BOSTON, MA --
Everyone knows the old adage: history repeats itself.
And if history is any indication, then the East’s top-seeded Boston Bruins should have an emotional playoff series against the no. 8 Montreal Canadiens in the first round of the NHL playoffs, which kick off this Thursday at the TD Banknorth Garden.
The two teams have faced each other six times this season alone, with five of this year’s contests going into the Bruins’ ‘W’ column, with three decisive victories and three going into extra minutes.
But despite a winning record against their so-called archenemies, the Boston team knows that there are no guarantees going into this first round. As the postseason approaches, no team is a surefire bet -- even when they finish regular season play at the top.
Take, for example, last season.
The Montreal club went eight-for-eight in their regular season efforts against Boston, but, come playoff time, the series lasted a grueling seven games as the then-eighth ranked Bruins overcame what was a statistical nightmare and took the Habs to the brink.
“I’m not big on stats…What’s going to count is what happens on the ice,” head coach Claude Julien told the media after practice Tuesday morning.
“I hear all this stuff, history of the two organizations and the number one seeds. I mean, everybody has to write something, but we don’t have to listen to it, we just have to go out there and play.” - Claude Julien
And if it’s anything like this year’s Bruins-Canadiens games, play they will; and probably with a tad more emotion than even B’s General Manager Peter Chiarelli would like to see.
“There will be an element of managing that stuff [fighting], and I’ll leave that up to Claude,” Chiarelli said on a conference call on Monday. “I think it’s a function of staying out of the box and managing our emotions.
“I expect a passionate series on both fronts, so it’s something I think will help motivate us. It will help motivate Montreal as well, but I think the fact that we have a history with them will certainly motivate both sides.”
The two teams do have a long and sordid history, and even as recently as last Thursday’s final regular season home game, there are routinely ironic clashes. Last week, Montreal staged a comeback, and despite falling in OT, the Habs garnered the requisite one point off of the night and officially clinched a playoff berth in Bruins territory.
The game was also memorable for it’s combined 76 penalty minutes and the continuous scrums that developed all over the ice. However, it’s not necessarily Montreal’s pugilistic abilities that the B’s are most worried about – after all, this is the same Canadiens team that finished last season atop the Eastern Conference and was picked by many to repeat.
|(AP Photo/Charles Krupa) |
“They [the Canadiens] came into the season very highly touted, and they hit their bumps along the way, but they’ve performed well at the end to secure a playoff spot,” Chiarelli said. “Their skill is very good, so you can’t ignore it.”
But the fact remains: the history of the series it is of no concern for coach Julien’s men.
“You got to close the book on what’s happened in the past [because we have] to start over again because this is what this game’s all about,” he said. “Improve yourself: day in, day out.
“Living on reputation doesn’t do much for you if you don’t do the job.”
And so begins the road to the most coveted prize in hockey.
“It’s electric,” Chiarelli said of the most heated of pro hockey’s rivalries. “I don’t think it’ll be anything less when we start on Thursday.”