During most of Claude Julien’s tenure in Boston there was the expectation that in any contest against the Montreal Canadiens, the result would be a loss.
In his 10 seasons behind the Bruins bench, Julien and company fell to their longtime rivals 35 times in 52 games.
The faces have changed and the play on the ice has changed and for the Bruins benefit. And so have the results.
With wins in their last four against the Habs, the tide has certainly changed. Gone are the days of Montreal’s speed and skill giving the Bruins a fit. Gone are the days of Carey Price looking like Ken Dryden or Patrick Roy. And more importantly, gone are the days of Tuukka Rask’s struggles against the hated Habs.
With Wednesday’s 22-save performance, Rask has won four in a row against the Canadiens, allowing just five goals in the process. The notion that Rask can’t beat the Canadiens can be laid to rest.
If you’re struggling to believe the Bruins are past the days of their Habs issues, look no further than their last two contests. In Saturday’s shootout victory north of the border and then Wednesday in Boston, the Bruins dictated the tempo and in both cases were the better team.
“Well, we are trying to [set the tempo] against everybody to be honest. But, especially against Montreal, they are generally a good skating hockey club,” said Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy who is now 3-0 against the Canadiens.
“I’ll say that the first time in there, [Saturday in Montreal] I thought they were better than us early. But for the most part, tonight I thought from the get-go, maybe the first couple 2-3 minutes. But we found our legs in Montreal probably after about 10 minutes. I don’t know if that had to do with the break or them being better than us at the time. We ended up finding our legs and I think yes, for the most part we have and that will be our goal again obviously Saturday up there.”
Changing the tide against Montreal has done the Bruins some favors. Sixteen points separate the second-place Bruins and sixth-place Canadiens in the Atlantic Division standings. The Bruins have two games in hand. The two meet twice more before seasons end.
For Rask and the Bruins, picking up points is always a good thing, but the points are a bit sweeter when they come against division rivals.
“Yeah, I mean I guess that’s what you’re shooting for. You’re trying to gain as many points as you can. They’re all important games, especially division matchups you try and get points,” Rask said. “Lately we have, it’s good. I mean [there’s] still a lot of games left. So just trying to keep our game going the right way.”
It’s easy to see that something has been missing from the Bruins-Canadiens rivalry of late. Gone is that spark. Gone is that hatred. Heck, even gone is that excitement. The rivalry needs someone like P.K. Subban or Milan Lucic back.
But neither of the two are walking through that door again anytime soon. Until then, it’s the gentlemen of the rivalry. Guys like Patrice Bergeron and Max Pacioretty won’t bring that hatred that has followed Bruins-Canadiens series of the past.
Maybe some of that has to do with the struggles of the Canadiens.
“We need to believe in ourselves and if you don’t believe, there is no way in the world you’re going to get an opportunity or a chance when you’ve got the kind of goaltender you have that’s going to give you a chance every night,” said Julien.
“You should take advantage of that and say ‘you know what, good things can happen if we decide to work together and work well and be on the same page.”
Right now the Bruins believe in their game. They believe in their game against Montreal as well.
Things have changed in the game’s most historic rivalry.