"A big part of this game is confidence. If you think you can beat somebody, you usually do."

The speaker was Steve Shutt, the 60 - goal scorer of the Montreal Canadiens, who are sure they can beat anyone, any time, anywhere.

Most teams that play the Canadiens hope for some breaks and a letup by the Canadiens, just to keep the score close. But the Boston Bruins, who opens the best - of - seven Stanley Cup final against the Canadiens tonight in the Montreal Forum, are confident of their ability to whip the defending champions. The result of this confrontation of egos should be a very competitive series.

"I heard a television commentator say that nobody should bother showing up to play Montreal, that they should just give them the cup," said Boston coach Don Cherry. "Well, we beat them three times and lost to them twice.We're the only team to win the season series from them and the only team to beat them in the Forum. We plan on showing up."

The Bruins administered three of the Canadiens' eight regular - season defeats, including a 4 - 3 decision in Montreal Oct. 30. That was the Canadiens' only home - ice in 40 regular season games. Boston's victories came in the first three meetings. The last two resulted in an 8 - 3 Montreal victory at home and a 5 - 1 Canadien success in Boston.

"We don't play very physical during the regular season," Shutt said. "Maybe that's one reason we didn't have a lot of injuries. But we can play physical if the situation arises. Yes, that game in Boston was one of the times we had something to prove."

Shutt and NHL scoring champion Guy Lafleur took to the body most effectively as the Canadiens whipped the New York Islanders, 2 - 1, Thursday night to end their semifinal series in six games. Bob Gainey, the checking specialist who scored both goals, made note of that fact.

"I'm just supposed to be a checker," Gainey said, "but Steve Shutt and Guy Lafleur are supposed to be nothing but goal scorers and look at the job of checking they did. It goes both ways."

Montreal's swift forwards do an excellent job of backchecking, picking up the opposition's forwards. As a result, the Canadiens' defensemen are able to control the puck and move in close, in essence setting up a five - man attack. The defense has produced nine of the team's 38 playoff goals.

Boston, a marvelous forechecking team, must put pressure on the Canadiens' defense, break up their plays before they have the chance to develop. Of course, the Bruins must also hinder the Canadiens' great line of left wing Shutt, right wing Lafleur and center Jacques Lemaire. That trio has accounted for 16 playoff goals, three more than all the other Montreal forwards combined.

The Bruins are a well - balanced, digging team, with a superior defenseman in Brad Park, an excellent puck handler in Jean Ratelle - suffer, Ranger fans - and a lot of guys named Gregg and Don and Wayne and Terry who believe in the work ethic.

Where Lafleur and Shutt recorded five of Montreal's eight game - winning goals in the playoffs, Boston's eight winners were spread among seven players.Only Gregg Sheppard had two.

"We're got to work, do a lot of forechecking, keep working and never give up," Don Marcotte said.

"Montreal obviously is a quick - skating club, but we know what we have to do," said defenseman Mike Milbury."We've got to forecheck. We can't wait back for them. That would be disastrous. Don't count us out."

The Bruins belong. They also own a temporary edge physically, since the Canadiens barely had time to fly home and unpack after eliminating the Islanders. Montreal management wanted to start the final series Sunday, but was overruled because the NHL has a television commitment (not to Washington, alas). So, if the Canadiens were ever ripe for the harvesting, Cherry's pickers have their opportunity tonight.