It never takes very much to set the mood for these two clubs. Living in Beantown last year I can tell you from first-hand experience that Bruins fans feel the same loathing and disgust that we feel towards them. Last year I watched a fat slob of a Broons fan swear at a middle aged French-Canadian woman and block her from passing his seat simply because she wanted to use the rest room while wearing a Habs jersey. As I was leaving TD Banknorth (suffering enough with the normal rage I feel when the Habs lose), I had a particularly hilarious Bruins fan shout me down saying it was “a long ride home – and thanks for Michael Ryder *&%!”. I didn’t want to get into the fact that I lived just accross the Charles River from the Arena – literally in view, or that Ryder was a ticking time-bomb of disapointment waiting to explode all over his black and vomit-yellow jersey. I feel particularly vindicated this week since Bruins management has put Ryder and his ridiculous contract on the trading block.
For two teams with such animosity, it is interesting to think about the similar ups and downs that these two teams have shared over the past three years. Both have lead the Eastern Conference in points in the regular season. Both just squeaked into the playoffs while the other accomplished this. Both teams have relied on veteran defensemen (Chara and Markov), and tied their fates to the emergence of prospects within their system. What is interesting is how long it has been since both the Bruins and Habs shared the same portion of the Eastern Conference standings. It is this factor that makes intensifies the rivalry that will come to a head in 2 of the next 3 games.
Both teams have struggled with injury. Both teams are capable when healthy and properly motivated of competing at a high level. The Canadiens tenuously hold 7th place with a 3 point lead on the Bruins (12th) with 3 games in hand. Wins over the Bruins would leave them in the dust. A split would prolong the misery of watching other teams struggle to jump over us. Losses would allow the Bruins to jump well past us. In a season where almost every game has been a must-win, creating exhilerating highs and bitter lows, the Habs will be put to the test once again. If they play as they did against Vancouver, we will be pleased. Play as they did in Florida and we will be in trouble.