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Bruins send playoff message to Montreal

Posted by Christopher L. Gasper, Globe Staff  March 25, 2011 01:43 PM

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The Bruins gave their fans something to cheer about with their 7-0 win over the Montreal Canadiens Thursday night. The win bodes well for the Bruins' postseason. (John Tlumacki / Globe Staff)

This time the Bruins hit the Canadiens where it hurt the most — the scoreboard — and any Canadien who suffered a neck injury last night was the result of whiplash from turning around to see the puck end up in their net so often, seven times in all.

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If the good people of Montreal wanted to call the police they should have reported an abused hockey team.

The 7-0 beatdown the Black and Gold laid on the Canadiens last night at TD Garden in the much-anticipated first meeting since Zdeno Chara's controversial March 8 check on Montreal's Max Pacioretty is going to leave a more meaningful mark than any black and blue body blows they could have inflicted on the Habs and their hysterical fans.

That's because the Bruins didn't just beat the Canadiens. They added insult to blowout by beating them at their own game, skating, scoring and creating. The 711th meeting between the Bruins and Canadiens — that's 711 Canadiens fans, not to be confused with 911 — was a technical knockout as much as the fight-filled 8-6 Boston victory on Feb. 9 over the Habs was a literal one. The Bruins proved they can beat the Canadiens by roughing them up or killing them softly, and the latter hurts the Habs more.

Last night's Canadien cake-walk has to have Bruins fans feeling better about a likely 3-seed vs. 6-seed, first-round playoff matchup with Montreal. It has to have the Canadiens, who won the season series taking four of six games, reconsidering just how much they want another go-round with the Spoked B's in the postseason.

For months, we've been saying that the Canadiens would be a tough first-round matchup for the Bruins. That still might be the case, but judging by Thursday night, any perceived psychological advantage the Canadiens enjoyed disappeared faster than a Chara slapshot.

In a playoff-type atmosphere, the Bruins rose to the occasion and the Canadiens looked mighty small in those "CH" sweaters. The Bruins tried to downplay any potential playoff ramifications from their biggest rout of the Bleu, Blanc, et Rouge since a 9-2 drubbing on Oct. 28, 1998. But that was just typical hockey player humility.

"I don't think we're in their heads," said resident sports psychologist/winger Mark Recchi, who did crawl into the Canadiens' cerebellums with his comments about Pacioretty's injuries earlier this week. "I think we played a great game. I think we showed what we're capable of doing as a team against them. Playoffs, it's all a different story. If we end up playing them it all starts over. I think they got a good team. They're fast. They're very skilled."

But last night the Bruins were faster to the puck. How about that 3-on-5 shorthanded goal from Gregory Campbell? And more skilled — a pair of snipes from Nathan Horton, including a power-play strike on a beautiful feed from Milan Lucic.

Both Recchi and coach Claude Julien admitted last night's victory was more satisfying than the big, bad Bruins one in February because it was done the right way.

"This is a much better win," Recchi said. "There was so many power plays, so many penalties. There was obviously a lot going on in that game. This was just a better win for us. We skated. We got pucks deep. We played proper. We played patient. We can't turn pucks over against them. They thrive on turnovers, and the guys did a wonderful job of making sure we got it deep all night. Then we started using our size to our advantage at that point."

Among the reasons to be hopeful about the Bruins playoffs chances this spring is that they're capable of playing multiple styles. If you want to get physical and fight. They can do that. If you want to play a more skilled game. They can do that. If you want to get into a grind-it-out defensive game. They can definitely do that.

Teams that go deep in the playoffs either play one style exceedingly well (think the glory days New Jersey Devils) or can mix physicality and skill to matchup with an opponent (Pittsburgh).

The Canadiens are a one-trick team, relying on skill and drawing penalties. They were never going to come into the Garden and try to rough up the Bruins as retribution for the pasting of Pachioretty into the partition. They don't have the requisite muscle to do so. Their only shot at revenge was picking up two points and trying to make the Bruins sweat a bit in the Northeast division title chase, which Boston all but ended last night.

In a game that lacked any real physical edge, save for the fight between Montreal's Paul Mara and Gregory Campbell, the Canadiens were credited with out-hitting the Bruins, 25-11. I'm not sure what qualifies as a "hit" on an NHL scoresheet, but most of the Montreal hits looked like they came from players carrying a feather-duster and not a hockey stick.

The cathartic win over the Canadiens is a nice springboard for the Bruins as they prep for the playoffs. They've scored two straight wins, scored on the power play in two straight games and they're out of the 1-3-3 funk that followed their seven-game winning streak.

Suddenly, facing the Canadiens in the first round doesn't look so daunting. Of course, the first round has not been the Bruins Waterloo the last two seasons. That's been Round 2 ... and beyond.

The Bruins are the Rubik's Cube of the Boston sports scene — tough to figure out.

So, Sunday's game against the Eastern Conference-leading Philadelphia Flyers and Tuesday's contest against the defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks are important showings as well to build postseason momentum.

But last night, the Bruins left a playoff calling card for the Canadiens.

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The word

Christopher L. Gasper riffs on the news

Dearth

...That's what the Patriots have when it comes to picks in the 2013 NFL Draft, which starts Thursday. After all those years of stockpiling picks the way a survivalist does non-perishables the Patriots have just five picks in this year's draft, thanks to Band-aid trades for Albert Haynesworth, Chad Ochocinco and Aqib Talib. Five picks would be the fewest draft picks in franchise history. (Part of that is attributable to the trimming of the draft to just seven rounds in 1994). Further complicating matters is that two of the Patriots' greatest needs are at wide receiver and cornerback, positions where they have sustained draft droughts. With that in mind, I'm convinced the Patriots are going trade back out of the first round of a quanity-over-quality draft where you're just as likely to pick a Pro Bowl player in the second and third round as you are in the first round.

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