By: Josh Houreas | Follow Me On Twitter @JHoureas
The Montreal Canadiens are one of, if not the oldest hockey team in the National Hockey League. The Boston Bruins are the pioneer American Franchise in the League.
On December 8th, 1924, a rivalry, unlike any other, was born.
And it would change the course of hockey history forever.
Part I: The Beginning
Montreal won the first meeting between the two clubs 4-3, and it was one of Boston’s 24 losses that season. If you think that 24 losses aren’t bad, back in 1925, the Bruins schedule consisted of only 30 games. The expansion Bruins finished that season with 6 wins and only 12 points.
While finishing with a dismal record of 6-24-0 that season, Boston recorded their first-ever victory over the Canadiens on January 10, 1925. A 3-2 overtime win.
While Montreal won the title for the best regular-season record in 1929, the Bruins swept the best of 5 series against Montreal on their way to the first Stanley Cup win in franchise history. This would be the only time in franchise history that Boston held an undefeated record in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, sweeping the New York Rangers in two (that isn’t a typo) straight games.
While Boston saw relative success in the late 1930s and early 1940s, it would be the original six team from Quebec that would sucker punch the playoff success out of Boston. Montreal won two Stanley Cups in two seasons while it took Boston a decade to capture their second title after their Championship season in 1929.
Part II: A World War (on Ice)
On February 10th, 1942, in one of the most respectful gestures in the history of this famed rivalry, players from the Canadiens would carry Milt Schmidt, Bobby Bauer, and Woody Dumart (known today as the Kraut Line) off the ice. These three men had selected to turn in their hockey sweaters for military uniforms to fight in World War II. As for the game itself, it was an 8-1 romping victory over Montreal. Dumart, Schmidt, and Bauer combined for an astonishing 11 points.
Part III: Post War Antics
After the War, Boston saw the return of the Kraut Line for one more season, before Bauer’s retirement in 1947, but failed to see the return of success over Montreal. The 1946 Stanley Cup Final, played between the two teams that season only lasted five games, three of which went to overtime. Montreal won that series. Eleven years would pass before each team saw one another in a Stanley Cup Final.
Part IV: Canadiens Soar while Bruins stumble
In 1952, one of the most famous pictures in hockey history was born. And of course, the two teams involved were Boston and Montreal (because of course, it was). It depicts Maurice Richard, who had scored the series-winning goal in Game 7, shaking hands with Samuel “Sugar Jim” Henry after the game. Both players left bloodied and in grueling pain. You’ve heard of the saying “a picture is worth a thousand words.”
This one is worth a million.
Fast forward to 1957. The Canadiens still have Maurice “Rocket” Richard at their expense. The Bruins, well, they have Terry Sawchuck. This Final didn’t last very long. Five games, to be exact. The following season saw a rematch between the two clubs; only this time, well, Boston was able to capture two victories in the series.
This would be the last Stanley Cup Final matchup between the two teams for quite some time.
Part V: The Big Bad Rivalry.
While Boston captured its first Stanley Cup in 29 seasons in 1970, thanks to a soaring Bobby Orr, the Canadiens were the far superior team over the course of the past three decades. (I’m just stating facts)
Boston had a chance to build a dynasty in the early 1970s had it not been for a rookie sensation between the pipes for Montreal. Ken Dryden had stolen the 1971 playoff matchup between Boston and Montreal. Johnny Bucyk had compared the rookie goaltender to an octopus.
Gerry Cheevers (known for his famous stitch covered mask) helped the Bruins forget about their heartbreaking loss the season prior by setting a record of 32 straight wins (24-0-8 being the official stat line)
Boston won the Stanley Cup that season, defeating the New York Rangers in six games.
While the mid-1970s saw some tense moments between the Bruins and Canadiens, it wasn’t until 1979 that the feud boiled over. And as history would have it, the game and the series would go Montreal’s way.
