I’m not. Okay it’s true I don’t have to play them but you know what I mean. I think the Habs can take the Bruins. I really do.
Let me be clear. I don’t think this is the most likely outcome. The most likely outcome is that Boston will win. They’re the best team in the league, the most complete team in Gary Bettman’s little hockey circuit. But we are in their heads. Always have been.
You don’t believe me? Did you see that last Habs-Bruins match-up in Boston? The one The Good Guys won 2-1 in a shootout. Pierre McGuire was on Mitch Melnick’s show the next day and he was telling Mitch just how much the Bruins wanted to win that game. They wanted to make a statement – to make it clear that the Canadiens in fact were not in their heads. But they couldn’t do it. They threw everything at Peter Budaj. They played tough. They injured two of our players. But they still lost. Why? Cos we are in their heads.
Boston lost three of its four games against Montreal this season. Though I wouldn’t put too much stock in that. This is indeed The Real Season and what happened in those regular-season games doesn’t mean squat now.
So how about the history? As John Kreiser points out in his nhl.com piece, Montreal has won 24 of the previous 33 playoff series against Boston, but most of those wins came between 1946 and 1987 when Montreal won an astonishing 18 consecutive series. Since 1988, Boston has won seven of the past 11 series. Short version? Habs had Bruins by the short’n’curlies for several decades but now it’s tilted more in Boston’s favour.
The most famous Habs defeat of the Bruins is, of course, the 1971 first-round shocker, the series that kept Red Fisher in business for several decades. That’s when a young chap in the nets named Kenny Dryden stoned a star-studded Bruins squad – Espo, Orr, Cheevers etc – that had just won the Cup – you may have seen the highlight reel of Bobby Orr flying through the air after scoring the Cup-winning goal that year – and were fully expected to repeat. That was just how it went down in the post-season between Montreal and Boston back then.
But history is bunk, as a famous guy named after a car once said. What about here and now? Well I think the Habs can do it but it’ll be a monumental task. Carey ‘What Me Worry’ Price will have to be even better than he’s been up to now, Rene ‘Miracle Man’ Bourque better keep channeling that other No. 17 in Habs lore, John Leclair (thanks for the comparison Stu Cowan!), and Thomas Vanek has to wake up.
That’s not all. Everyone on the Habs has to protect their nuts from serial ball-whacker Milan Lucic, they all have to hope Brad Marchand keeps missing the net, and that centre David Krejci keeps under-producing (just two assists in the first round).
On paper, it’s a no-brainer. The Bruins should crush the Habs. As a friend of my son’s said, they’ll win because they have so much depth and so many scary guys. (He’s talking about you Monster Man Chara! Shame on you for scaring little kids!)
But something strange happens when Montreal plays Boston. The Bruins often get too emotional and Montreal suddenly becomes more talented. Think back to the last time the two teams met in the post-season, in the first round of the 2011 Stanley Cup playoffs. That was not a great Montreal team – they had finished sixth in the Eastern conference – but they managed to take the Bruins to OT of game 7 before Boston was able to finish them off, with that heart-breaking winner from Nathan Horton. That was the year Boston went on to win the Cup. In other words, we were one shot away from stopping the Bruins’ from making that Cup run.
So there’s always that magic that comes when the Canadiens play the Bruins. It doesn’t mean Montreal will win. It just means they could. That it won’t be easy for the Bruins. What it really means is that everyone in the Bruins organization is worried right now about facing the Habs. And that’s just the way we like it.
Annakin Slayd put it best (as usual): “Just wanted to remind the haters. 77, 78, 79, 02, 04, 08. Those numbers mean anything to you Boston? It means we’re in your head. We always will be.”