For a rivalry undergoing a relatively civil period, the Boston Bruins and Montreal Canadiens provided a few tense moments during their first matchup of the season last Saturday.
A week after salvaging a point at the Bell Centre, the Bruins will welcome their historic rivals for the second of four meetings this season.
Given the quick turnaround, the two teams shouldn’t take long to renew hostilities. At least, that would’ve been the conventional wisdom before the NHL adopted its current divisional format for the 2013-14 season.
Perhaps that’s why Jim Montgomery and Jeremy Swayman downplayed whether or not the bad blood from last week would carry over from last week. Or maybe they’re taking the business-as-usual approach of looking ahead and not reminiscing the past.
“That’s last week,” Swayman said following Friday’s practice at Warrior Ice Arena. “We’ve had a full week of practice and it’s been exciting. Obviously, we only got one point last week, so we’re going to do everything we can to get two this time.”
A usually structured Boston defense encountered issues against Montreal’s counterattack, leaving Swayman to defend for himself on quality scoring bids, especially off the rush. The fourth-year Bruin did everything he could to keep his team afloat, stopping 24 of 27 shots in his last start.
Swayman even ignited a scrum in the third period with the Bruins down by a goal. The former University of Maine standout challenged Habs forward Brendan Gallagher after the veteran took a couple of extra whacks searching for a loose puck after the whistle. A few seconds elapsed before Swayman looked down the other end of the ice in Sam Montembeault’s direction, hoping he’d come across the ice for a goalie bout.
Perhaps the heated moments from that eventful scrum involving Swayman will carry over into Saturday’s matchup. But the Bruins, who bounced back with a 5-2 win in Buffalo on Tuesday, have their attention set on tactical improvements, including defending the Habs’ speedy counterattack.
“I didn’t feel there was a lot of bad blood in the game itself. I felt that both teams had opportunities, and I felt Montreal outplayed us,” Montgomery said. “We need to be better in controlling their attack; they’re a very good offensive team.”
The Habs earned their first win over the Bruins since Nov. 2019, snapping a 10-game skid against their heated foes. Their 3-2 overtime triumph a week ago marked one of the few notable moments of the recent rivalry history.
If only the two teams played more than four times a season.
Granted, some personalities from years past, like P.K. Subban, Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci and Zdeno Chara, are now watching from afar. Yet, the current structure of the 82-game schedule presents fewer moments of tensions boiling over with each season.
“It definitely lessens the rivalry. When you play a team six, seven, eight times, there’s definitely bad blood that spills over between games. When you play a team only three or four [games]…those are usually spread out over the course of the year,” Boston captain Brad Marchand said several hours prior to the Nov. 11 tilt. “The rivalry is definitely less than what it was in the past. So, I know that’s part of the sell of the game with the rivalries, but that’s just the way with the schedule. They’re not what they used to be.”
Yes, there’s still some carryover from previous seasons. And yes, some memories remain engrained for both fanbases, from the too many men call in 1979 to Nathan Horton’s overtime heroics in 2011.
The recent tensions from last week’s matchup will become short-lived once the two teams exit the TD Garden confines late Saturday night. They’ll meet twice more in 2023-24, in Boston on Jan. 20 and Mar. 14 in Montreal.
But until the two teams embark on another postseason meeting, the Bruins-Canadiens rivalry will continue their period of civility.
Tim Rosenthal serves as the Managing Editor of Bruins Daily. He started contributing videos to the site in 2010 before fully coming on board during the Bruins' Stanley Cup run in 2011. His bylines over the last decade have been featured on Boston.com, FoxSports.com, College Hockey News, Patch and Inside Hockey. You can follow Tim on Twitter @_TimRosenthal.
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