him
second among NHL netminders after his poor 2009-10 season), he is playing over his head and is unlikely to maintain this pace over the playoffs. By the way, we have seen this Bruins team before: in 2008-09, the Bruins led the league in goal differential despite being even in shots, due to the heroics of Thomas and their players collectively burying 11% of their shots. The odds caught up to them in the playoffs and they were eliminated in the second round by a run-of-the-mill Carolina Hurricanes team (which promptly lost to the Penguins in four games).