The year was 1929. It was the first time the Montreal Canadiens and Boston Bruins met in the playoffs. They clashed again during the post-season the following two years, and this seems to be from where this whole fun mess stems.
The Canadiens-Bruins rivalry is considered one of the greatest there is. Former Bruin Bob Sweeney once called it among the “top three rivalries in all of sports.”
It’s been a back-and-forth battle over the years. From 1946-87, Montreal won all 18 playoff series between the two teams. Since then, Boston has won seven of the 11 post-season rounds.
The two teams have played each other more times, in both regular-season play and the Stanley Cup playoffs combined, than any other two teams in NHL history. To help understand the feud between these two teams, let’s take a look at a few of the great games the teams have delivered over the years.
In April 8, 1952, the Canadiens eliminated the Bruins from the Stanley Cup Semifinals and did it bruised and bloodied. During Game 7, Maurice Richard was knocked unconscious after hitting his head against the knee of a Bruins defenceman. But it was Game 7 of the Semifinals after all, so with head wrapped in a bandage, Richard returned to the bench and ended up scoring the winning goal against Jim Henry. Guess the blood dripping down his face didn’t impair his shot.
This one is even more enjoyable: the Bruins leading — and losing — Game 7 due to a stupid penalty. The Bruins were up 4-3 in Game 7 of the Semifinals (again). Then they got called for too many men on the ice. While on the power play, coach Don Cherry was too busy throwing a fit and waving his hands in the air to notice Guy Lafleur blast a slapshot past Gilles Gilbert to push it to overtime, where Yvon Lambert finished it with the game-winning goal. That year was 1979. Wasn’t that the year … yes, it was … the Canadiens won the Stanley Cup. Thanks, Don.
While not a playoff meeting, who can forget the time when even the goaltenders got in on the heated debates? Carey Price and Tim Thomas skated to meet each other in the middle of the ice to square off. As everyone knows, when your goaltender is threatened, everyone gets in on the action. The ice was littered with equipment and the penalty boxes were overflowing with a total of 187 minutes racked up.
In 2011, current Canadiens coach Claude Julien brought the Bruins all the way to the Stanley Cup after they knocked off the Habs in seven games in the first round. Hey, Claude, think you could return the favour sometime soon? I mean, I know we have 24 Cups and Boston only has six, but a nice round number would be nice.
Tuesday’s game will be the 747th time these two teams have faced off, with Montreal coming in with a 362-271-103-10 record against the Bruins. Let me double-check that. Yep. That’s right. The Canadiens have taken home the majority of the wins.
The rivalry was put on hold for a short period during the 2016 World Championship when the two biggest pests on both teams, Brendan Gallagher and Brad Marchand, became friendly-ish when they were teammates on Team Canada. That was confusing and pretty scarring for everyone. I mean, tell me this image doesn’t freak you out.
It wasn’t long after that that they both began to lose their “pest” persona. Okay, not fully, but these two have really found their scoring touch these past few seasons.
During the 2017-18 and 2018-19 seasons, Gallagher tallied 31 and 33 goals, respectively. For the Bruins, Marchand netted 34 and then 36 goals a season ago. Some might focus on Marchand having more goals than Gallagher. I myself like to put the emphasis on Gallagher ranking first on his team, while Marchand was only second.
This deep-rooted rivalry is not just on ice. Fans on opposing ends tend to coexist during the regular season, but when the Canadiens and Bruins meet in the playoffs, all bets are off. Friendships don’t exist, the workplace divides, marriages are put on hold. During the 2017-18 season, in January we were treated to an almost ‘mini playoffs’ when the Canadiens and Bruins met three times in eight days and that was enough to fuel the fire.
Tuesday will be the first of four meetings for these two teams this year. They faced off for the same amount of contests last season with a pretty even outcome. They split the victories, each coming away with a 3-2 win and a shutout.
As of right now, both teams have started off strong and are only four points apart in the Atlantic Division. The Bruins have 20 points (10-1-2) and are hanging on to first place while the Canadiens (7-5-2) got bumped to fourth after their loss to the Dallas Stars on Saturday night. It will be a chance to close the gap, and show Montreal is competing with the top teams in the division for a post-season berth, so you won’t want to miss the action in person in what could be the most competitive game of the season to date.
The Bruins may be big and physical, but the Canadiens are speedy and scrappy and aren’t afraid to get down and dirty when needed. And on that note, I leave you with one of the best Habs-Bruins moments of all-time.
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