Habs, B’s wary of overthinking line matchups

The Habs and Bruins discuss the rich history and tradition of the rivalry in Montreal, which will create a crazy atmosphere for Game 3 at the Bell Centre.

MONTREAL – There will be noise. That the Boston Bruins know.

But with their second-round series against the Montreal Canadiens shifting to the Bell Centre on Tuesday night there will also likely be a shuffling of the in-game matchups. Michel Therrien owns the last line change in Game 3 and is expected to try and keep his top line – and most notably winger Max Pacioretty – away from Zdeno Chara.

However, both coaches indicated that they might not engage in aggressive matching. It’s a tempting thing to do, especially in a playoff series, but Therrien and Claude Julien each worry about it potentially disrupting the flow of the game.

“You can try and do the hard matchups, which sometimes can take away from your team’s momentum, or you can live with (what happens),” Julien said after the Bruins morning skate. “Those are things you kind of gauge as the game goes on.”

There hasn’t been very much in the way of offence from either team’s top line at even strength in this series. However, Therrien highlighted the potential downside of putting Pacioretty, David Desharnais and Thomas Vanek out every time Chara steps off the ice.

“You have to be careful with that,” he said. “With the defencemen, especially in the first and third periods, hard changes can be made at any moment. The Bruins bench is very close by in the first and the third, so those changes are made quickly and regularly.

“I don’t want to cut the tempo of a game just to try and match lines against defencemen.”

The Habs were expected to make a couple lineup adjustments with the series tied 1-1. It appeared that defenceman Douglas Murray would replace Francis Bouillon while Travis Moen looked likely to step in for Brandon Prust up front.

After all of the talk between games about Carey Price’s weaknesses and Julien trying to influence the referees, there was a concerted effort from both sides to stick to a more respectful script. The emotion might escalate on the ice, but it wasn’t present in the hours leading up to the game.

“We know that since the beginning of the playoffs lots of things have been exaggerated to build an off-ice rivalry,” said Julien. “But we’re taking care of our own affairs, and we respect other people’s opinions.”

Boston’s best line in this series has been the second unit of Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand and Reilly Smith. They’ve accounted for five even-strength goals, including all three during the feverish third-period comeback win in Game 2.

The Habs success has largely been built on the power play, where they’ve scored four times on nine attempts. Price’s goaltending also stole the show in Game 1.

Back in front of their home fans, the Canadiens are looking to harness the energy and emotion of a city that is awfully excited about its team. With Ginette Reno – Montreal’s good luck charm – performing the national anthem and so much on the line, there is bound to be a lot of passion inside the Bell Centre.

“The crowd is very emotional here,” said Marchand. “Any time something happens they are very loud, and sometimes it can draw the ref’s attention to a certain area or stuff like that. They play very well at home I think because of that emotion, they’re able to get a lot of momentum from that.

“And it puts a lot of teams on their heels.”

However, this Boston team has been through just about everything over the last couple years. And they’re not likely to cower, or be taken off-guard, by the atmosphere.

“We know what Montreal is all about,” said Julien. “This is their team. We’re in Boston, we’ve got a bunch of pro teams, but the Montreal Canadiens is what people really live for around here as far as sports are concerned.”

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