It was at this time last year that people started to believe in the Bruins.
After a ho-hum first two-thirds of the season, Boston embarked on a six-game road trip in mid-February. Their goaltending had struggled recently (in fact, Tim Thomas and Tuukka Rask combined to allow 20 goals in the four games before the road trip began), and there were questions about the team's toughness, depth and ability to get the puck out of the defensive zone. While away from home, they discarded Blake Wheeler and Mark Stuart and welcomed Rich Peverley, Chris Kelly and Tomas Kaberle into the fold. They swept the road trip, winning a six-game roadie for the first time since 1972, which, incidentally, was the last time the Bruins won the Stanley Cup.
Well, until June, anyway.
Things don't look much different for Boston in February of 2012 than they did in February of 2011: the team needs to make a move or two to add depth and shore up their top forward lines; they could use another defenseman to alleviate some of the pressure on Joe Corvo and they need to get better work between the pipes from Rask and Thomas.
They'll look to start doing that tonight in Montreal, against a Canadiens team that is no longer the worst in the division and that has aspirations of a possible playoff berth after improved play has led Montreal to wins in six of their last ten.
Of course, Boston's as likely to leave Montreal with the same team they arrive with as they are to pull out a win over the Canadiens, who had won four in a row, scoring 15 goals and allowing just four - with two shutouts - in those four games.
Carey Price has been better and Montreal's forwards have improved their game of late, and the results are evident. The Canadiens still have a mountain to climb if they want to get into the playoffs, but there are few doubting that they can do it. But they'll have to start beating good teams first, and that means taking Boston down tonight.
Meanwhile, the Bruins are facing a challenge of their own. Boston has beaten just five teams with losing records since January in ten tries against such opponents - and all but one of those teams (Winnipeg) is a playoff team or is within one point of a playoff spot.
The Bruins are a playoff team, but they'll need to find a way to motivate themselves against losing teams, since that's who they'll play in five of their next six. And if they're going to do so, there's no better place to start than against their arch-rival.