NHL Playoffs Schedule: Bruins, Canadiens Kick-Off Stanley Cup Quest Thursday Night

The Lowdown: The No. 3 seed Boston Bruins face the No. 6 seed Montreal Canadiens in the first game of their first round NHL playoff match-up Thursday evening.

The Digits: 7 p.m., TD Garden, Boston, Massachusetts

Where To Watch: The entire series will be featured on NESN, while Game 1 will also have a home on VERSUS. Boston's 98.5 The Sports Hub will be airing the game live on the radio. In Montreal, English language coverage will be available on CJAD 800AM, and on the CBC.

The Preview: Poetically, the Bruins and Canadiens had to meet at some point of these season's NHL Playoffs. With the rivalry at its highest pitch in years thanks to March's Zdeno Chara hit on Max Pacrioretty, both teams will face emotionally charged venues in both Boston and Montreal.

The Bruins will ride the hot saves of goaltender Tim Thomas into the playoffs. While Thomas has suffered from some defensive failures in front of him at times this season, he has shown a steadiness in goal that has carried his team. Thomas ended the regular season leading the NHL in save percentage (.938) and goals allowed average (2.00), while placing second in shutouts with 9. His save percentage was a league record since the stat started being tallied in 1982. One of Thomas's shutouts was the last game he played against the Canadiens on March 24th, and was 2-1-1 overall against them this season.

To keep a charged Montreal team at bay, the Bruins will need to see continued offensive output from all four of their lines. Milan Lucic will need to keep up his goal tallying trend, but will most likely be a point of focus for the Montreal defense. Thus, Lucic may need to focus more on feeding his linemates than making the shots himself. Lucic's linemate David Krejci has 10 points in 11 career playoff games against Montreal. The Bruins could use the veteran experiences of mid-season pickups Tomas Kaberle and Chris Kelly, both of whom have been slightly underwhelming thus far.

While the Bruins defense will have a definite size advantage over the Canadiens, they will need to keep focused. With lapses and lack of hustle evident at points this season, the defense is the one worry-point for this Bruins team.

Montreal has struggled mightily this season scoring at even-strength, with NHL.com pointing out that "no playoff team has scored fewer goals at even strength than the Canadiens." Will the Canadiens' experienced forwards Scott Gomez and Brian Gionta awake for the playoffs? Both have years of playoff experience with the dominant New Jersey Devils teams of years past, and particularly Gionta has a tendency to play up for the playoffs.

Montreal goaltender Carey Price will be the team's number one goaltender for the series, and will be under added pressure if his offensive teammates can't find their place on the scoresheet.

Last Time They Met: According to the Boston Bruins, the Bruins and Canadiens have met in the playoffs more times than any other NHL teams -- 33 times. The Bruins swept the Canadiens in the 2009 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals, which was the last time they met in the playoffs.

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