The Montreal Canadiens completely dominated the Boston Bruins in the 2007-08 regular season, going 8-0 against their archrival. After such a lopsided series, the shine appeared to have gone out of what was a once storied rivalry.
And you could have excuses Bruins fans if they felt things were only going to get worse. After all, the Canadiens won the Eastern Conference title and were meeting up with Boston again, this time in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Can you say "Done like dinner?"
But a funny thing happened on the way to the rout, which by all rights it appeared to be after Montreal tool a 3-1 series lead.
But the Bruins rallied and rallied again to force a Game 7, before falling in the elimination game, 5-0.
After the series, both teams agreed the rivalry was reignited.
TD Banknorth Garden was packed to capacity with Canadiens and Bruins fans, and during the series-tying Game 6 win by Boston, the building reached a decibel level not heard since the years of the original Boston Garden.
"This was just an amazing experience and I can't say enough about the fans and how they got into it in both buildings ... the rivalry is back, I'd say,” Bruins defenseman Aaron Ward said in the dressing room that night. "I mean, all the games in Montreal are like this, so you expect that noise level. But what we saw in Boston in Game 6 was how it needs to be again in general and between these two teams."
Canadiens defenseman Mike Komisarek recently agreed.
"That was what it's all about, and games like that are what the fans and the game need," he said. "You need rivalries like this one, and I'm looking forward to more games between us."
After losing the first installment of the 2008-09 series, the Bruins are looking forward to a rematch Thursday (7 p.m. ET, NHLN-CA, RDS), when they battle for first place in the Northeast Division. The Boston players also have been looking forward to a return to the raucous environment they experienced during the aforementioned Game 6 last spring.
"That was just insane," said Bruins defenseman Andrew Ference. "Rivalries are only strong if both teams are competitive, and obviously we feel we competed hard in the regular season. But wins count, and they obviously won in that category during the regular season. But I think we showed that we can hang right there with them and are capable of playing with them with that series.
"Now that both teams are competitive, that's what makes a rivalry good. The playoff series made it apparent of what both teams are like, and I think the animosity was evident with both the players and maybe sometimes even more so with the fans. I heard the crowds were uglier than some of the games. People get fired up for rivalry games, and you can just feel that something different is in the air."
With both teams playing well so far, the games will have even more meaning. While the players are excited each time the Habs and Bruins meet, they may have to be careful to not get too excited and lose focus on the task at hand.
While the players may have to contain their excitement a bit, those in the stands and even maybe members of team management may get into the fun of the rivalry. During that Game 6 last spring, Bruins Vice President and Hockey Hall of Famer Cam Neely could be seen pumping his arm and high-fiving Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli when their team won the game.
"I don't know if you will see me do that, but it's amazing because people are still talking about that game and how it hasn't been that loud in a while," Neely said. "That brought me and a lot of people back to the days of the old Garden. That's how it was every time we played Montreal and it's great to see that back again."