According to the Bruins web site their first round opponent will be the Montreal Canadiens. The very thought of playing the Habs in the first round has been haunting me for weeks now. As a long-time Bruins fan I knew it was inevitable. This is the way it always was and always will be. The Habs and the Bruins in the playoffs. When I read the news I wasn't surprised, but I still felt an uneasiness in my stomach.
I know that the Bruins found some success against the Habs a decade ago, but I have a longer memory. I remember 1971 when the Habs stepped in the way of a repeat Cup win. And I remember too many men on the ice in 1979.
I have a short memory too. I recall 2000 when the Habs beat out the Conference-leading Bruins in the first round. But more than anything I have the painful memory of 2004 where the Bruins led 3 games to 1, yet somehow allowed the Habs to intimidate their way to a series win. We didn't know it at the time, and it took several years to run its course, but that game seven marked the end of an era for the Bruins.
And now we have a new team; a new GM, a new coach, and new players. So how will this new team stack up against the Habs? What will history tell of this era and the greatest rivalry in Hockey? If the regular season is any indication, it doesn't look good for Bruins fans. Montreal won all eight games this season, garnering 16 points in the process to the Bruins 1. To put that in perspective if you take away those 16 points the Habs end up in 11th place and out of the playoffs. If the Bruins had taken half the games in the season series, the Habs would have ended behind the Bruins in the standings.
As far as I'm concerned the Bruins have already had a successful season. They not only made the playoffs but they did it like Bruins, leaving nothing on the ice. When they needed to score or needed to win, they did. They are a team that has really already won a playoff series, with four wins and three regulation ties in their seven game playoff run. Every one of the points was critical and they got the job done.
I like Claude Julien's outlook on the playoffs: he said they have nothing to lose against the Habs and everything to gain. He's right. Should the Bruins upset Montreal in the first round it will be a historic victory that Bruins fans could savor for years to come.
But can the Bruins beat the team that they have lost ten games in a row to, going back to last season? I think the answer is yes. They could pull it off. Montreal is bound to come out a little cocky, which would work in their favor. And the Bruins did manage a regulation tie in that last game. The tide could be turning.
But I have to tell you that I am not optimistic. Why? Because the Bruins have fought for a playoff berth all year. That was their goal. They worked hard and faced down adversity to do it. Like I said, they already won a playoff series just to get there. But when they had much of the eastern conference in their rear view mirrors late in the season and the chance to move up in the standing, what did they do? They went into a slump. When they played their last game after making the playoffs what did they do? They lost.
My fear is this: the Bruins have already achieved their goal for the season. With nothing more to play for I am sadly predicting a loss to Montreal 4 games to 1. The Bruins surprised us all with their character this season. Let's hope I am wrong and they surprise us again. Should they beat Montreal, I believe that only Detroit would stop them from winning the cup.
But I must admit to an even bigger fear. Every home game against Montreal this year has been filled with large numbers of loud Habs fans. The prospect of seeing Chara booed in the garden during the playoffs--that is not something that I would enjoy one little bit.