Haggerty: Has the Bruins-Habs rivalry lost that hating feeling?

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Haggerty: Has the Bruins-Habs rivalry lost that hating feeling?

BOSTON -- It just isnt the same this year.

Perhaps its that the Bruins are simplyon to bigger and more despicable enemies after last years Stanley Cup skirmish with the Vancouver Canucks.

Or maybe its just that things are too one-sided this season with the Bruins on top of the hockey world. After all fire doesn't have a rivalry with kindling, now does it?The once-proud Montreal Canadiensresidesomewhere between white-knuckled panic and knee-jerk reactions with every move they make, and have bigger problems than run-of-the-mill B's envy.

Thatmakes itdifficult for the Bruins to get their engines fully primed for a Habs team in full disarray. The Habs stuffed their best offensive forward into a cab between periods of a one-goal game on Thursday night, and then shipped him off to Calgary because he had a case of brutal honesty.That's the kind of toxic mix of arrogance and unwillingness to look in the mirror plaguing the once-proud Habs organization.

The Canadiens arent going to be better without Mike Cammalleri after provinghis mettle in the playoffs over the last fewyears in Montreal. He was just as dangerous as hed been for the Habs over the last two years, and his scorched one-timers are deeply engraved in the minds of Bruins fans as lethal weapons.

But thats just par for the course when Pierre Gauthier is axing coaches like they were pieces of Blue, Blanc and Rouge tissue paper. The Habs GM is also gladly trading for odious contracts like Tomas Kaberle when nobody else is interested in the salary cap-killing trash.

That doesnt even count the large sum of money handed over to Andre Markov this summer when his knee condition wasnt improving. For the record, Markov has played exactly zero games this season after Habs management attempted to convince the media that the defenseman was right on track during training camp.

But enough about Gauthiers greatest hits that are sure to be reviewed by a member of the Molson family in a nice sit-down meeting sooner rather than later. Most are fixated on the foibles and failings of a Montreal organization that graced the conference finals just three short seasons ago.

So it wasn't aboutthe emotional setting of the stage for Montreal, and more about Thursday nightscolorlessedition of the NHLs best rivalry.

The first two periods were missing the normalsnap, crackle and pop of typical Habs-Bruins rivalry in recent years, and it instead looked like a pedestrian Eastern Conference matchup between uninspired teams scrounging for points.

Theyve got a lot going on right now, and I think their situation is a little bit different. It takes two teams to engage, right? Right now I think theyve got other things on their minds, said Claude Julien. I havent felt the same energy, but yet the results of the game are very similar. So when we do beat them, we dont beat them by much, and vice-versa. Certainly it doesnt have the same flare it had maybe a year ago.

The action was sloppy, the passing was lazy and the passion was dwarfed by the fiery hatred on display when Vancouver was in town last weekend. The Bruins were ultimately able to pull out a 2-1 victory on a pair of greasy, dirty goals including Milan Lucic's game-winner.P.K. Subban dideventually stir up some rivalry passion with an elbow thrown at David Krejcis head in the third period, but even that didn't have the seething fury one might have expected even last year.

Despite all of that, the Bruins and Canadiens have lost that hating feeling this season, and its gone, gone, gone. These kinds of things are cyclical, of course, and there is nothing keeping the rivalry from heading right back into the heated category next season if both teams are fighting for the same divisional top spot.

There is always going to be that rivalry between Montreal and Boston no matter what decade it is just because of the Original Six teams, said Tyler Seguin. I think last year it was, maybe it was a bit tighter. Im not sure if there is a reason behind it but they still always give us a tough every time we play them no matter if were lower in the standings or they are lower in the standings.

But this years Habs-Bruins games have been uneventful, bloodless and bordering on downright boring. To say that about storied NHL rivals that have met each other in the playoffs in three of the last four seasons is truly telling.

Some, like Milan Lucic, still feel their blood pumping when they see that Habs jersey, but admit its not the same without hated rival Mike Komisarek on the other side. Sure theres Subban now, but No. 17 admitted its just not the same. Where once the Habs had Georges Laraque chasing Lucic around the Bell Centre ice challenging him to a fight, there is nobody that puts fear or true fury in his eyes.

It seems that the hatred has lessened for myself since they dont have Michael Komisarek -- it is different for me. I dont know. Its tough to find an answer for it, said Milan Lucic. But theyre a team that -- even though it hasnt really lived up to the emotions of Habs and Bruins -- always give us tough games and we have to fight through to the end and that was no different tonight.

Lucic ended the matchup with the shoveled backhander in the third period for the dirtygame-winner that might have sent the city of Boston into hysterics in years past. There was a time when stepping into the role of difference-maker against Montreal was as good is it gets for a member of the Bruins.But that's just not the way it is now for theStanley Cup champs.

It still feels good to pot the game-winner, of course, but the Bruins saw how the other half lived last year during the Cup Finals. Theres a much bigger hockey world outside of the insulated puck mad house that is the Bell Centre these days. That ultimate hockey chalice isthe one the Bs are chasing after this time around.

That old Habs-Bruins rivalry? That will always be there waiting for Boston no matter what happens, but this justappears to be one of those years.

Bruins hope OT win was sign of things to come offensively

Bruins hope OT win was sign of things to come offensively

BOSTON -- For a team where offense has been a major problem area this season, lighting the lamp four times against the Florida Panthers on Monday night was a welcomed sight for the Bruins indeed.

The Bruins won it in dazzling fashion with a 4-3 overtime win on a David Pastrnak rush to the net after he totally undressed D-man Mike Matheson on his way to the painted area, and then skill took over for him easily beating Roberto Luongo with a skate-off goal.

