Banner Year: A Look-Back At The 1999 Providence Bruins

(Photo Credit RIHHOF.com)

By: Josh Houreas | Follow Me On Twitter @JHoureas

At the start of the 1998-1999 American Hockey League season, the Providence Bruins had been in the league for six seasons, after the Maine Mariners had packed their bags and moved to the capital of Rhode Island in 1992. While maintaining success early and often, the Baby B’s could not find themselves going further than the second round of the playoffs. In 1999. with the guidance of head coach Peter Laviolette (who had actually finished his playing career with Providence a season prior) the organization would experience a season unlike any other.

Providence opened the season with a 3-2 win against the Springfield Falcons. While the first month of the season was less than superior, Providence quickly rolled to a hot streak, where they only dropped points in three games the following month. Providence went from a 4-4-1-0 record to 14-6-1-1 in the span of thirteen games which included (and I’m not exaggerating when I say this) a 14-2 victory over the Syracuse Crunch.

On December 23 1998, Providence would receive an early Christmas gift as the start of an unbeaten streak that would last sixteen games was underway. This is *technically* the franchise record, but when only wins are considered, the record is 12, a record that would be set twenty one seasons later. (If you do the math that was this past season)

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At the Time of the AHL All-Star Game, the Bruins were represented by Randy Robitaille, Andre Savage, as well as backup goaltender Jim Carey. Honestly, when a team has a backup goalie representing the organization at the All-Star Game, there’s a VERY high chance that club will become highly successful in the following months, and that was exactly the case for the Providence Bruins.

Finishing with a record of 56-16-4-4 (the extra four is for a tie because before the NHL Lockout those existed) Providence had just accomplished the greatest season in franchise history, a statement that still stands to this day. Lead by players such as Randy Robitaille, who lead the team in points with 102, and Bob Beers, who you may know as one of the radio commentators on 98.5 The Sports Hub, the Bruins were on their way to the American Hockey League’s ultimate prize.

In the opening round of the Calder Cup Playoffs that year, Providence faced the Worcester Icecats. A 4-1 and 3-1 win in games one and two respectively gave Providence a 2-0 chokehold on the opening-round series. I say choke hold because, in the AHL, the opening round consists of only five games. Worcester wasn’t going to go down without a fight. The Icecats took the third game, the first at the Worcester Centrum (now known as the DCU Center) by the score of 5-3. Providence would flip the script at the Centrum taking game four and the series three games to one.

Hartford would be the next opponent standing in the way of the Calder Cup. Providence would gain momentum after a double-overtime win and would never look back. In a four-game sweep, Providence was halfway in their journey to the first-ever championship in franchise history. Game Three would be the turning point as the Bruins won another overtime thriller at the Hartford Civic Center by the score of 5-4.

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Next to face the surging Bruins were the Fredericton Canadiens and putting two and two together, these guys were the farm team of the hated Montreal Canadiens. The “Baby Habs” as they were known as finished their season with a record below .500 at 33-36-6-5. Nowhere near Providence’s numbers but honestly not even that respectable, I mean seriously? This team made the CONFERENCE FINALS with a losing record.

Just like the series before, Providence had taken a commanding three games to none lead and was one win away from their first Calder Cup Finals appearance. Fredericton would outscore Providence in games 4 and 5 by a combined score of 8-1. Providence needed an answer to the surge from Fredericton. Coming back to the Providence Civic Center, the home-ice advantage would give the Bruins the final leap into the championship series. With a thumping 6-1 win, the Providence Bruins had made it.

To think that the 1998-99 Providence Bruins were a complete rebuild from the season prior, wouldn’t be an understatement. In 1997-98, Providence finished with a dismal .313 win percentage, the lowest in franchise history. Now the club was a mere four wins away from the Calder Cup. The last team standing in the way was the Rochester Americans. Rochester finished with a much more respectable record compared to the Bruins Eastern Conference Final opponent, backed by Martin Biron, who would go on to have a very respectable career with the Buffalo Sabres.

In game 1 of the Final, Providence would take the momentum from their five-goal win from the Conference Finals to take the opener by the score of 4-2. Game 2 would see the same amount of goals scored, but only one team scored all 6. Providence was up 2-0 going into Rochester for the next two games.

