By Mike Miccoli, Boston Bruins correspondent
After the 7-0 “skunking” of the Montreal Canadiens on March 24 , fans of the Boston Bruins began to gloat somewhere in between their “U-S-A, U-S-A” and “Caaa-reey, Caaa-reey” chants. The fans wanted Montreal in the first round of the playoffs—badly. They wanted to be the ones to deliver that final blow to Les Habitants’ season, ending any chance of a 25th Stanley Cup in Montreal. The arrogant confidence had returned and why shouldn’t it have? The B’s chased Habs’ goaltender Carey Price after five goals—right around the time when talk of a Vezina began to encircle the British Columbia native in what ended up being the best statistical season of his career. In fact, even though the Canadiens took four of the six regular season games, they were still outscored 22-20 by the Bruins.
But the thing is, I want nothing to do with the Montreal Canadiens. If I’m a Habs’ fan, I’d want nothing to do with the Boston Bruins either. And it has nothing to do with bowing out in the first round of the playoffs.
Think of past series in the first rounds between these two teams. Since the beginning of conference matchups, only the 1985-86 Montreal Canadiens have gone on to win the Stanley Cup after defeating the Bruins in the first round. Boston has never done it.
Looking at more recent Boston and Montreal matchups, neither team was able to advance past the second round after dueling it out with one another. It happened in the 2001-02 and 2003-04 playoffs where a lower-seeded Canadiens team was unable to advance past the Conference semi-finals after upsetting a higher-seeded Boston team. It happened again in 2007-08 postseason only with an 8th seed Bruins squadron giving top-seed Montreal a fight in seven games only to falter in the last frame. The powerful Canadiens couldn’t muster past a Philadelphia Flyers team in the semi-finals, similar to how a powerful Bruins team couldn’t get past the Carolina Hurricanes in the second round after sweeping the Habs in the first round in 2008-09.
Hell, go back to the 1993-94 playoffs and you’ll find the same outcome. Bruins beat the Canadiens in the first round and yet can’t get past the New Jersey Devils in round two. It’s a frightening pattern.
Afraid of playing Montreal? No. Afraid of all the emotional energy that will come out of the Bruins in what’s only the Eastern Conference quarterfinals? You bet I am.
Look, I still think the B’s take the series in six games. It’ll be hard-fought, highly dramatic and the fans on both sides will be absolutely insane. But I don’t think that either of these teams will be Stanley Cup champions due to the fact that the opening series will be so emotionally draining. It takes a lot to go out and play your most-hated rival in a best-of-seven series in the first round. Zdeno Chara is going to be booed relentless when in Montreal and Bruins’ fans will let anyone wear red and white hear it when in Boston. Price has been shaky for Montreal in the postseason while the Bruins will be playing a goal-scorer-by-committee type offense, waiting for someone to step up and be the hero. And really, all of the other dramatics are there as well.
It’ll be a fun series for any hockey fan, especially those in Boston and Montreal, that’s for sure. Whatever happens afterwards, well we’ll get there eventually.