When the Boston Bruins and Montreal Canadiens meet, it’s emotional – mostly based on deep hatred for one another. For nearly a century, the two teams have developed that hatred over 745 regular-season matchups. You’d need 149 hands to count those games on your fingers.
The story of the Bruins and Canadiens is one of blood, sweat, tears and drama. It’s the most-heated rivalry in hockey, possibly in sports. We are lucky to pay witness.
Bruins & Canadiens: A Brief History
Through their first 745 meetings, the Canadiens carved an edge with a 361-271 record and an additional 103 ties and 10 overtime losses. Historically, the rivalry has been a David and Goliath story. Time and time again, Montreal broke the Bruins’ hearts: from 1946 to 1987, the Canadiens bested the Bruins in 18 consecutive playoff series.
However, the rivalry has evened out over the past 30 years. Since 1988, the Bruins have a 7-5 playoff series record against their greatest foe. Since the turn of the century, the Canadiens have made 11 playoff appearances while the Bruins have made 12. The latter earned themselves a summer with the Stanley Cup back in 2011 while the former is itching for their first championship since 1993.
In the past few seasons, the rivalry hasn’t lived up to its historic glory. There are many factors contributing to this, among them is the NHL’s realignment which now schedules just four dates between division opponents compared to the six matchups in seasons past. Another factor is the two teams’ overall competitiveness: in the four seasons since their last playoff matchup, both the B’s and Habs failed to make the playoffs twice.
Names like Maurice Richard, Bobby Orr and Guy Lafleur have been replaced by Patrice Bergeron, Carey Price and Zdeno Chara. Still, the rivalry remains. Though it hasn’t felt as intense since their most recent playoff matchup in 2014, the teams have reignited that rivalry this season and seem destined for another postseason series in the near future.
On Monday night, the Canadiens added another win to their all-time record versus the Bruins when the teams met for the 746th time. From the drop of the puck, there was a playoff atmosphere. It was as if someone forgot to tell the teams that it was only January as both squads had the intensity of spring at TD Garden.
Entering play, the Bruins and Canadiens were separated by three points in the standings. With the overtime win, the Habs brought themselves within two points. With the Tampa Bay Lightning nearly out of reach, the Toronto Maple Leafs, Buffalo Sabres, Bruins and Canadiens are all competing for the bottom two slots in the Atlantic Division.
Come April, the two Atlantic Division teams on the outside looking in will have to compete for the two wild card spots up for grabs in the Eastern Conference. Opponents such as the New York Islanders and Carolina Hurricanes of the Metropolitan Division are also currently in the running for wild card berths, and beating them out will be no easy task. In short, every divisional game feels like a postseason matchup. A true playoff appearance is not guaranteed and the Eastern Conference is completely unclear at this point in the season.
In Monday’s game, the Bruins were the first to get on the board thanks to a Brad Marchand goal in the first period. Brendan Gallagher answered with just minutes left in the frame to enter the second tied 1-1. Montreal’s Paul Bryon netted a shorthanded goal with just a few minutes to spare in the second period, and the Habs took a 2-1 lead into the third.
The game was intense throughout, featuring a healthy dose of hits, scrums and even a fight. That intensity only grew in the game’s final frame. With a power play, the net empty and under 40 seconds remaining in regulation, David Krejci knotted the game 2-2. But just when it seemed as though Boston had all the momentum, Jeff Petry batted in a puck to snag the 3-2 overtime win just 15 seconds into the extra period.
Le but gagnant 3-contre-3 @EASportsNHL, présenté par les talents de baseball de la famille Petry.
— Canadiens Montréal (@CanadiensMTL) January 15, 2019
The loss stung for the Bruins as their attempt to go 3-1 against the Canadiens this season was thwarted. With eight points up for grabs for both rivals in their regular-season series, the B’s snagged five while the Habs settled for four. Unfortunately, Monday night’s drama was the last matchup between the teams in the 2018-19 regular season.
Another postseason series between Boston and Montreal would certainly be entertaining. It would be their 35th meeting in the NHL’s second season. It could also be just what this rivalry needs. After stoking the fire throughout their four matchups during the regular season, a playoff series would be enough to keep the flames ablaze, and who wouldn’t want to see that?
I cover the Boston Bruins and NCAA Hockey here at The Hockey Writers. Born and raised 10 miles north of Boston, I developed a love for the game of ice hockey at a very young age. There’s really nothing better than this sport, though steak is a close second.