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.

Morning Skate: Petersen snubs Sabres, Fleury pens letter to Pittsburgh

Morning Skate: Petersen snubs Sabres, Fleury pens letter to Pittsburgh

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while the NHL pre-July 1 wooing period is underway.

 

*Another draft pick has snubbed the team that selected him after their college career, and this time it’s the Buffalo Sabres. 

 

*It’s a shame to see the demise of the CTV sports staff in Montreal. Brian Wilde is a friend and a colleague, and a voice on the Habs that deserved to be heart up in that city. 

 

*In an emotional letter penned to the only NHL city that he’d ever played in, Marc-Andre Fleury has plenty to say about Pittsburgh. 

 

*The Edmonton Oilers and Peter Chiarelli have signed rugged power forward Zack Kassian to a three-year, $5.85 million contract. Interesting risk here for a player that might be a fourth line guy, and has had some issues toeing the line in the past, but Kassian has been pretty effective for the Oil since they stuck out their neck for him. 

 

*Teemu Selanne is a no-brainer for this season’s Hockey Hall of Fame class, and that’s great. But it will be a crime if three-time Stanley Cup champion and high-ranking lifetime scorer Mark Recchi doesn’t finally get into the Hall this season. Seriously, Recchi has the credentials statistically, he has the Stanley Cups, he has the time playing with some of the greatest players of his generation during his NHL career and he also happens to have been a great person and leader on top of all that. If former Bruins winger Recchi doesn’t hear his name announced this season then something is seriously flawed with the process. 

 

*How exactly will the return of Brandon Saad impact both Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane over the next few seasons? One would imagine it’s going to be a positive impact. 

 

*FOH (Friend of Haggs) Elliotte Friedman thinks that the Columbus Blue Jackets are making a push to be contenders, and will be in the mix for Ilya Kovalchuk. 

 

*Speaking of Blackhawks former Cup champs, Niklas Hjalmarsson is bringing that winning tradition, experience and leadership to the Arizona Coyotes now that he’s been traded. 

 

*For something completely different: What a crazy story this Han Solo movie intrigue has turned into, with reports that the movie’s crew “broke into applause” when it was announced that Ron Howard was taking over direction of the movie. 

NHL shouldn't overthink offsides challenges any longer; they should just get rid of them

NHL shouldn't overthink offsides challenges any longer; they should just get rid of them

When the hockey world grew tired of shootouts, the league took something of a half measure. Rather than eliminate the shootout, the league moved overtime from 4-on-4 to 3-on-3. It worked; games that were tied at the end of regulation were more likely to end in the five-minute OT period than before, thus reducing the frequency of shootouts. 

Now, the NHL is dealing with its latest cumbersome gameplay issue: the offsides challenge. A half-measure isn’t as desirable in this case. No more half measures, Walter. 

The offsides challenge was introduced with good intentions, but it’s simply too easy to abuse. And really, when the option is there with only a timeout at risk, why wouldn’t a coach roll the dice that maybe a guy was offsides entering the zone 29 seconds before the goal was scored? 

The option needs to be taken away. Rely on blueline cameras and automatically look at anything close on a goal that’s scored off the rush. It would take two seconds and would save the refs from another Matt Duchene incident while saving the viewer a lot of time. Let anything else go the way of the dry scrape. 

There’s the temptation to instead tweak -- maybe make offsides challengeable if the entry in question occurs within however many seconds -- but that would just mean more time would be wasted seeing if a play was even challengeable. 

It was proposed at the GM meetings in Chicago that if a coach loses an offsides challenge, his team will be assessed a two-minute penalty. That sounds great as a deterrent, but it won’t stop instances of the needless why-the-hell-not challenge. Late in games, coaches might be just as likely to take their chances in a tie game or a one-goal game. That goal allowed could likely be the deciding tally, so if they’re likely to lose anyway, some coaches might still go for the time-wasting Hail Mary. 

And of course, the loser there is the person hoping to catch their train out of North Station in time, or the person who might doze off during the stupid challenge, wake up four hours later on their couch and develop back issues over time. That was a friend, not me. 

Colin Campbell said at the GM meetings in Chicago ahead of the draft that the league is trying to "temper" the negative reaction the offside challenge has received from players and fans. 

There’s really only way to do that, and that’s to get rid of it.

See you in a year when we’re going through the same thing with goalie interference.