1) Aside from goaltending, what do you see as this Montreal team's biggest area of strength?
For me, that would have to our Defense. This year's version is very mobile, and even Alexei Emelin is having a good year now that he's got Jeff Petry on his right. I see what I think is a much better breakout, and they're not afraid to jump into rushes as well. When they do jump into the rush, they're well covered, and they have the ability to get back if things go wrong.
Of course, they have one of the best in the league in P.K. Subban, but right now all three pairings are generally very reliable at both ends of the ice. Last game against the Islanders, Mike Condon was great, but he really didn't have a heavy workload until the third period after the Canadiens were up by two. It was a good example of them making life easy on the goaltender.
It is the same personnel that was used last year towards the end of the season and in the playoffs, but so far this year they've really gelled. The powerplay, for example, was terrible last year, and when you watch it you can see how the defense is a major part of what has made it better so far this season.
2) With Milan Lucic gone, has any of the venom left this rivalry for Habs fans? Who has taken his place as most hated?
This is the kind of rivalry that will always be intense for us.Games against the Bruins are marked on my calendar, wins are unbelievably satisfying, and losses are practically unbearable to write about. My nightmare is having to recap any loss to the Bruins, while other losses I can get over pretty quickly.
A lot of Habs fans, like myself, were raised as such, so we're long conditioned to hate the Bruins. I don't see any way it could cool off, unless Boston goes the way of Toronto and we don't see them in the playoffs for 20 years or so. Frankly, Habs fans probably don't even want that, because Montreal vs. Boston in the playoffs is what hockey is all about.
I think every Habs fan has a pretty good amount of hate for Zdeno Chara, but I would say the most hated is Brad Marchand. He's a great player, a better pest, and he complains about embellishment while easily being the most prominent offender on Boston's roster. Also, he just has one of those faces. Very... Punchable, I think is the word.
3) Who's one under the radar guy for the Habs who could have a big impact on this game?
Well, we have our leading scorer, and absolute superstar Dale Weise, but he's not really under the radar at the moment. I'd say that would be Torrey Mitchell. He has been fantastic this year, and although he's not on Dale Weise levels of shooting luck, he's been finding the back of the net a little too.
I think he's thrilled to be playing for his home team, and it shows in his play this year. If the Bruins don't watch him, he could easily hurt them.