It's a possible scenario, and that's why the last two regular-season games between these teams have been playoff-like contests. Both teams are trying to set the tone for that potential matchup, and Monday's game was another indication of the type of playoff series it would be, as the Canadiens posted a 2-1 shootout win at TD Garden to snap Boston's 12-game winning streak.
"Obviously, you don't want to lose the way that you do in shootouts, especially getting all the chances that we did during the third period, but with 10 games left, now you've got to expect every game to be like that," Bruins forward Milan Lucic said. "Look at our last stretch of eight games in 13 days. We were able to get 15 out of 16 points, so that's pretty good. Unfortunately, the winning streak comes to an end tonight, but we've got to look forward to the next one."
Over the weekend, the Canadiens were able to watch Boston's game against the Phoenix Coyotes and were hoping the Bruins kept their winning streak intact, because Montreal wanted to be the team that snapped its rival's string of success. The Canadiens took early advantage of some undisciplined play by the Bruins en route to victory.
"It's a big win for us, for sure," the Canadiens' Brian Gionta said. "By no means was it a perfect game, but it showed a lot of character sticking with it and battling through. That first period, we were just kind of hanging on, but we pushed back in the second, got in some penalty trouble in the third but showed a lot of character on that penalty kill. Unfortunately, they scored on one, but I thought we did a good job with them."
In general, NHL teams try to stay away from so-called bulletin-board material, especially the Bruins. Every once in a while, a Bruins player and even coach Claude Julien will throw a shot at an opponent, but it's unusual.
But with the playoffs set to begin in less than a month, the Bruins and Canadiens set the tone Monday for a possible postseason series both on and off the ice.
Early in the first period, Montreal defenseman Alexei Emelin upended Lucic with a clean, open-ice hip check in the neutral zone. Bruins captain Zdeno Chara took exception to the hit and tried to get Emelin to drop the gloves, but Emelin did not oblige and Chara was given a two-minute roughing penalty at 1:19. After the game, Lucic shared his displeasure for Emelin.
"Whether it's fair, legal or whatever you want to call it, if he wasn't scared, he would stand up and hit me and not go after my knees," Lucic said of Emelin. "It just shows how big of a chicken he is that he needs to go down like that to take me down. It shows what kind of player he is, and on my end, you know you've got to keep your guard up at all times."
Lucic and Emelin continued their physical play throughout the game. Late in the third period, a video replay showed Lucic hit Emelin in the backside with the toe of his stick, but it's unclear exactly where he connected. Emelin skated off the ice hunched over.