Until the NHL returns the Nordiques to Quebec City there are 2 teams in the league that when facing the Canadiens, have the potential to turn a game into an insant classic. Habs/Leafs games carry a huge significance to any soul who has grown up waiting patiently every week of the season for those legendary tilts on Hockey Night in Canada, but there is one team in the league that carries a special kind of hate within our hearts. While the matches between the Canadiens and Leafs play to nationalistsic and cultural narratives, to the true fan of the Canadiens and the game of hockey, the rivalry with the Bruins is THE rivalry.
The history is undeniable. The Habs and Bruins have met over 600 times. Those matchups have produced some of the most meorable moments the game has ever witnessed. It was a game against the Bruins which sparked the Richard Riots. The Rocket struck a linesman during a 1955 altercation which resulted in a match penalty and a suspension for the remainder of the season including the playoffs. Boston Police attempted to arrest Richard after the match, but were held off by members of the Canadiens.
In 1979, Boston led the deciding game of the semifinal series 4-3 and looked to be set to move on to the Cup Finals when they were called for too many men on the ice with minutes to go in the game. On the ensuing powerplay Guy Lafleur scored one of the most famous goals in Habs history to send the game into overtime. The Canadiens Yvon Lambert eventually scored and sent Montreal on its way to its 6th Stanley Cup victory of the 1970s.
Personally I feel as though my whole life has been spent watching Habs-Bruins playoff series. The two teams met in the playoffs in 9 consecutive seasons between ’84 and ’92. More recently the Canadiens have won improbable victories in ’02, ’04, and ’08, while the Bruins have enjoyed a current unbeaten streak against the Habs of 10 games including a 4-0 trouncing in last year’s playoffs.
This year both teams have struggled with injuries. Boston sorely misses Marc Savard, David Krejci, and Phil Kessel who was traded to the Maple Leafs. Montreal is reeling defensively with the loss of Andrei Markov and Ryan O’Byrne, and could be without Brian Gionta who will be a game time decision. Even with the high profile absences tonight, it will be an important game for both teams. The Habs have recalled Ryan White and Tom Pyatt in orer to fill potential gaps. It will be interesting to see what line combos Martin will unveil tonight.
Go Habs Go!