The Canadiens clinched 1st overall in the East this season, defeating the Toronto Maple Leafs 3-1 Saturday combined with Pittsburgh's 2-0 loss in Philly this afternoon.
The Canadiens end the year at 47-25-10, totaling 104 points, two ahead of Pittsburgh.
With many predicting the Habs to finish out of playoff contention this season, the Habs have not only stunned their critics; they've made them all look like fools (me included) as they are now statistically the favoured Eastern team to make it to the Stanley Cup Finals, gunning for their 25th Stanley Cup.
And if history is any indicator, Montreal will be heavily favoured to at least come out of round 1 on top.
The Habs owned the Bruins this season, defeating them all 8 times they met, only one of which requiring extra time (shootout).
Lifetime, Montreal is 23-7 vs. the Bruins in the playoffs.
Boston can thank their 12 overtime losses for their spot in the post-season, as Carolina had more wins in ninth, yet only mustered up 92 points, two fewer than the Bruins.
The Bruins will be hoping for an early return from Marc Savard, suffering from a broken bone in his back suffered in Boston's last game in Montreal, courtesy a Steve Begin crosscheck, and will also be praying for a miraculous return of dangerous centerman Patrice Bergeron, sidelined nearly the entire season after being boarded head-first by Philadelphia's Randy Jones.
Montreal will likely be without Saku Koivu for the first game at least, but there is optimism of a Koivu return for game 1 as well...he is suffering from a broken bone in his left foot, suffered blocking a shot in a game vs. Buffalo. Accoridng to coach Carbonneau, if Koivu can assure him that he's ready to go and ready to play through the pain, he will suit up.
The series kicks off Thursday night.
The other Eastern playoff matchups are as follows:
2 Pittsburgh vs. 7 Ottawa
3 Washington vs. 6 Philadelphia
4 New Jersey vs. 5 NY Rangers