WILMINGTON, Mass. — Most Bruins fans probably never thought this would be possible, but when the Canadiens visit the Garden on Thursday, they won't be the most hated team to set foot on Boston ice this week.
As the fallout from Saturday's clash with the Canucks continues to linger, one unexpected side effect of Vancouver's detestable behavior has been to delay the usual rancor that precedes a visit from Les Habitants.
The Bruins don't expect to have any trouble getting up for Thursday's divisional showdown, though, and they're confident the Garden faithful won't need long to remember how they feel about the Canadiens, even if these days the Canucks are the preferred target of their scorn.
"I guess so, but I think the emotions will be the same in the Garden when we do play them," Bruins forward Milan Lucic said after practice Wednesday. "There's always that history of the rivalry between Boston and Montreal and I expect it to be a really emotional game because they're a desperate hockey club and trying to get themselves back into the playoff picture.
"We're a team that they've definitely had success against in the past and in the recent past," Lucic said. "They beat us twice already this season and they're a team that's going to bring their best, as we should too."
The Bruins didn't bring their best early against Winnipeg on Tuesday. It took the better part of two periods to shake off the aftereffects of Saturday's emotional matchup with the Canucks before Boston got back to its old game and rallied for three goals in the third and a 5-3 win over the Jets. Even with Montreal struggling this season, the Bruins know they can't afford another slow start on Thursday.
"They come at you well," Bruins coach Claude Julien said. "The one thing they seem to do is give us good games all the time, just like certain teams match up better against others. They feel confident when they play against us and they play a style that gives us some issues and we have to really battle hard to beat those guys.
"It doesn't matter what they're situation is, they always play well against us," Julien added. "They know they can and they come in with lots of confidence and give us tough games. Every time we've beat them, we've had to play really good hockey, and that's what we have to be prepared to do [Thursday]."
It's been quite a week for the Bruins with the hype leading into the Cup Final rematch with Vancouver, the wild matinee affair itself and the war of words since, not to mention the five-game suspension to Brad Marchand.
"You have the Vancouver game and whatever happened with myself [being ejected with a game misconduct penalty later rescinded by the league], then we lost, then the carryover with the comments and obviously Marchand getting suspended," Lucic said. "There's the emotional roller coaster that this week has definitely brought to us, but I think [defenseman Andrew] Ference said it best when he said that we try not to mark any dates or any games on the calendar. We want to play every opponent the same way and that's our main focus right now, just to forget about what happened. It was just one game and it's a team that we're not going play for the rest of the season. We need to move on."
It hasn't been easy to deal with all the distractions, but the Bruins have plenty of experience overcoming such challenges, and they're confident this experience only make them stronger as well.
"There always seems to be examples of a lot of stuff we've had to deal with," Lucic said. "I think it's made us mentally strong having to deal with all this. And I think the maturity of our team has shown that we're able to overcome a lot of obstacles, and I think that's what's gotten us to our ultimate goal, and if we want to keep pushing forward we have to just keep focusing on ourselves and what's said in the room and not anything that's said on the outside."