BOSTON, MA – The Boston Bruins and the Montreal Canadiens have faced off 716 times, just one behind Detroit and Chicago for the most all time – the B’s have won 267 games, while the Habs have won 345 times.
Julien Sympathizes With Cunneyworth
Earlier this season, after the Montreal Canadiens slid to 13-12-7 record under former Head Coach Jacques Martin, CHC Assistant Coach Randy Cunneyworth was challenged with taking over the head job and putting the Habs back on a winning track as soon as possible.
After the Canadiens were criticized in French-speaking Quebec for hiring a English-speaking head coach, Cunneyworth is now also tasked with quickly learning another language, as well.
Bruins Head Coach Claude Julien, who is billingual, and who coached Montreal from 2002-06, sympathized with the Canadien's new bench boss' predicament.
“I feel for him,” Julien said. “He’s been picked on for not being able to speak the language and at the same time, the most important thing right now is to right the ship in Montreal.”
Julien said that he knows Cunneyworth will work at learning the native language, and the people of Quebec will appreciate it.
“He makes an effort and they’re open to that,” Julien said. “For Randy, I’ve known him for a while, and if he says he will learn a language, he will.”
The two have also squared off in eight playoff Game 7's – also the most in league history – and that’s the stuff that constitutes to a great rivalry.
Although the B’s had the upper hand against Montreal in last season’s playoffs, the Canadiens always have brought a tough matchup to the Black & Gold – and that’s something Head Coach Claude Julien expects on Thursday.
“They come at you well – the one thing they seem to do is give us good games all the time,” Julien said. "I think they feel confident that when they play against us, they play a style that gives us some issues and we really have to battle hard to beat those guys.
"Certain teams just happen to give you good matchups, and Montreal has been one of those teams that gives us some tight games.”
Forward Milan Lucic called the rivalry between the two teams the best in the league because of its historic context, but admitted that it has lost some steam this season since the B’s butted heads so dramatically with Vancouver during last spring's Stanley Cup Final and during last Satruday's game at the Garden.
“I guess you can say [the rivalry is] a little bit overshadowed by the other one, especially because the Vancouver game wasn’t so long ago,” Lucic said of the B's 4-3 loss to the Canucks last Saturday. “This has more history than any other one in the NHL and I think that’s what makes this so special.”
Regardless of who is on the visiting bench, the Bruins power forward wants to pick up the win on the last night of a four-game home stand before a four-game road swing.
“I think we’ve done a pretty good job at establishing our rink as a hard place to play,” Lucic said. “And we have to take that upon ourselves to be a hard team to play against every night when we are at home, and you want to go on the road feeling good about yourself.”
The last time the two teams played, the Bruins picked up a 3-2 win at the TD Garden Dec. 19.
This season, the series sits tied 2-2 and Lucic is expecting the struggling Canadiens to continue to play his team tough.
“We know they’re a good hockey club right now,” Lucic said. “They’re a team that plays well against us – whether it’s in Montreal or whether it’s in Boston.
"We’re going to expect their best, and we have to bring ours, too.”