The energy was palpable with elimination in the air, the Bruins looked to close out the series, one round closer to the ultimate goal of Lord Stanley’s Cup and they did just that, after clinching the series 4-1 against the Detroit Red Wings on Saturday. One round down, the intensity of the situation is already revving up for round two. Skating into another Original Six match-up is one thing, but playing a best of seven series against continuous division rivals will bring the old time hockey to center ice.
The Canadiens and Bruins have history, heat and some may argue, hate for one another. It’s a rivalry that spans more than just the ice, it bleeds into the stands, coats both cities and has skated through the ice chips of time. The teams will meet for the 34th time in NHL Playoff history, the highest amount of playoff meetings between two teams in any professional sport.
“It’s a good rivalry,” said Thornton. “I mean, we’ve played them a lot in my seven years here, so my initial feeling is embrace it. It’s good – both cities really get into it, both teams get into it, so I’m going to enjoy it.”
The Bruins have spent the majority of the past few seasons battling adversity, it’s a quality that makes not only the team, but the organization as a whole standout. Although the first round series between Boston and Detroit may not have played out as aggressively as similar current first round match-ups, the physicality was in full force. Size, strength and persistence allowed Boston to advance — those factors will need to skate with them into the second round.
“Again, it’s always great to play these guys. Detroit was definitely a great challenge. Same thing with Montreal, I think. They’re a great team,” said Bergeron. “They’re a team that definitely is playing some great hockey right now. They played well against Tampa. It’s going to be a good challenge again for us. And like you said, there’s lots of history behind both teams so it’s going to be fun to be part of it.”
Will the familiarity with Montreal from past meetings be a blessing? Perhaps, but that familiarity felt by Boston will also stand to assist the Canadiens in their quest to advance, it’s a give and take mentality on both sides.
“It’s definitely a team that we’ve seen a lot in the last few years,” said Bergeron. “We know what they got, they know what we got, so it’s always a huge battle against them. We’re expecting a tough and long series and we definitely got to approach it the same way we did against Detroit, which is one game at a time. Right now, we got to get a little bit of rest and make sure we look at some videos and the coaches are going to do a good job to make sure we’re ready for them.”
Beyond the already intense nature of playoff hockey, the magnitude of the rivalry is just another mental preparation to expand upon.
“Yeah, definitely,” said Lucic. “Fourth time now since 2008 that we faced them here in the playoffs, first time that it isn’t a first-round match-up, so another Original Six battle that we get to be a part of and a lot of hatred between the teams, the fans, the cities when it comes to this kind of rivalry, so we expect them to bring their best. We saw what they were able to do in the first series, and like I said we got to be prepared to come out and elevate our game as the playoffs move on.”
Prior to the NHL re-alignment, the heat between the two clubs could be seen multiple times a season. Whether somehow pre-meditated on the possibility board in an NHL office, or not — some of the best playoff hockey in rivalry terms, will face-off in the second round.
“I guess so, yeah,” said Rask. “They changed the schedule so we don’t face them six times a year now, but still we’re pretty familiar from playing them. I guess when they changed these playoffs I guess they want the rivalries to be in the second round…”
The excitement for the players ran high following their advancement on Saturday, and channeling that energy into the coming week of practice leading up to Game 1 will be a key component in their foresight to succeed. The playoffs are meant as a challenge and while Detroit was just that, the expectation of Montreal being the same is just that, an expectation.
“It’s obviously another difficult one,” said GM Chiarelli. “We had — we were mediocre against them during the year, but they’re a team that has given us trouble historically, so it will be a challenge. That way — much is said about their size and their speed and allegedly, that’s what gives us problems. I think that’s part of it. I think it’s just sometimes, you just don’t have success against [a team] sometimes. Having said that, that applied to Detroit, too, so you see what happens with that.”
With one round in the books, the quest is still a long and tiring one, but previous postseason experience unites the Boston organization.
“We all want to — we all have one thing on our mind,” said GM Chiarelli. “It’s to win, and to win and to be consistent in winning, and to be able to roll over each year and compete for the Cup. As hokey as that sounds, it’s what we do and it’s something that we take a lot of pride in. Success is fleeting, too, so you could — next year, we could lose in the first round and you guys will be all over us, and I understand that so the respite from that is nice, too.”
With their name adorning the Cup in 2011 and an almost taste of victory in 2013, the black and gold are hungrier than ever. Soon enough, fans will see if the Canadiens are able to make it out alive or if the Bruins will skate four wins closer towards the top of the NHL victory ring.