That's become a little more challenging of late. It's not that the stakes have lessened at all between the Northeast Division rivals. In fact, first place will be on the line Saturday night when the Bruins pay a visit to the Bell Centre with just a one-point lead over the second-place Canadiens.
But the lightning rods for Boston fans' animosity in recent years are suddenly gone. Mike Komisarek took the money and ran to Toronto last year after being on the wrong end of one too many Milan Lucic beatdowns, while super-pest Maxim Lapierre was traded to Anaheim on New Year's Eve.
So who should Bruins fans turn their wrath on in 2011? There's no one as easy to detest as Lapierre, who when he wasn't too busy refusing to drop his gloves to answer for one of his cheap shots, could usually be found flopping on the ice trying to draw a call with dives that would make Greg Louganis envious.
But, there are some candidates to watch on Saturday and give a warm welcome to when the Habs next come to the Garden in February.
There's defenseman Hal Gill, a former Bruin and Bay State native who turned his back on his roots by signing with Montreal last summer. It might be hard for Bruins fans to boo him any more than they did when the much-maligned stay-at-home blueliner actually played for Boston though.
There's new Canadien James Wisniewski, whose hand gestures could soon force NHL broadcasts to add a parental warning. But considering those gestures were aimed at Sean Avery, can Bruins fans really hate Wisniewski?
There's flashy rookie P.K. Subban, whose arrogant attitude and chirping on the ice have drawn the ire of many. Flyers captain Mike Richards cryptically warned Subban after a November game that "something might happen to him if he continues to be that cocky." Subban could be a worthy target, but do Bruins fans really want to be just another team hating the brash youngster? And doesn't anybody that gets the Flyers that upset deserve some credit?
Then there's any number of the smurfs up front. Michael Cammalleri got David Krejci upset enough to drop his gloves for his first NHL fighting major during Boston's last visit to Montreal. Andrei Kostitsyn drew Mark Stuart's wrath a few years ago, but hasn't been as aggressive since his brother Sergei was traded to Nashville. And diminutive Habs captain Brian Gionta, all 5-foot-7 of him, has never been shy about getting under the skin of Bruins counterpart Zdeno Chara.
So which current Canadien should Boston fans hate now? Bruins forward Brad Marchand, who's no stranger to drawing the ire of the opposition himself, doesn't see a need to choose.
"All of them," Marchand said when asked who was left to hate on Montreal. "We don't like any of them over there. It's one of those intense ancient rivalries. You want to respect them, but at the same time you just hate them and want to beat them so bad."
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