While The Americans returned home, the momentum would stay with Providence after a triple-overtime win propelled the Bruins to their third straight 3-0 series lead in that seasons Calder Cup Playoffs. After Rochester had won game 4 to stay alive, Providence would come back home for game five with a chance to clinch the Calder Cup.

It wouldn’t take long for Providence to prove why the team had been so dominant on home ice. Dominant meaning 10-0 on home ice including the Calder Cup Cup Clinching game. That last sentence isn’t a typo. The 1999 Providence Bruins DIDN’T LOSE A SINGLE GAME ON HOME ICE. Landon Wilson would help the Baby B’s draw first blood in game 5, and Providence would not look back. Four goals later, Rochester would go home knowing their season was over. The Bruins, lead by Peter Laviolette lifted the Calder Cup in front of over 5,000 rambunctious fans at the Providence Civic Center.

And if anybody deserved the last Calder Cup of the 20th Century, it was without a doubt the 1998-99 Providence Bruins.

(Photo Credit: thirdstringgoalie.blogspot.com)

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24 Team Stanley Cup Playoffs. Will It Work, And What Does It Mean For The Bruins?

( Photo Credit: YouTube )

By: Josh Houreas  |  Follow Me On Twitter @JHoureas

Traditionally, in the middle of April, the National Hockey Season reaches its conclusion. Sixteen teams prepare to battle for the most coveted trophy in all of sports. The Stanley Cup. While right now, we would most likely be down to the final four teams in the playoffs, with some possible second-round series going the distance, things didn’t turn out that way.

And now, the NHL is scrambling for a solution.

On March 12th, due to COVID-19 concerns, the NHL hit the pause button on what was turning out to be an amazing season flooded with amazing moments. Some of which include David Ayres, a 42-year-old Zamboni driver dressing as an emergency goalie for the Carolina Hurricanes going on to defeat the Toronto Maple Leafs, Bobby Ryan scoring a hat trick in his first game back from rehabilitation, and Mika Zibenejad scoring five, yes FIVE goals including the overtime winner against the Washington Capitals, just to name a few.

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While the League finds a solution to conclude the season, (which in my personal opinion shouldn’t happen) one scenario is not off the table. A 24 team playoff (and you have to feel for the seven teams who would miss out, well, except Detroit because they are the Baltimore Orioles of the NHL). According to Pro Hockey Talk, who has done an amazing job keeping us informed while were stuck in our houses watching highlights of this season, the modified tournament would consist of the top twelve teams from each conference. Makes sense.

Now here’s where it gets strange. There would be play-in games for the lower half teams. In the east, you would see the New York Islanders take on the Montreal Canadiens, and the New York Rangers would battle with the Florida Panthers. The winners would then take on the Columbus Blue Jackets and Carolina Hurricanes, two teams that were fighting for a playoff spot of their own. In the West, the Chicago Blackhawks would take on the Vancouver Canucks, and the Minnesota Wild would take on the Arizona Coyotes. Winners of the Western Conference games would then take on the Winnipeg Jets, and the Nashville Predators. While unjust to the teams involved in this scenario, it is fair as all teams were on the outside looking in when the season was put on pause. Quick side note here, if you’re a fan of any of these teams, don’t complain that your season could come crashing down in one game. How do you think Capitals fans felt for forty-three years?

Here’s how the Eastern Conference would match up. (Photo Credit: TSN.ca)
How the Western Conference would be aligned (Photo Credit: TSN.ca)

The difficulty for these “play-in” teams would increase slightly as the winners would play higher-seeded teams in the second round of games. As mentioned above, Winnipeg and Nashville would hold the 7th and 8th seeds, respectively, and Carolina, along with Columbus, would hold the same seeds with Carolina being 7th and Columbus being 8th.

But this surely can’t become the new normal. Can it?

In an article published by the Toronto Sun, this twenty-four team tournament could become the new format of the Stanley Cup Playoffs in the near future. This makes the end of the season… well less anticipating to watch as almost everyone would be guaranteed to play for The Stanley Cup. Although, in all honesty, if your favorite team doesn’t make the cut while 77% of the league does (I checked the math and didn’t just pluck that number out of thin air), maybe winning a championship just isn’t for your team. This expanded playoffs would be put into effect for one reason and one reason only.

