NHL Playoffs: Montreal and Boston Get Ready to Renew Old Rivalry

habruinsA pair of Original Six teams are ready to go toe-to-toe again.

by Drew Sarver

For years, the Montreal Canadiens were the kings of the National Hockey League. Between 1953 and 1979 they captured the Stanley Cup 16 times, including five straight years from 1956-1960 and four times in a row from 1976-1979.  During that stretch, Montreal also made it to the finals three other three times, with losses to Detroit (twice) and Toronto. In all, the Canadiens have hoisted the Cup 24 times.

Their fellow “Original Six” rivals, the Boston Bruins, won the Stanley Cup in 2011 and lost in the finals to Chicago, another of the Original Six, last year. The Cup win was the first for the Bruins since the 1971-1972 season and the sixth for the franchise.

The two team have played in the same division for many years, but when the teams meet in the playoffs, emotions are amped up a notch or 200.

It was no wonder that the Canadiens captured so many titles during the Original Six period that ran from 1942 until the NHL expansion in 1967, which doubled the size of the league. There weren’t too many American-born players in the NHL during that 25-year stretch, and Montreal grabbed one future Hall-of-Fame player after another with their territorial picks. Many of the Canadiens’ championships have included a playoff series win against Boston.

As a matter of fact, after the Bruins won a five-game series in 1943, they lost to the Canadiens the next 18 times they met in the playoffs. The streak, which began in 1946, ended in 1988. Since then, things have actually shifted in the Bruins’ favor with seven wins in 11 series.

Both teams have won just one Stanley Cup since the Bruins ended their skid in 1988, with Montreal entering this season with a 20-year drought since their last championship. This will be the 34th post-season meeting between the two teams and their first in three years.

Both teams got to this point by being road warriors in round one. Though he may never have been known as “Mad Max”, Canadiens’ forward Max Pacioretty eliminated the Tampa Bay Lightning with a goal with 17 seconds left in regulation time in Game 4. The four-game sweep would not have been possible had it not been for the Canadiens’ two wins in Tampa Bay to open the series. It’s just too bad the Lightning no longer play in the “Thunderdome”.

The Bolts had to play without their number-one goalie and Vezina Trophy finalist, Ben Bishop, for the entire series. Bishop underwent wrist surgery at the conclusion of the first-round series, in which Montreal dominated at both ends of the ice. Lightning goalie Anders Lindback was the only thing that kept Game 1 in Tampa from being a blowout, as the Canadiens out-shot the Lightning by a wide margin (44-25), in a 5-4 Montreal victory. Unlikely hero Dale Weise scored the game winner for Montreal in overtime.

Canadiens’ goalie, and Olympic Gold Medalist, Carey Price outplayed Lindback and third-string goalie Kristers Gudlevskis in the entire series. The Canadiens never let up, and the Lightning were burnt to a crisp when Pacioretty got his game winner. Twenty-one year-old Brendan Gallagher led the Habs in both goals (3) and points (5).

Boston took the President’s Trophy for most points (117) recorded in the NHL this season, but lost Game 1 on home ice. The Detroit Red Wings’ Pavel Datsyuk scored the game’s only goal with 3:01 left in regulation. Jimmy Howard stole the game from another Vezina Trophy finalist, Tuukka Rask, with 25 saves.

But Boston didn’t get to be the number-one seed in the entire NHL for no reason. They dominated the next four games, winning at home in Game 2, before going to the Motor City to finish off the Red Wings. Rask and company held Detroit to six goals for the entire series and got a shutout of their own, 3-0, in Game 2. Milan Lucic led a balanced Boston attack with three goals, while center Patrice Bergeron and defenseman Torey Krug led the squad with five points apiece. Finland’s Rask stopped 96.1% of the shots he faced to go along with a 1.16 goals-against-average (GAG).

Montreal has won 24 of the previous 33 playoff series with Boston,  and most recently has won six of the last seven meetings between the two in the regular season. But when the puck drops in round two, it will be difficult to imagine the Bruins not skating away with the series. Probably in six games.

Listed below is the record for the first 33 times the Canadiens and Bruins clashed in the playoffs.

Pre-Orginal Six Period

1929 – Bruins 3-0 Semi-Finals
1930 – Canadiens 2-0 Finals
1931 – Canadiens 3-2 Semi-Finals

Original Six Period

1943 – Bruins 4-1 Semi-Finals
1946 – Canadiens 4-1 Finals
1947 – Canadiens 4-1 Semi-Finals
1952 – Canadiens 4-3 Semi-Finals
1953 – Canadiens 4-1 Finals
1954 – Canadiens 4-0 Semi-Finals
1955 – Canadiens 4-1 Semi-Finals
1957 – Canadiens 4-1 Finals
1958 – Canadiens 4-2 Finals

Post Original Six Period

1968 – Canadiens 4-0 Quarter-Finals
1969 – Canadiens 4-2 Semi-Finals
1971 – Canadiens 4-3 Quarter-Finals
1977 – Canadiens 4-0 Finals
1978 – Canadiens 4-2 Finals
1979 – Canadiens 4-3 Semi-Finals
1984 – Canadiens 3-0 Division Semi-Finals
1985 – Canadiens 3-2 Division Semi-Finals
1986 – Canadiens 3-0 Division Semi-Finals
1987 – Canadiens 4-0 Division Semi-Finals
1988 – Bruins 4-1 Canadiens Division Finals
1989 – Canadiens 4-1 Division Finals
1990 – Bruins 4-1 Division Finals
1991 – Bruins 4-3 Division Finals
1992 – Bruins 4-2 Division Finals
1994 – Bruins 4-3 Conference Quarter-Finals
2002 – Canadiens 4-2 Conference Quarter-Finals
2004 – Canadiens 4-3 Conference Quarter-Finals
2008 – Canadiens 4-3 Conference Quarter-Finals
2009 – Bruins 4-0 Conference Quarter-Finals
2011 – Bruins 4-3 Conference Quarter-Finals


Drew Sarver is the founder, publisher, managing editor, and a contributor for Designated For Assignment. He can be followed on twitter at @mypinstripes and @d4assignment or contacted by email at dsarver@d4assignment.com.

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