The Bruins will face the Canadiens for the first time this season on Thursday when the Habs visit the Garden to open a home-and-home series. It's sure to be an emotional game with the long history of animosity between the Original Six rivals, and that might be just what the Bruins need to snap out of their early-season funk.
"A couple games back-to-back with the emotions that usually come out of games with Montreal could be good for us," Bruins forward Brad Marchand said after practice Wednesday. "We have to use it to our advantage."
Of course, it will be hard to top last year's wild showdowns between the clubs. Those meetings included a donnybrook at the Garden that produced 182 penalty minutes and a goalie fight between Tim Thomas and Carey Price. Then there was Zdeno Chara's infamous hit on Max Pacioretty, which left the Habs forward out for the rest of the season with a broken vertebra and concussion after being driven into a Bell Centre stanchion and the Bruins captain facing a criminal investigation in Quebec. Oh, and then there was that epic first-round playoff clash that wasn't settled until Nathan Horton struck in overtime of Game 7.
"It's crazy," Marchand said of the rivalry. "Just from last season we had a few ridiculous battles, right to Game 7 in overtime. You can see why it's gone back so long in history and how the fans enjoy it and how means it means every time we play them. Every time you see we're playing Montreal you mark it down on the calendar and you're always looking forward to it."
Given that history and the fact that both teams are off to disappointing starts, these two games should be especially intense for such early-season encounters. While Boston has battled its Stanley Cup hangover in a 3-5-0 start, the Habs have struggled even more. They finally snapped a six-game losing streak with a 5-1 win over Philadelphia on Wednesday night, but Montreal is still just 2-5-2 on the year.
"It's going to be a big game, these games are always big," Chara said. "Not even talking about the rivalry, just as far as the standings and where both teams are I'm sure it's going to be two big games for both teams."
The Bruins may be able to channel the emotion that's always present in these matchups with Montreal to get back on track, but Boston coach Claude Julien stressed that the bigger issue facing the club is cleaning up its own game. The Bruins need to worry about themselves more than the opposition, regardless of the past history with that foe.
"Certainly Montreal is a great rivalry, but for me it doesn't matter who comes in," Julien said. "We just have to understand that we have to get ourselves winning on a more consistent basis. It's as simple as that. It's more about looking at ourselves than looking at the opponent."
And even with Montreal's historically horrific start, which included losing its first five home games for the first time in the franchise's 102-year history, Julien believes the Bruins should be just as desperate as the Canadiens.
"Anybody who is in a situation like they are or we are should be hungry," Julien said. "I don't know why they should be any hungier than we are, because we're not doing that great ourselves."