That was the game-breaker doing his thing and finishing with a pair of goals in victory, and continuing to push a pace that has the 20-year-old right wing on track for more than 40 goals this season.

That would give the Bruins just their fourth 40-goal scorer in the last 25 years of franchise history (Glen Murray in 2002-03, Bill Guerin in 2001-02 and Cam Neely in 1993-94), and mark one of the bigger reasons behind an expected offensive surge that may just be coming for a Black and Gold group currently ranked 23rd in the league in offense.

They just hope that the four strikes vs. Florida is indeed a harbinger of things to come for the rest of the season after serving as just the eighth time in just 26 games this season that they scored more than two goals.

“[There have been] a lot of tight games and low-scoring games, you’re right. It’s good, but as a goalie, I’m not happy when I let in three goals, ever. But it’s great to see that scoring support,” said Tuukka Rask. “When you get four goals, you expect to win, and a lot of times when we get three, I expect to win. It’s great to see [an uptick in scoring].”

So what is there to be optimistic about from a B’s offensive perspective aside from Pastrnak blowing up for a couple more goals to keep pace among the NHL league leaders with Sidney Crosby and Patrick Laine?

Well, the Bruins are starting to see results from crashing to the front of the net, attacking in the offensive zone and finally finishing off plays after serving as one of the best puck possession teams in the league over the first few months.

Just look at how the goals were scored, and how the Bruins are working in closer to the net rather than settling for perimeter plays.

The first goal on Monday night was a result of Tim Schaller crashing down the slot area for a perfectly executed one-timer feed from David Krejci. Similarly David Pastrnak was hanging around in front of the net in the second period when a no-look, spinning Brad Marchand dish from behind the net came his way, and he wasn’t going to miss from that range against Roberto Luongo. Then David Backes parked his big body in front of the Florida net in the third period, and redirected a Ryan Spooner shot up and over Luongo for the score that got the Bruins into overtime.

It’s one of a couple of goals scored by Backes down low recently, and his third goal in the last five games as he heats up with his playmaking center in Krejci. The 32-year-old Backes now has seven goals on the season and is on pace for 26 goals after a bit of a slow start, and the offense is coming for that line as they still search for balance in their two-way hockey play.

“A few more guys are feeling [better] about their games, and know that we’re capable of putting a crooked number up like that. It bodes well moving forward,” said Backes. “But you can’t think that we’re going to relax after the effort that we put in. We’ve got to skill to those dirty areas and still get those second and third chances, and not take anything off during those opportunities. It’s got to go to the back of the net.

“With the way Tuukka has played, and our defense has been stingy and our penalty kill has been on, four goals should be a win for our team. It hasn’t always been easy for us this year. It’s been a process, but I think you’re starting to see the things that you need to see in order for us to score goals. We’re going to the front of the net and getting extended offensive zone time, and then you find a few guys like Pasta in the slot. That’s a good recipe for us.”

Then there’s Ryan Spooner, who enjoyed his best game of the season on Monday night and set up the B’s third goal of the game with his speed and creativity. It was noticeable watching Spooner play with his unbridled skating speed and creative playmaking, and it made a discernible difference in Boston’s overall offensive attack against Florida. It’s something that Claude Julien is hoping to see more of moving forward from Spooner after recent trade rumors really seemed to spark the 23-year-old center, and also knocked some of the inconsistency from a player that’s extremely dangerous offensively when he’s “on.”

“It’s obvious that if Ryan wants to give us those kinds of games, then we have lots of time for him. When he doesn’t we just can’t afford to give him that kind of ice time,” said Julien. “There are games where he hasn’t been as involved, and it’s obvious and apparent to everybody that when he’s not getting involved then he’s not helping our team. When he is playing the way he did yesterday, we can certainly use that player more than not. We’d love to see him get consistent with those kinds of games.”

So while it’s clear the Bruins aren’t completely out of the woods offensively and there are still players like Patrice Bergeron sitting below their usual offensive numbers, it’s also been a little mystifying to watch Boston struggle so much offensively given their talent level.

The Black and Gold fully realized that potential in taking a tough divisional game from Florida on Monday night, and they hope it’s something to build on as the schedule doesn’t let up at all in the coming weeks.

Tuesday, Dec. 6: The Bruins-Panthers connection

Tuesday, Dec. 6: The Bruins-Panthers connection

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while Dave Dombrowski is collecting stars and talent over at Fenway Park. I dig it.

*Interesting piece about switching teams in the NHL and leaving behind old allegiances when the job calls for it.

*FOH (Friend of Haggs) Harvey Fialkov looks at the connections between the Bruins and the Florida Panthers, and more specifically with the Panthers and the Boston-area.

*A rumor round-up across the NHL including the humorous nugget that the Bruins are looking to move Jimmy Hayes. Yes, they are looking to move Hayes. They are begging some other NHL team to take on the player and the contract for somebody that has one point since last February. It’s not happening.

*Escrow is at the heart of the next negotiation between the NHL and the NHLPA, and I really thought it was going to be years before I’d have to even think about the CBA again.

*Tough break for the Florida Panthers losing Keith Yandle for a long period of time after he was injured last night vs. the Bruins. FOH (Friend of Haggs) Mike Halford has the story at Pro Hockey Talk.

*Wild coach Bruce Boudreau talks his “bucket list”, which includes a lot of movies and even a stint as a movie reviewer for the Manchester Union Leader back in the day.

*Sounds like Pat Maroon might want to sit out the next few plays after calling hockey a “man’s game” among other things.

*For something completely different: Yup, I’m pretty okay with the Red Sox blowing up the prospect cupboard for Chris Sale.