With less than 3 minutes and holding a 4-3 lead in the deciding game 7, the Bruins got caught for too many men on the ice (one of the dumbest penalties in my opinion). Montreal, trailing, would find an answer in one of the most accurate shots you’ll ever see in your life. Guy Lafleur had smashed the puck on a back pass one-timer. As Bruins netminder Gillies Gilbert fell over, failing to catch the shot, the Forum erupted.
Part VI: Bruins banish demons of decades past
It wouldn’t be until 1988 that the Boston Bruins would find a way past their hated rivals to the north. With help from Ray Bourque and Cam Neely, Boston accomplished a feat unseen for 45 years. Montreal would pack their bags for the golf course, and Boston would pack their bags for the Adams Division Finals. Although the Bruins made a magical run to the Stanley Cup Finals that season, they were defeated by the Edmonton Oilers, led by Wayne Gretzky and Mark Messier. This wouldn’t be the last time that Boston met Edmonton in the Stanley Cup Final.
While the turn of the decade saw a shift in success, with Boston winning 4 straight playoff series in the 1990s, the Black and Gold couldn’t find a way to make it back to the Stanley Cup Finals. Montreal would add a 24th Stanley Cup in 1993, but would never play the Bruins as Boston was swept in the opening round.
In 1995, the Bruins knew that a new home was soon needed. As Boston bid farewell to a mecca in hockey lore, they did it in an exhibition match against Montreal, because how else would you close the doors to such a historic building?
While the millennia was fading, the Bruins feud with Montreal, wasn’t. As it never had in years past. The Bruins wouldn’t meet Montreal in the postseason for a few more seasons, as Montreal Failed to make the playoffs in 1998. The following season both teams failed to make the playoffs.
But the rivalry was still there. In 2004, it reached a new boiling point.
Part VII: New Millennium, same old rivalry.
2004 was certainly one of the most heated seasons between the Bruins and Montreal. As Boston would clinch another division title, it would be the Canadiens getting the last laugh as the Habs took the playoff series in another grueling 7 game series.
While being defeated in 2008 to Montreal, Boston would avenge their playoff defeat from the season before the following year. This would also be the series where Patrice Bergeron got his first-ever career fighting major.
As the feud between Boston and Montreal continued into the new decade, it would be 2011 when regular-season games led to a shove, a police investigation, and a goalie fight.
Let’s start out with the shove. After a Montreal overtime win, Max Pacioretty shoved Bruins Captain Zdeno Chara out of the way to celebrate with his teammates. It was a move that angered the Bruins Captain, and while the referees stepped in just in time, it wouldn’t be the last that Chara and Pacioretty would see of each other.
While an 8-6 Bruins win in February of 2011 (which included 192 penalty minutes and a goalie fight between Tim Thomas and Carey Price) didn’t see a Chara vs. Paccioretty fight night, it would light a short fuse between the two teams.
On March 8, the stick of dynamite exploded.
As the first period came to an end, Max Pacioretty went to dump the puck in, and as he approached the Canadiens bench, Zdeno Chara ran him into the stanchion, which separated the two benches. This hit was so violent that personally, I thought Paccioretty was paralyzed from the neck down, and the Bruins fan inside of me was yelling YEAH WHAT A HIT! The hockey fan in me was yelling Oh no, that’s not good at all. Chara would not receive any form of punishment, and Montreal fans would go as far as to flood Montreal Police lines with complaints against Chara.
Boston would have the last laugh, defeating Montreal In the 2011 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals in an overtime game 7 on their way to their first Stanley Cup in 39 years. Montreal hasn’t won since 1993, making it 27 years since the last Championship season for Bleu Blanc Rouge. HOW DOES IT FEEL NOW?! HUH!? (Sorry that’s the Bostonian in me talking)
While Montreal would seek and earn revenge in 2014, defeating Boston in the conference semifinals, it continues to be one of the most anticipated games of the season, each and every year