“You’re crazy man, you’re crazy. I like you… but you’re crazy.”
If anyone, in my lifetime, would have told me the Boston Bruins could play the Montreal Canadiens (or the Toronto Maple Leafs for that matter) for the Stanley Cup, I would’ve responded with the above sentiment about sanity.
That’s not how modern hockey works. That’s not how teams are aligned anymore — in their division, or their conference. That’s just… crazy.
Yet, despite “Frank the Tank’s” infamous movie quote, it’s not insane at all in this pandemic-altered 2021 NHL season for the B’s to battle — Old School style — their Original Six rivals for a chance at Lord Stanley’s coveted silver chalice.
In fact, if the Bruins “go streaking” with wins in the first few rounds of their second season, there’s a pretty probable chance based on how well their former (and soon-to-be again in 2022) divisional pals play that this highly historical hockey match-made in heaven could happen.
Again, the same can be said for the Toronto Maple Leafs battling the B’s in the SCF, which based on recent history may be even more entertaining than a black n’ gold versus blue, blanc et rouge. But, that hasn’t happened since 1939. And the B’s dominated Toronto back then just like they have been now for the past decade. To paraphrase the Tank (that’s Frank not Tim Thomas, mind you), “You’re my boy, BLUE!” is exactly how the Bruins feels about the Leafs.
So, how do you feel about the puck potential of an Original Six / Original Rival Reunion in the 2021 Stanley Cup Finals? The Boston Bruins versus the Montreal Canadiens. Dynamite versus Dynasty. New England versus Canada.
Sure, we’re putting the cart a bit before the horse here but this is the most speculative excitement I’ve had in years when it comes to playoff potentiality! I mean think about it… the B’s going through the Caps, the Pens, the Avalanche and THEN the Canadiens (or Leafs) to win The Cup!? “GLORIOUS!”
Could Bruce Cassidy do what Don Cherry has never done? Could Patrice Bergeron channel Milt Schmidt? Charlie McAvoy –> Bobby Orr? Will Tuukka Rask (or Jeremy Swayman for that matter) clinch it like Thompson & Cheevers as opposed to Lemelin & Moog?
Beating the playoff Canadiens has ALWAYS been a thorn in the Bruins’ side going back to the 1930, when their first ever battle for The Cup began (and ended in two quick games). In fact, for the following five decades the Bruins NEVER beat the Canadiens to win it all taking losses in 1946, 1953, 1957, 1958, 1977 and then finally in 1978 (no need to mention 1979’s Too Many Men incident). When Boston DID win a Stanley Cup in the OG years, they went through New York, Toronto and Detroit as opposed to their chilly northbound neighbors to do so.
This is why the The Greatest Hate Of All, as a brilliant retrospective from SportsNet coined it, began for the teams and has continued for literally generations of Habs and B’s fans. To quote the article:
“And the Montreal Canadiens and Boston Bruins—even in an ever-evolving NHL landscape—continue to wage the most prolific and idealistic clash the league has ever known.
In addition to being the year of the infamous stock market crash, 1929 was the year Montreal and Boston first met in the playoffs. The teams then offered a sign of things to come when they also met in the 1930 and ’31 post-seasons. The rivalry’s zenith came during the 1970s, when both clubs were league powers. Despite the fact that Boston won two Stanley Cups in that decade, it was never able to beat Montreal in a playoff series, a trend that, incredibly, stretched from the late ’40s through the late ’80s, covering 18 post-season matchups. A certain frustration-fueled animosity helped give life to the New Englanders’ notion that Montreal might win the games, but the real men could be found in black and gold, hiding from nothing and punching anything. The counter-perspective in Quebec was that skill won the day over goonery, giving every fan of what really counts in hockey reason to be happy. Bostonians seethed over a mug of suds; Montrealers celebrated with a glass of rouge.”–Ryan Dixon, SportsNet
In more recent years, the B’s have vanquished the notion that the Canadiens are unbeatable or invincible in postseason play — first with Andy Moog’s impressive run as the in-the-crease “Canadian Killer” in the 1980’s and early 1990’s and culminating with the most meaningful goal I’ve ever seen scored: Nathan Horton’s OT-Winner against Montreal in Game Seven of the (Cup clinching) 2011 playoffs:
Now, let’s factor in that for the first time since the NHL began (striked out and strike- shortened seasons not included), the Bruins and Canadiens have YET to play a game against each other in a season — and possibly may not unless they both play up to their playoff potential. This sets the stage for even the most casual hockey fan’s excitement over a Boston and Montreal SCF!
Will (Farrell?) it happen, in truly Old School style this season? Could, for the first time in forty-plus years, hockey history be made (and perhaps even broken) in 2021?
I know a lot of things will have to go right for the B’s and Habs to make it so, with plenty of puck luck in the process! But I don’t think I’ve ever been more pumped for the chance, for the possibility, for the truly once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see it. Nobody is Boston has EVER seen it, in fact. Hey Frank the Tank, what would it be like to drink out of THAT Stanley Cup?
“Fill it up again… once it hits your lips, it’s so good!”