Bruins Will Face Past Playoff Rivals in New 2020-21 East Division

This upcoming NHL season will be something we as hockey fans have never seen before. There is a 56-game schedule for the first time, and all four divisions are realigned because of COVID-19 and travel, as the schedule calls for teams to only play games within their respective divisions. This means interdivisional games will not be played, and there potentially will be no traditional East-West matchup in the Stanley Cup Final.

The top four teams from each division will make the Stanley Cup Playoffs, making each game more meaningful. The 2020-21 season will be one for the ages, and the most exciting aspect is that new rivalries will be born. 

The fiercest, best rivalry in hockey, and maybe the best in all of sports, will be on pause, at least during the regular season this year. That rivalry is the Boston Bruins and the Montreal Canadiens. These two Original Six teams have met more times in the playoffs than any other two teams, and we can only hope they meet again. 

The Bruins and Canadiens have an intense rivalry. (Icon SMI)

Boston headlines a very young, talented division. The Bruins will compete with the Buffalo Sabres, New Jersey Devils, New York Islanders, New York Rangers, Philadelphia Flyers, Pittsburgh Penguins, and Washington Capitals in a stacked East. Including Boston, the Islanders, Flyers, and Capitals all made the playoffs a season ago (the Rangers and Penguins made the qualifying round), so we can expect some competitive hockey in this division.

Furthermore, the question remains, which of these teams will replace Montreal as the Bruins’ biggest rival in 2021? Let’s dive into some rivalries that could reunite. 

New York Rangers 

The 1970s was the peak of this rivalry. The Bruins beat the Rangers in the playoffs in 1970 en route to their fourth Stanley Cup. They beat them again when the teams met in the finals in 1972 for their fifth Cup. 

New York finally got revenge in the 1973 playoffs and a few years later, in the 1975-76 season, Bruins goal-scoring machine Phil Esposito was traded to Broadway in a massive deal. Esposito played nine seasons with the Bruins before being traded to New York. The eight-time All-Star played six years for the Rangers, and this trade is still known as one of the biggest in hockey history. Boston and New York didn’t meet in the postseason again until 2013, where the Bruins eliminated the Rangers in the conference semifinals. 

Phil Esposito Boston Bruins
Phil Esposito, Boston Bruins, circa 1972 (Photo by Bruce Bennett Studios via Getty Images Studios/Getty Images)

This Original Six rivalry will be renewed, and it should be more exciting. Both teams come from big markets, and we could see a Red Sox versus Yankees level of hatred between these two teams before it’s all said and done again. The Rangers are an up-and-coming team looking to keep taking steps in the right direction.

Head coach Dan Quinn will be entering his third season, and this team has some serious young talent. The Rangers hope the 2019 second pick, Kaapo Kakko, and the 2020 first pick, Alexis Lafrenière are a great fit with current players like Artemi Panarin and Mika Zibanejad. 

Philadelphia Flyers 

This rivalry brewed up when these two teams met in the 1974 Stanley Cup Final. The Big Bad Bruins and the Broad Street Bullies battled it out on the game’s biggest stage. In a classic series, the Flyers won in six games, the first of two consecutive Stanley Cup victories. The Bruins and Flyers played in three consecutive semifinals in 1976, 1977, and 1978. Philadelphia won in 1976, but the Bruins won in 1977 and 1978. 

Philadelphia Flyers, Broad Street Bullies
Coach Fred Shero of the Philadelphia Flyers along with players (l-r) Jimmy Watson #20, Dave Hoyda #8, Bobby Clarke #16, Bob Kelly #20, Bill Barber #7 and Reggie Leach #27 (Photo by Steve Babineau/NHLI via Getty Images)

One of the more unforgettable series in hockey history was the 2010 Eastern Conference semifinal round. Boston scorched to a 3-0 series lead and looked destined for the next round. However, Philadelphia won the next three games to even the series, and it set for a classic Game 7. The Bruins had a 3-0 lead at one point in the first period, but the Flyers tied it at 3-3 in the second period. Simon Gagne scored the game-winning goal for Philadelphia in the third period, and the Flyers went on to the next round and eventually to the Stanley Cup Final, losing to the Chicago Blackhawks. 

In 2020-21, this rivalry is going to be awesome. These teams are coming off superb seasons in 2019-20 and in discussion for two of the best in the sport this year. The Big Bad Bruins and Broad Street Bullies are back, and hockey fans should be here for it.

Washington Capitals 

Well, it’s safe to say this rivalry is going to get interesting after 14-year Bruins veteran Zdeno Chara signed with the Capitals on a one-year deal. Chara is a Bruins legend, winning the 2011 Stanley Cup and playing in over 1,000 games in Boston. The 43-year old defenseman’s time was finishing up for the Bruins and now will be with a team two years removed from their 2019 Stanley Cup run. 

Zdeno Chara Boston Bruins
Zdeno Chara, former Boston Bruin (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Chara will bring a high IQ and more veteran leadership to a talented Capitals team. Alex Ovechkin and Chara teaming up together will be memorable, so hockey fans, get your popcorn ready. Bruins versus Capitals is something you will want to watch this upcoming season. 

So while it’s disappointing that we won’t see Montreal play Boston during the regular season, we do get to see some old Bruin rivalries rekindle in 2021. Boston has the opportunity to be one of the best teams in hockey this year, but with a tough East division, it won’t be easy. Expect these rivalries to be intense and have a playoff feel to them during the regular season. It is going to be awesome. 

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