The team that time forgot


The team that time forgot

By Rich Levine

Last night, while the Bruins and Canadiens did battle in Montreal, Dumb & Dumber was playing on Encore.

At the same time, Celtic Pride was playing on Starz.

I know this because I got sucked into both of them.

Even though the Sox were on the other NESN, and the NBA Playoffs were on TNT, whenever there was a break in Bruins action (time outs, intermissions, that time the refs ran off to accept an unmarked briefcase from the mayor of Montreal), I was back and forth between those two movies.

I couldnt help it.

My obsession with the first movie needs no explanation. The second? Whatever. I know Celtic Pride isnt great, but it came out when I was 16, and it was about the Celtics. Of course I was going to watch it over and over and over. Now, it has a special place in my heart. What can I say?


I . . . I . . . I desperately want to make love to a school boy!

Wait, what I meant was . . .

Oh right, the Bruins were on, but I kept on getting lost in those two movies. Reciting the same lines, laughing at the same jokes. For one night, it was like the '90s all over again.

I didnt realize the symbolism in this until the game was over and the Bruins were once again on the verge of playoff heartbreak.

You see, the '90s were a difficult time for Boston sports fans. Its the only decade (since the city picked up four teams) that didnt produce a title. At the time, local teams were almost always the underdogs. Or worse, they were just never the favorites. They were average, middle-of-the-road teams. They were streaky and inconsistent squads that sporadically gave you a reason to celebrate, but far more often left you heartbroken. They really tested your faith.

Obviously, that changed with the Patriots first Super Bowl, and since then, the Celtics, Sox and Pats have taken off to a level of performance and expectations that were once unfathomable.

But the Bruins are still stuck in that '90s mentality. Through all the changes this city has undergone, the Bs are still right where they were. Still experiencing the same growing pains, and leaving Boston with the same stomach pains.

The Bruins are the team that time forgot. A living history of everything Boston sports fans endured throughout that decade, right up until the ionic moment when Jason Varitek split the uprights.

This can be both good and bad.

For instance, unlike the Celtics, the Bruins are a team thats still building towards greatness, instead of holding on to whats left of it. When we look ahead, its excitement. With the Celtics, its indecision and fear.

Unlike the Red Sox, the Bruins dont have the unfair financial advantage. When they win, theres nothing to say except: Theyre the better team. Other teams cant cry poor, only weak or stupid. And that's fine. That's sports.

Unlike the Patriots, the Bruins dont have that unhealthy expectation of winning every single time they take the field (or ice). They dont have the nationwide legions of haters, and bad blood stirred up by Spygate and whatever else people are complaining about. Outside of Montreal, the Bs are never really the bad guys.

The Bruins are almost the only team in this city that you can still root for without somehow feeling like youre the bad guy. Not that anyone's losing sleep over the fact that other cities hate them, but theres a certain enjoyment that comes with the Bruins experience, and not enduring that constant loathing from the rest of the country. You can root for the Bruins the way you used to root for all Boston teams, before becoming at least somewhat jaded by success and lofty expectations. (Can the Cs win 70? Can the Sox win 100? Will the Pats go undefeated?) Honestly, it's refreshing.

But with that '90s-style, guilt-free experience comes other nostalgic feelings.

Disappointment. Emptiness. Helplessness.

Will they ever figure this out? Is this ever going to happen? How can they finally get over the hump and break free from a time and place that the rest of Boston left in its dust so long ago? Why does it always have to be something? Never smooth; never according to plan. Just an emotional roller coaster followed by a head-on collision and ultimately tragedy.

What will it take?

For starters, a win tonight at the Garden against Montreal. Without that the Bruins remain stuck in neutral for yet another year. Can they do it? Sure. They can always do it.

But I'd still keep an eye on those movie channels. Just in case we need a diversion from disaster.

Rich Levine's column runs each Monday, Wednesday and Friday on Rich can be reached at Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrlevine33

Haggerty: So what exactly has happened to the Bruins-Habs rivalry?


Haggerty: So what exactly has happened to the Bruins-Habs rivalry?

BRIGHTON, MASS -- It didn’t take last season’s embarrassing Winter Classic result to figure out something has been missing from the storied, legendary Bruins-Canadiens rivalry over the last few years.

