Bruins' hatred of Canadiens not openly returned

Wednesday, 04.30.2014 / 3:09 PM
Arpon Basu  - Managing Editor

BROSSARD, Quebec -- The rivalry between the Boston Bruins and the Montreal Canadiens appears to be rather one-sided.

Not necessarily in terms of wins and losses, even though the Canadiens have won six of their past seven games against the Bruins, but more in the sense of how emotional the rivalry is in each camp.

The Bruins are not shy to say they hate the Canadiens, with coach Claude Julien openly saying so Tuesday and forward Milan Lucic admitting as much Wednesday as the teams prepared for the start of their Eastern Conference Second Round series Thursday (7:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, RDS).

"Yeah, I mean I do," Lucic said Wednesday in Boston. "If you ask them the same question, I'm sure they'd give you the same answer about if they hate us. You know it's just natural for me being here for seven years now, and just being a part of this organization.

"You just naturally learn to hate the Montreal Canadiens, and the battles that we've had with them over the last couple years, it's definitely made you hate them. And I think this being the first time meeting them outside the first round, I think it's definitely going to go up another level."

However, it's difficult to find the same sentiment coming out of the Canadiens toward the Bruins.

Maybe that's what makes the rivalry that much better.

"I don't think hate is a good word," Canadiens goalie Carey Price said after practice Wednesday. "Competitive, maybe."

When told the Bruins hated the Canadiens, Price looked like a father admonishing his child for using a bad word.

"That's not very nice," he said, with a little grin.

The Canadiens look at the Bruins like any other team, or at least that's all they're willing to admit, and insist they don't make any changes to their style or identity when facing their fiercest rivals. But that style has invariably infuriated the Bruins over the years, and the Canadiens are hoping it has the same effect in this best-of-7 series.

"They're a big team and they like to play real physical," Canadiens forward Max Pacioretty said. "Obviously, we want to play physical, but when we just worry about our game and don't let the stuff after the whistle affect us, when we walk away from that and stay disciplined, I think we've had good opportunities to win games against them. They're going to be smart too in the playoffs. They're not going to be taking as many penalties as if it were just a regular game.

"We've just got to focus on our game and not worry about them."

Some might be surprised to know the Bruins were actually a less penalized team than the Canadiens in the regular season, with 10.8 minutes per game for Boston compared to 12.7 for Montreal. However, in the four regular-season games the Bruins played against the Canadiens, Boston averaged 13.3 penalty minutes per game compared to 11.3 for Montreal.

The disparity in power plays for the two teams reflected that, with Montreal holding a 17-13 advantage, or one extra power play per game, though the Canadiens held only a 2-1 edge in power-play goals.

"I always keep hearing the same thing, how Boston's going to hit us all over the ice, and maybe they will," Montreal defenseman Francis Bouillon said. "But all we need to worry about is winning games. If they do that and take penalties, then we need to score on the power play and win that way."

One player who often finds himself the target of some hatred is Canadiens forward Brendan Gallagher, the NHL leader in goalie interference penalties in the regular season and someone who regularly angers defensemen around the League with his relentlessness crashing the net looking for rebounds.

"I enjoy that part of the game," Gallagher said. "I don't go out saying I'm going to try and get under so-and-so's skin. It's just a part of my game. I try to go out and play hard, and the style of game I play, that usually happens.

"It's just a part of the game I welcome, especially in a series like this."

Unlike Julien, Canadiens coach Michel Therrien did not want to go anywhere near a question regarding his hatred of the Bruins, but his answer was revealing because it appeared to suggest the Canadiens don't care one way or the other.

"We're focusing on us," Therrien said. "That's my only comment.

"For me, it's not about the Bruins."

Except for the Bruins, it appears to be about the Canadiens. That difference is just another wrinkle in a fascinating rivalry that will write a 34th playoff chapter beginning Thursday in Boston.

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