Skip to main content


NHL Insider

Bruins-Canadiens rivalry never gets old

With new faces on each side, longtime foes play for first time this season Saturday

by Arpon Basu and Amalie Benjamin @ArponBasu @AmalieBenjamin / Staff Writers

P.K. Subban is gone. Milan Lucic is gone. Dale Weise is gone.

There are new names on the backs of the sweaters. Rookies have been added and veterans have been brought in.

Given those changes, there might be a different feeling at TD Garden on Saturday when the Boston Bruins and Montreal Canadiens meet for the first time this season (7 p.m. ET; CITY, TVA Sports, NESN, NHL.TV), in the latest edition of arguably the best, and most intense, rivalry in the NHL. It's a new era, perhaps a gentler moment, one less fraught with old anger and ingrained hatreds.

"I think the team and the cities will always be rivals," Bruins forward Brad Marchand said. "Our fans will always hate Montreal fans. The team will always hate the team. But the biggest part about the rivalries, I think, is when certain players get into it.

"There's tension between certain guys. Things happen in playoff series and throughout the season, and when those guys leave, those rivalries, that tension, they leave with the players. It definitely changes from year to year, but again, the rivalries, the history, will always be there between the teams."

Video: NJD@BOS: Marchand rips a wrister to even game in 3rd

But at the moment, maybe just not in the same fashion.

"I don't know if it's going to stay that way, but it's been, I'm going to use the word, a little bit more 'civilized' the last few years, hasn't been as much of this sideshow as there has been," said Bruins coach Claude Julien, who has been behind each bench during his career.

"I think there's still a lot of hatred between two organizations when they meet. But I think right now with the way the game is trending and what ends up happening, penalties and how much they can be costly to our game, I think both teams are a little cautious that way."

That doesn't mean there isn't intensity. There might just not be the same intensity.

But with this rivalry, the moments that lead to the fireworks are often just one play away. Even with some of the departures, there also are some new faces who just might add a little flame to a flickering fire.

The Canadiens would never come right out and say it, but one of the reasons general manager Marc Bergevin acquired forward Andrew Shaw from the Chicago Blackhawks on June 24 for two second-round picks in the 2016 NHL Draft was for his role in this rivalry, at least indirectly.

Shaw was brought in to make the Canadiens tougher to play against, to provide leadership and to add a winning pedigree with his two Stanley Cup championships from his years in Chicago. It would be unfair to simplify everything Shaw does down to one word, but he is a supreme agitator, a poor man's Marchand, if you will.

Combined with Brendan Gallagher, the Canadiens have two forwards playing on different lines who have the ability to drive opponents to fits of rage. One of them will be on the ice for more than half the game. Add them to Marchand and there's a chance for an explosion or two.

Then there's Shea Weber, who came to Montreal in the trade that sent Subban to the Nashville Predators. He was acquired for many of the same reasons Shaw was, and his physical brand of play seems perfectly suited for this rivalry.

The Canadiens and Bruins have numerous other players who will be new to the matchup, including forward Phillip Danault, a Quebec native who grew up watching Bruins-Canadiens and recognizes that it's not the same as it once was.

"[Zdeno] Chara back in the day was heavy, you know, he was hitting everybody … and they were scary," Danault said. "They had Lucic, too, so these guys were recognized as a tough team and tough to play against. It's changed now, but they're still pretty good and I'm looking forward to playing against them."

Video: ARI@MTL: Price denies Doan in first game of season

But if there is one player who impacted this rivalry more than anyone, more than Subban, more than Lucic, it is Canadiens goaltender Carey Price.

Price has a 22-8-3 regular-season record against the Bruins, with a 2.37 goals against average and a .923 save percentage. He played one game against the Bruins last season, a 4-2 Canadiens win in Boston on Oct. 10, but missed the other four because of injuries.

Price is healthy after recovering from a sprained knee that cost him all but 12 games last season, as well as a bad case of the flu that delayed his start to this season.

"P.K. Subban is, for the fans, he's more hated, for sure," Marchand said. "But Carey Price is more effective in what he does. He wins games. That's what you hate to play against. When we're playing one of 82 games, we're not concerned about P.K. He does his job, he's a good player, but Price can win you a game singlehandedly. We're more concerned about how we get to him than one individual player."

The Bruins are concerned about the Canadiens as a whole. They're concerned about defeating them, which they haven't done nearly enough over the past couple of seasons.

After Boston won five consecutive regular-season games against the Canadiens starting on Nov. 21, 2011, Montreal won 12 of the next 13. Boston has won two of three since, starting with a 3-1 victory on Dec. 9, 2015.

The Bruins are hoping to keep that going. The Canadiens are hoping to get back to their dominance.

And with that, there is always a chance for a new spark to ignite.

Bruins forward David Backes will be ready if it does. The former captain of the St. Louis Blues knows rivalries. As he said, some of those games against the Chicago Blackhawks got "pretty gnarly for us." But he's never seen Bruins-Canadiens firsthand, in this iteration or any other. He's prepared to experience it, to participate in it, and perhaps to start another chapter.

"Saturday can't come soon enough," Backes said. "It's going to be the first taste. … I can imagine it's going to be emotional, it's going to be awesome, and we're going to love playing it. We're going to love fighting tooth and nail for two points with a great rival."

View More