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.

Cassidy quells goaltender controversy: 'Tuukka's our No. 1 goalie'

Cassidy quells goaltender controversy: 'Tuukka's our No. 1 goalie'

BRIGHTON, Mass. – While the sequence of events over the past couple of days could understandably lead one to wonder who will start between the pipes for the Bruins on Tuesday night vs. Nashville, interim coach Bruce Cassidy tried to quell any hint of a goalie controversy.

The vote of confidence was certainly needed after Anton Khudobin’s fifth consecutive win halted the B's four-game losing streak with a huge 2-1 victory over the Islanders on Saturday night in the wake of Rask’s absence while tending to a short-term lower body issue.  

“[Rask] had a good practice today. I spoke with him. We’ll see how he wakes up tomorrow and we’ll make our decision. He’s our No. 1 goalie, so there’s no way we can skirt our way around that issue. He’s our No. 1 and his health is very important. When he’s physically ready to go and he tells me that, then we’ll make that decision,” said Cassidy. “He’s a guy that’s played a lot of hockey this year...and he’s not a 240-pound goaltender that can handle all of the games, all of the workload every year. We know that. I’m not going to put limitations on him, but we probably overused him at the start of the year. At this time of year, it gets tougher and tougher with any player that’s been overplayed.

“That’s why we have two goaltender, and [Anton Khudobin] has really stepped up in that last stretch and done what’s asked of him. He’s fixed that area of our game. It’s nice to have a guy that’s your No. 2 that can win you hockey games and play well. It’s a great problem to have, to be honest with you. But Tuukka is our No. 1. But Tuukka is our No. 1. He’s our guy.”

Rask declared himself fit to play after going through a full Monday practice with no issues, but said he’s still waiting to hear the final word on whether he’ll play on Tuesday night vs. the Predators. The Bruins franchise goalie also said he isn’t worried about any recurrence of the lower body injury that “popped up” in the Tampa Bay loss Thursday night, which really doesn’t bring any clarity to the entire situation.

“It was a good day back on the ice. I feel good. We’ll see what the decision is [for the Nashville game], but I feel good today,” said Rask, who is 8-8 with a .892 save percentage and a 2.91 goals-against average since the All-Star break, compared to Khudobin’s 2-0-0 with a .920 save percentage and 1.98 goals-against average. “You need to put the best lineup out as possible, and I wasn’t in any shape to play. So, there are no easy decisions this time of year, but I’ve played a lot of hockey and injuries happen. We talked to the training staff and managers and came to a decision that [Khudobin] was going to play the game, and that’s it.

“It’s obviously tough from a personal standpoint, but it’s never about one guy or two guys. It’s a team game and I feel confident that we’re going to get the job done as long as we play the way we did. It was great to see.”

Clearly, it looks like Rask is going to play vs. Nashville and that’s the safe, easy decision when it comes to a No. 1 goalie getting paid $7 million a season and perhaps it all works out with a fired up Finnish netminder after sitting out Saturday night. But nobody is going to be faulted if they wonder what’s going to wrong with Rask ahead of the next gigantic game Boston will have to play with the Stanley Cup playoffs on the line. 

Krejci leaves practice early with 'upper body issue'

Krejci leaves practice early with 'upper body issue'

BRIGHTON, Mass – The Bruins returned to work on Monday after a big win over the weekend, but were one man down by the end of practice at Warrior Ice Arena. David Krejci exited the ice early on Monday and coach Bruce Cassidy said that the playmaking center is battling a bit of an upper body issue.

That was the reason for his abbreviated practice appearance ahead of the game Tuesday night against the Nashville Predators at TD Garden.

“He’s got a bit of an upper body issue, he’s got a little discomfort,” said Cassidy of Krejci, who has one point and a minus-4 rating over his past four games. “He got treated and I believe he’ll be fine tomorrow. I don’t think it’s anything major, but I can’t speculate [on it]. But that’s the issue.”

There was no play that sticks out from the Saturday night win over the Islanders were Krejci might have hurt himself, but the team’s hope is obviously that it’s something the 30-year-old can keep playing through.

With Krejci having left the ice, Ryan Spooner bumped up to the second line with the following line combos and D-pairings finishing out an hour-long practice:

 
Marchand-Bergeron-Backes

Stafford-Spooner-Pastrnak

Vatrano-Nash-Hayes

Beleskey-Moore-Acciari

 
Chara-Carlo

Krug-McQuaid

C. Miller-K. Miller

 
Rask