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Sports

April 26, 2014

On Hockey: Special teams, skating that drove Bruins by Detroit should help against Montreal

BOSTON -- In the aftermath of closing out their first round playoff series, several members of the Boston Bruins felt their five-game win over Detroit was much closer, and more difficult, than the 4-1 count in games made it appear.

As they did in all four of their playoffs wins so far, Boston dominated special teams and skated strongly as a team in the series clinching 4-2 win here at TD Garden Saturday.

Both those factors should continue to work in the B's favor in the conference semifinals against Montreal, set to begin later this week.

The B's are facing Montreal in the postseason for the first time since 2011, a 7-game series win that eventually led to the Stanley Cup. The Canadiens beat the B's in the first round in 2008, and Boston returned the favor the following year.

Anytime these Original Six rivals, who have met in the playoffs more times than any two franchises in North American pro sports, get together there is drama, excitement, and angst in the fan bases.

"First time that it isn’t a first-round match-up, so another Original Six battle that we get to be a part of and a lot of hatred between the teams, the fans, the cities," Bruins winger Milan Lucic, who had the crucial third goal in Saturday's win, said. "When it comes to this kind of rivalry, so we expect them to bring their best."

Typically, Bruins fans want their team to play even strength hockey heading into a series with Montreal, a club that historically thrives on special teams. If the series against Detroit is any indication, special teams will be no problem for the Bruins.

Boston's power play scored six times in the first round, and their penalty kill was nearly flawless at 90 percent (18-of-20). The Bruins didn't lose a game in which they scored a power play goal, and that dramatic edge in special teams helped them put the Red Wings away in only five games. It was a much shorter series than anticipated, one that might've dragged out if the special teams were even.

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