BOSTON (CBS) — The Bruins and the Canadiens are going to face off in a playoff series, and that can mean only one thing: headaches. Lots of them.
Headaches for the players, headaches for the coaches, headaches for the fans, headaches for the media, and headaches for anyone who hopes to live a normal life over the next two weeks.
When these two teams meet — whether it’s in the preseason, regular season or postseason — it’s never a tidy affair. From controversial hits, to accusations of diving, to rebuttals of accusations of diving, to aggressive chants/threats in the stands, to 911 calls, to a complete lack of decorum and respect in any and all communications between the two cities, there is always something that raises the collective blood pressures in Boston and Montreal when the teams meet to play hockey.
Of course, to harp on all of that is to overlook the thrilling hockey that takes place between the two teams. To be sure, we are all in for another classic series as the B’s and Habs meet in the postseason for the 34th time in their history. The last time this happened, three games went to overtime, including Game 7. There was Montreal dominance in Games 1 and 2 in Boston, a caged Chris Kelly comeback in Game 4 to tie the series, a stunning Tim Thomas overtime save on Brian Gionta as well as a Michael Ryder glove save (what?) in Game 5, a late tying goal from P.K. Subban in Game 7, and of course, the series-winner from Nathan Horton, via deflection off Jeff Halpern.
From a hockey standpoint, it was brilliant. But there were plenty of instances on the periphery that drove both sides insane. You had Andrew Ference sneaking a shoulder to the jaw of Halpern as well as Ference flipping the bird to the Bell Centre crowd. There was P.K. Subban’s flop for the ages. There was Milan Lucic getting kicked out of Game 6 for boarding Jaroslav Spacek. All of this took place after a regular season which saw Zdeno Chara break Max Pacioretty’s neck as well as a line brawl that even featured an old-fashioned goaltender brawl.
Each and every one of those occasions sparked an avalanche of outrage, and that was only the on-ice behavior. What takes place in the stands — or even worse, the YouTube comments! — is often much worse. There have been plenty of idiotic and homophobic chants inside the TD Garden, just as there has been booing of the American national anthem in Montreal. In both buildings, the ice has been littered with trash and souvenirs in protest, and there was even a citywide riot in Montreal after the Canadiens beat the Bruins in Game 7 of a 2008 playoff series.
All of that took place in just the past six years, and this is a rivalry that’s existed for 90 years. So seemingly every time they meet, decades of pent-up hatred bubbles over and leads to a whole slew of incidents.
I’m not trying to say that can’t be fun. I’m just saying it’s tiring.
By the time this series wraps up, both organizations and both cities are sure to feel some relief. Plenty of shenanigans from both sides are certainly in store over the next two weeks, and when it ends, we’ll all be better off for it.
For quick reference, here’s a primer on what you’ll be bombarded with if you follow this series closely:
“Zdeno Chara is a dirty cheap-shot artist who deserves to be put in prison!”
Yeah, see, the thing with that one is … no. He did a bad thing once. He shoved Max Pacioretty and hurt the guy. It was a bad move. If Canadiens fans choose to never forgive him, then that’s their prerogative. But he’s not a dirty player.
“All the Habs do is dive! Montreal diving team! Dive! Dive! Dive!”
Bruins fans lost this moral high ground upon welcoming Brad Marchand to the family with open arms. It is true that he has curbed his acts of embellishment in recent years, but it was just last week that he sparked a day’s worth of debate by grabbing his right knee after getting hit in his left knee. That there was even a debate tells you that his reputation precedes him, and the refs’ treatment of him for the rest of that series proved it’s not a good repuation. It’s also well-earned, so aside from the most egregious instances of diving (like the aforementioned Subban collapse), it’s probably best to limit the diving complaints.
“[Something stupid and idiotic about Montreal media member]!”
“[Something stupid and idiotic about Boston media member]!”
“What a HOMER!”
While I personally find entertainment in the media battles that often take place during heated playoff series, they usually lead to some horrific words being spewed about men who are probably nice fellows in real life — men with families and friends who think they’re swell. We’re all going to die some day, people, let’s not attack everyone because they live a few hundred miles away. Do it for society, friends. (This has a zero percent chance of happening. Just figured I’d give it a shot.)
“The Bruins are a GOON team that plays GOON hockey that’s only appreciated by their GOON fans!”
It’s true that the Bruins typically come out on top when it comes to physical battles against the Canadiens, and I think that’s where this complaint comes from. But the Canadiens picked up 41 fighting majors this year, fifth-most in the NHL. They employ Brandon Prust and George Parros and Travis Moen. Ryan White’s jumping of Johnny Boychuk a few years back was wildly celebrated in Montreal. The “goon” claims typically only come after a Bruins player beats up a Canadiens player, and they carry no weight.
“The refs are obviously favoring Montreal! Especially that one because he has a French name!”
It may seem like the officials are on the take, but they’re not. Chances are, they’re just bad at their jobs. Food for thought: the Canadiens were assessed 13 penalty minutes per game this year, which was fifth-most in the NHL, and they were shorthanded 3.5 times per game, seventh-most in the league. They were issued 331 minor penalties, which was sixth-most and was 39 more than the Bruins were issued. On home ice, the Canadiens had 140 power plays this season, which comes out to 3.4 per game. That’s right in the middle of the pack — 16th in the NHL — and overall, they were given the 11th-most power plays in the league. The refs are guaranteed to make bad calls — they do it in every series, in every rink, literally all the time — so when they screw up in this series, blame it on sheer incompetence instead of wild conspiracy theory. You’ll have a much better foundation that way.
There’s probably more. Scratch that — there’s definitely more, but hopefully better awareness on both sides will lead to a kinder, friendlier series between these bitter rivals, one that we can all enjoy in relative peace and appreciate for the hours of hockey entertainment it provides before getting a good night’s sleep and looking forward with wide eyes to the next game.
Oh, who am I kidding? This one’s going to be as messy as ever. Might as well buckle up and prepare for the mud to start to fly. There’s nothing anyone can do to avoid it when these two teams meet in the playoffs.
(But please, for your own sake and for the love of all that his holy, steer clear of the YouTube comments. There are no winners in the YouTube comments.)
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