Like the NBA playoffs, the NHL playoffs are a long grind. Anytime you have 16 teams in a tournament that is set up in best-of-seven format, things are going to take a while. In order to reach the Stanley Cup Finals a team has to win 12 games. With that in mind, it would be understandable if casual hockey fans had trouble getting excited about the opening round of the NHL playoffs. However, when the Boston Bruins and Montreal Canadiens take the ice — opening round or Eastern Conference Finals — all eyes should be watching.
When the puck drops at 7 p.m EST in Boston Thursday night, it will signal the beginning of anything but “just another series.” These two teams despise each other and have since the 1950s. Some like to call the Yankees and Red Sox the greatest rivalry in professional sports. While there is certainly an argument to be made for that, I can guarantee you wouldn’t see a Bruin and a Canadien shooting the breeze during a game the way Derek Jeter and Dustin Pedroia do when one of them reaches second base. The fans may hate each other more than the players do, but the guys with the sticks aren’t far behind.
Thursday night will mark the fifth time the Bruins and Candiens have met in the playoffs since 2002. From 1984-1992, they met in the postseason every single year. The road to the Cup seems to always go through Montreal for the Bruins and Boston for the Canadiens. Lucky for us, 2011 will be more of the same.
It may seem like an exaggeration given their history, but the stakes this year could be higher than they have ever been. Montreal and Boston beat up on each other all season long — literally. Even the goalies got in on the action. In early March, Zdeno Chara knocked out Max Pacioretty with what Montreal fans felt was such a cheap shot they needed to get police involved. Mark Recchi managed to ruffle feathers even more when he told reporters he thought the Candiens were playing up the injury, but the investigation is still ongoing. Yes, seriously.
The events from this season alone are enough to show you this is about much more than just hockey. I won’t make a prediction about the series because the team that wins will be the team that gets more pissed off. It’s that simple. Whether you’re a Bruins fan, a Candiens fan, or just a casual hockey fan, I’d advise you to sit back and enjoy the show. You won’t regret it.Google+