Is the Bruins-Canadiens Rivalry Still Relevant?

“Epix is here.”

That was the text I got on Monday morning from a fellow writer covering the Bruins’ morning skate. For the next month, every practice, game, and scheduled off-ice appearance would likely be accompanied by camera crews and boom mics that document the Bruins almost every move up until the 2016 Winter Classic.

They’ll do the same with the Montreal Canadiens so that hockey fans can get an inside look at two teams a part of the sport’s greatest rivalry.

Brad Marchand defended by Montreal Canadiens defenseman Alexei Emelin
(Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports)

Except, it’s not that great anymore. In fact, it’s been one-sided for some time and the four weeks documenting the lead up to the Winter Classic might not be enough to save it, either.

The last big game in the Bruins-Canadiens rivalry was Game 7 of the 2014 Eastern Conference Semifinals when Montreal defeated the Presidents’ Trophy winning team in Boston. The game wasn’t close, despite the 3-1 score.

It’s a shame, too, since that series showed some promise that the Bruins-Canadiens rivalry would be refueled. There were some subplots such as the Milan Lucic-Dale Weise handshake thing and the Shawn Thornton squirting a water bottle from the bench at P.K. Subban thing. Instead? Lucic had one assist last season against Montreal before being traded to the Los Angeles Kings this offseason and  Thornton’s last game as a Bruin was that Game 7.

This season, the players are completely different. Only 7 of the Bruins’ 18 skaters dressed for that 2014 Game 7 against the Canadiens are still on the team. Aside from maybe Weise and Subban for the Canadiens and Zdeno Chara and Brad Marchand for the Bruins, any pure, on-ice hatred between the teams seems manufactured, based off of a rose-colored history. With the games being so one-sided, it’s hard to get any sparks back from a once-storied Bruins-Canadiens rivalry.

The teams’ trajectories couldn’t contrast more, either. Ever since the Bruins were beat in that Game 7, things haven’t been the same.

Boston regressed greatly in 2014-15, failing to make the postseason for the first time in eight seasons, while Montreal took the Atlantic Division before losing to the Tampa Bay Lightning in the Eastern Conference Semifinals. This year, the Canadiens find themselves at the top spot in the East, while the Bruins fight for a wildcard spot.

But then, something happened.

Prior to Wednesday night’s game, the Canadiens had won their last six games against the Bruins. It wasn’t a rivalry, it was a one-sided affair. Tuukka Rask was 0-4 with a .896 save percentage and a ton of bad luck against Montreal.

The Bruins won, scoring three unanswered goals in the third period after falling behind 1-0. It was perhaps Rask’s best performance in net against the Canadiens and one of the best finishes for a team not necessarily known for its best finishes.

More importantly, it was a step in the right direction to revive the Bruins-Canadiens rivalry—just in time, too.

The Winter Classic has become a gimmick, in its own way. But based purely on name-recognition alone, the Bruins-Canadiens rivalry is a great game to get people excited about. A four-week documentary isn’t enough to change the face of this historic rivalry, but with the Bruins finally getting a win under their belt—their first against the Canadiens since May 10, 2014—it’s a start.

So, yes—it’s the perfect time for Epix to begin filming the Road to the Winter Classic. A rivalry won’t be revived by the time the Winter Classic comes around. A Bruins win on January 1, however, might help.

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