The last traces of the latest, great incarnation of the B’s-Habs rivalry were clearly still there a couple of seasons ago when the two hockey clubs met in the second round of the playoffs. After falling short the last few times the teams met in the postseason, Boston was summarily dismissed by Montreal in Game 7 on their own home ice during that series. The following season the B’s simply had so many of their own players struggling to put out a consistent effort, so the games against the Habs didn’t really register highly on the importance scale, and last season both Boston and Montreal suffered through subpar seasons that saw them each fall short of the playoffs.

Since the second round loss to the Habs in the 2013-14 playoffs, the Bruins are 2-7 while being outscored by a 31-18 margin in nine regular season meetings over the last two seasons in an incredibly one-sided chapter in the two teams’ shared history. The real lack of competitiveness has been a noticeable lack of deep emotion or ill will on the ice between the two hockey clubs, and that is very different from the recent past when signature players like Milan Lucic, P.K. Subban and Shawn Thornton were card-carrying members of healthy hate that regularly spilled out on the ice between the two rival NHL organizations.

Instead it will probably be new blood that breathes glorious, hard-edged life into the history between the two Original Six teams, and new personalities like David Backes, Shea Weber and Andrew Shaw are likely to do just that. Certainly the Canadiens wanted to be much more difficult to play against in recruiting players like Shaw and Weber, and, their presence along with the offensively explosive Alex Radulov, could make it a tough matchup for the Black and Gold.

Either way, the Bruins are curious to see what the matchup looks like this season with the electric P.K. Subban removed from the mix as one of the classic Habs villain-type characters from a Boston perspective.

“It’s always fun to play Montreal at home, or in Montreal. This will be our second time counting the preseason, and our first time at the Garden. It’s going to be pretty cool,” said David Krejci. “When you say any NHL team there are a few names that pop out for that team, and [P.K. Subban] was definitely one of them [for Montreal]. But P.K. is gone, and now it’s Shea Weber. So it’s going to be a little different, but he’s a hell of a player as well so it isn’t going to be any easier.

“It’s a big game. It’s a division game. We don’t want to take any game lightly within the 82 games because you don’t know what can happen at the end. When those games against [Montreal] are done you always feel like you’ve played two games, and not just one. It’s high intensity, and it’s obviously a rivalry that you get up for.”

As Bruins head coach Claude Julien would say it, things are a bit too civilized between the two enemy teams when thinking back to the days of Georges Laraque chasing Milan Lucic around the ice challenging him a fight on the Bell Centre ice, or the awful epoch in B’s-Habs history when Zdeno Chara clobbered Max Pacioretty with a dangerous, injury-inducing hit into the stanchion area.

Nobody is looking for players to get hurt on borderline plays when the two teams suit up on Saturday night, but something to introduce a new chapter into the Boston-Montreal rivalry would be a good thing for both teams, a good thing for the fans and a potentially great thing for an NHL that prides itself on good, old-fashioned rivalries.

“We need to make sure that we’re ready to play [on Saturday]. I like the way that we’ve played so far, and except for Toronto we’ve managed to compete with all of the teams that we’ve played against,” said Julien. “I don’t know if it’s going to stay that way, but I’m going to use the word that [the rivalry] has been more civilized for the last few years. There hasn’t been as much of the sideshow as there has been [in the past].

“I think there’s still a lot of hatred between the two organizations when they meet, but I think the way the game is trending, and how costly that penalties can be in a game, both teams are a little cautious in that way. I still think there is great intensity and both teams get up for the games, so hopefully that happens tomorrow, and the fans get to see a good game.”

One thing that should ensure a good, familiar showdown with plenty of hard-hitting and honest-to-goodness rivalry-like behavior: both the Canadiens and Bruins are off to strong starts at the top of the Atlantic Division in the first couple of weeks this season, and there are some new faces that are undoubtedly going to want to announce their presence for these Bruins-Habs tilts with authority.

Let’s hope this happens because last season’s Bruins-Habs games needed a pair of jumper cables and 1.21 jigowatts of electricity to shock them back into their elevated level of intensity, and that’s when hockey is served best after all.