As rivalries go, nothing even comes close to Bruins-Canadiens. Yankees-Red Sox and Packers-Bears share a rich, antagonistic history, but no teams hate each other more than two of the National Hockey League’s Original Six franchises.
Yet for the better part of six decades, it wasn’t a “rivalry” at all. Montreal has beaten Boston in 24 of the teams’ playoff 32 matchups overall, including a stretch from 1946 through 1987 in which the Canadiens won all 18 series. It wasn’t until Boston defeated Montreal four games to one in the 1988 Adams Division finals — with the clincher in the Forum — that the Bruins finally exorcised their demons and ended a 45-year drought. The Canadiens beat the Bruins again in the 1989 division finals before Boston defeated Montreal in each of their next four playoff meetings from 1990-94.
Boston did win the last playoff matchup between the teams, sweeping the Canadiens in the first round of the 2009 Stanley Cup Playoffs, but the top-seeded Bruins were ousted in the conference semifinals by the Carolina Hurricanes.
On Thursday, the teams get a chance to renew acquaintances, meeting in the playoffs for the third time in the past four seasons. The matchup has taken on a little extra meaning because of Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara’s hit on Montreal’s Max Pacioretty on March 8 that resulted in a criminal investigation that remains open. This despite the fact that Chara didn’t even get suspended by the NHL.
The Richard Riot. Too many men on the ice. Ken Dryden. Don Cherry. Claude Lemieux. Cam Neely. It’s a rich history with myriad subplots that dates back to the NHL’s infancy.
And the latest chapter should be fun to watch … again.