The onus is on the goaltenders for this series. Both teams have solid offense and good defense, but let’s all admit it. This series is about two things: Carey Price and Tim Thomas.
Thomas was reborn this season, it seemed. After spending last season, and last season’s playoffs as Tuukka Rask’s back up, he finished the NHL’s regular season on top of the GAA (2.00) and save percentage (.938). The former Team USA goaltender is turning in an Olympian performance, and no one expects it to slow during the playoffs.
Carey Price also looks revived. No more competition from playoff hero Jaroslav Halak means that Price knows that the onus of responsibility sits on his shoulders, and he has responded maturely and excellently. His 38 wins are the most in the league, and his save percentage (.923) and GAA (2.35) reflect his solidness.
Unfortunately for Price, he doesn’t perform well either against the Bruins or in the playoffs. And when both get together, watch out. Price’s last playoff win came in 2008. The following season the Habs got swept out of the playoffs by Thomas and his Bruins. Price has a 5-11 playoff record, and his stats are the polar opposite from what they are during the regular season: a 3.17 GAA and a pedestrian .894 save percentage.
When you factor in the pressure of playing in front of a home crowd who isn’t afraid to tell their own players what they think of their performance, the fact that the Bruins fans are pretty loud on their own, and the fact that all eyes will be on him, Price will either shine or collapse. His maturity is pointing towards the former, but his record – and Thomas’ stats – is pointing to the latter.
Seriously, though, this will be an outstanding series to watch, goaltending aside. These two teams are bitter rivals, and as we all know, hatred makes the best rivalries.
My Prediction (which will probably be wrong): Boston in five.