For the 32nd time, the Bruins meet the Canadiens in the playoffs. Think about that. 32 seasons have ended for one of these teams, with their rivals jubilantly celebrating in their face. And in this lengthy history between the two, it’s been the Canadiens who have come out on top. 23 of the previous 31 series have ended in Montreal’s favor. Think about that, the Bruins have played 83 seasons, and 23 of those (27.7%) have ended harshly with a Canadiens’ celebration, and thousands of Québécois singing "Ole!" That’s why Bruins fans like myself cannot stand the Habs.
Well, that’s one of the reasons. I’m only 24, so I don’t exactly remember the 1930 Stanley Cup finals, or the stretch from 1984 to 1987 when the Habs beat the Bruins in 4 straight opening round series, winning 12 of 14 games. There’s a deeper source of the hatred between the B’s and Habs.
The Canadiens and Bruins have two very different hockey philosophies. Thuggish players like Cam Neely and Milan Lucic are worshipped by B’s fans, and vilified by Habs’ supporters. Up in Quebec, they adore slick, refined soccer players who can skate, but shy from violence. Bruins fans hate these pesky guys. To summarize: a Bruins fan will go nuts for a big hit, a Canadiens fan will go crazy for a nice pass. Both fanbases and franchises have irreconcilably different perspectives on how hockey should be played. Not only do they loathe how the other plays the game, but they cannot even respect it.
Two verbs are vital to describe Montreal’s preferred style of hockey: To dive, and to turtle. The Canadiens know how much referees are awestruck by their Stanley Cup banners, and their diehard fans, and their haunted rink. They’ll take advantage of this to get their vaunted power play unit on the ice as often as possible. Dive, embellish, exaggerate, flop, whatever it takes.
They’ve also recently started to provoke-then-turtle, a strategy worthy of Sean Avery. A great example of this tactic is about 3:45 into this highlight reel from the Bruins-Canadiens game on April 9th. I recommend watching the entire video to see how entertaining yet brutal this rivalry has become:
But things have become more complex then simply the Big Bad Bruins vs. Le Club de Hockey Canadien. The Bruins have speed to go along with their muscle. They can pass the puck and finish the play with perfect touch. They were 2nd in the NHL in goals scored. Last year, the speed and agility of the Canadiens was enough for them to beat the Bruins in 7 games. This year, the Bruins are both tough and tricky. That’s why they went 5-0-1 against the Canadiens in the regular season, and that’s why they’ll win this series.
The Bruins have the best goalie in Tim Thomas, while Carey Price’s stock has depriciated. The Canadiens cannot outmuscle the B’s. But the B’s have the personnel to keep up with the Habs‘ desired pace. Phil Kessel has lightning speed, 36 goals under his belt, and he’s red-hot; as demonstrated by his hat-trick Sunday evening. The Bruins’ first two lines can skate circles around almost any team in the NHL, unless that team is really big with tough forwards (See: San Jose. Those are two things the Canadiens desperately lack.
What Canadien is going to stop Milan Lucic? Which Hab will tangle with Shawn Thornton in the corner? How many Montreal players will plead for restraining orders against Zdeno Chara once this series is over?
Montreal produces some very pretty girls…
But 20 of the uglier girls will have nothing to do but cry in a few weeks.
Bruins in 5.