MONTREAL -- The Bruins won the final four regular-season meetings last year with the Montreal Canadiens, an abominable team that deserved to be in the depths of the Eastern Conference . . . as it was, with 78 points. The Bruins were the hammer and Montreal was the nail after the Habs swept an early season home-and-home while Boston still snored through its Stanley Cup hangover.
But things are different this season and the Bruins seem to fully realize it as they travel into the Bell Centre tonight without Shawn Thornton, Daniel Paille or Brad Marchand.
The Black and Gold are facing a Montreal team that’s started the season an impressive 5-1-0 on home ice, and can overtake the Bruins for first place in the Northeast Division with a victory.
“It’s going to be like always. These games are played with a lot of energy and a lot of jump,” said Zdeno Chara, who -- thanks to his hit on Max Pacioretty -- knows just how much unhinged energy courses through the citizens of Montreal when it comes to their hockey team. “Last year is last year. This is a new season. This is a [Montreal] team that’s a lot better, so we have to be a lot better too.”
The additions of Brandon Prust and Colby Armstrong have added a little more fight and a little extra grit to the traditional Montreal lineup, though there's no 6-foot-8-sized monster looking to get even for a grudge as there was when the B's played Buffalo last week.
But, even without them, games between these teams are always intense. All four of the Bruins' victories last year were one-goal victories, a testament to the on-ice intensity that always exists regardless of personnel. All one needs to do is remember when “tough guy” David Krejci dropped the gloves with Mike Cammalleri back in 2010 to realize that everybody gets whipped in the Original Six rivalry.
“It’s always a hard game [against the Canadiens],” said Andrew Ference. “It’s funny how teams can change and personnel can change, but it’s always a hard game with them. From year to year the feeling and the preparation doesn’t change at all because you know it’s going to be a hard game.
“They’re always physical games. I know there have been times where we were supposed to come in as the big, tough team and they have out-hit us.
“It’s funny with our two teams: whether teams are on hot streaks or losing streaks it always turns into a close game between us. Obviously [Prust] is a physical player and a gritty player, but I don’t think that was lacking in years past when we played against them.”
With the importance of every divisional game within a 48-game schedule and Montreal nipping at Boston’s heels in the standings, there's plenty of motivational fodder for both hockey clubs above and beyond any traditional rivalry stuff. The bottom dropping out for Montreal last year might have been enjoyable for many in Boston, but it’s over now and the chatter behind Wednesday’s B’s/Habs game is proof positive of that.