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Money. Yeah, HUGE surprise there. Owners would be able to capitalize on the profit from ticket sales, merchandise, and potential watch party packages. The Stanley Cup Playoffs are the three months of the year where owners make back the money lost in the regular season, and they sure as h-e double hockey sticks aren’t going to want to go back to the 16 team format if they know there is more of a profit involved.

Now the potential format change would not only provide money to the owners of all teams involved in the playoffs, but it would provide amazing moments for fans of at least 24 teams to witness. The Stanley Cup playoffs have provided some of the most memorable moments not only in hockey history but in sports history. Countless memories flood the world of hockey every season, even if those memories don’t involve the teams you cheer for.

( Photo Credit: NBC Sports )

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman explained to the Toronto Sun that “We’d like to complete this season, we’d like to award the Stanley Cup, the most treasured trophy and the most historic trophy in all of sports. And our fans are telling us overwhelmingly that’s what they’d like us to do because people have an emotional investment in this season already.” Now the only questions that have gone unanswered is how would the set up for this potential playoff work, would series be condensed, and how would home-ice advantage work if series were condensed?

Putting money and memories aside, I personally think that a playoff format that involves as many teams as Canadiens Stanley Cup Wins would work better than the 16 team format. As long as it isn’t Montreal winning the Cup, I can live with this potential format. It would give a chance for the seven teams in Canada to battle for the trophy that had been awarded for the first time over a century ago across frozen ponds throughout their country.

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Now for your Boston Bruins, this 24 team playoff scenario wouldn’t affect the club right away, as they would be one of the teams who would be marked safe from opening round matchups. At the earliest, Boston would take on the winner of the Toronto Columbus game. If you are wondering who I prefer out of those two teams, it would easily be the Maple Leafs, any day of the week. Not trying to bash Toronto fans here, but Boston has had your team’s number in the playoffs since 2013. Want Proof? Just look at the last three playoff series between the two clubs. Yes, they went the distance, but Boston prevailed every single time, and to that, we Bostonians say thank you.

This is also a PRIME opportunity for prospects playing for Providence to suit up for the Black and Gold. Even though the American Hockey League canceled their season, and will not award a Calder Cup Champion for the first time in league history, twelve players from each team would get called up to their parent clubs in case of injuries sustained by players on NHL rosters. It is currently uncertain as to what players would make the cut for Boston.

At the end of the day, as insane as this sounds, I would actually prefer the NHL to make this playoff format the permanent path to a team winning the Stanley Cup

Check out the new Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 179 that we recorded below on 5-17-20! You can find our show on many worldwide platforms such as Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, iHeart Radio, Spotify, SoundCloud, and Stitcher!

Please subscribe to our new Black N’ Gold Hockey YouTube channel! We’d really appreciate the continued support. Click HERE for exciting Black N’ Gold online content!

Bruins vs Canadiens: The Definition Of The Word Rivalry.

( Photo Credit: news.22bet.com )

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.

( Photo Credit: Sportsnet.ca )

But the rivalry between the two clubs with two extremely different cultural backgrounds continued on, while a war was being fought.  

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.

( Photo Credit: habseyesontheprize.com )

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.

( Photo Credit: Boston.com )

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.

( Photo Credit: SI.com )

As the teams came back out on the ice for sudden death overtime, it would be Yvon Lambert who would find a way to get the puck past Gilbert, before Boston found a way to get the puck past Ken Dryden. 

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.

( Photo Credit: Boston.com )

Part VII: The 1990s: Ups and Downs for both clubs

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.

( Photo Credit: Pinterest.com )

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.

( Photo Credit: montrealgazette.com )

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

Check out the new Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 179 that we recorded below on 5-17-20! You can find our show on many worldwide platforms such as Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, iHeart Radio, Spotify, SoundCloud, and Stitcher!

Please subscribe to our new Black N’ Gold Hockey YouTube channel! We’d really appreciate the continued support. Click HERE for exciting Black N’ Gold online content!