BOSTON – One can agree that Milan Lucic allegedly threatening several Montreal Canadiens in the time-honored NHL Stanley Cup playoff handshake line after losing Game 7 wasn’t something the Bruins were looking for.
By the same token, the Montreal Canadiens preening and whining about disrespect showered upon them by the Bruins has the same kind of unsavory feel to it. If the Bruins need to learn to lose with a little more poise, then the Canadiens certainly need to learn to act like they’ve been there before.
“I think as the series went on our motivation grew,” said the Canadiens' Dale Weise, who prior to this series had been best known to the Bruins as a player that wiggled his gloves to fight Shawn Thornton as a member of the Vancouver Canucks in 2012, but then never dropped them in drawing a penalty on the B’s enforcer. “They just disrespected us in every single way, and I don’t think they had any respect for us as a team. We’ll leave it at that. The better team won.
“[It was a] little bit of everything, a lot of disrespect in the series and we used that as motivation for our team," Weise said. "We got a lot of small guys that like to battle and we got a lot of critics against us. We just believe in this locker room, our coaching staff, and our management, all the players believe in each other.”
Weise certainly earned the platform to send whatever messages he wanted to after scoring three goals in the series as a fourth-line grinder after scoring just six goals in the regular season. Clearly the Bruins also stepped over the line a couple of times, and probably merited some of the criticism.
The Lucic incident in the handshake line with Weise and Alexei Emelin was definitely an instance where a competitive player needed to swallow the bitter feelings in the name of respecting hockey tradition. Right or wrong, most NHL players will also tell you they don’t have much respect for fellow players that run to the media with things said in fits of competitive pique on the ice.
Thornton squirting water into the visor of P.K. Subban while he skated by the Boston bench with the puck in play certainly wasn’t what the Bruins were looking for either. That was a legit instance of disrespect with Thornton chuckling about it on the bench afterward.
Still, this second-round series was about two teams that truly hate each other.
That means there is going to be gamesmanship, nasty words and dirty deeds done dirt cheap before Game 7 decided things between the two Original Six foes. It’s clear Lucic and Emelin have the kind of hate/hate relationship that is going to keep the rivalry embers burning long after this series had been decided. It's just as clear that Brad Marchand, Zdeno Chara, Lucic and most of the Bruins roster aren’t exactly big fans of Subban.
David Krejci and Tomas Plekanec might be from the same country and Czech Republic Olympic teammates, but there doesn’t appear to be a lot of love lost between the B’s playmaker and the Mr. Turtleneck.
Subban, the electric Habs defenseman, got the last laugh, of course as the standout player in the series with four goals and seven points in the seven games, while averaging a whopping 27 minutes of ice time. Subban’s notion on disrespect seemed to be that the Big Bad Bruins weren’t going to respect the Canadiens until they stepped up and bit them in the playoffs, and that was motivation 101 right out of the Patriots disrespect handbook written by Rodney Harrison.
“It comes down respect. I think we’ve done a lot of great things in this league since I’ve been here. Our team’s done a lot, but we failed to get the respect that I think we deserve and I think we earned that,” said Subban. “I think more importantly, especially for the guys that have been here for that run in 2010, I think it was [important]. You know who was there when we lost game seven.
“We’re just sick and tired of it. Sick and tired of, you know, people disrespecting us and not giving us the credit we deserve. We’re a good group of guys in here, we’re character group and I think we earned a lot of respect today.”
Subban never really elaborated on who “the people” were that have disrespected the Habs, but the Bruins rightfully scoffed at the notion that they were perpetrators of disrespect or degradation. After all they’re a team that saw true disrespect in a playoff series when Alex Burrows took a bit out of Patrice Bergeron’s finger in the first period of Game 1 of the 2011 Stanley Cup Finals.
The Canadiens seemed to find insults around every corner: Lucic thumping his chest in a Boston Strong celebration was somehow viewed as derogatory by the Habs, and mocked disparagingly by Weise after he scored. A nasty, fun interaction between Lucic and Subban that led to No. 17 flexing his bicep Hulk Hogan-style from the bench was again mocked by Weise in Game 6 at the Bell Centre.
“Disrespect? I don’t know what they’re talking about, disrespect,” said an exasperated Lucic, with his voice rising an octave as his anger flared. “Having a goal celebration – what kind of disrespect is that? I mean, I’m not going to say anything. I’ve got nothing to say about that.”
The Andrei Markov raised stick between the legs of Chara at the end of Game 6 at the Bell Centre certainly seemed to be showing little respect for the Bruins.
There’s no doubt that the disrespect mantra worked as a motivational tool for the Canadiens, but it had Bruins coach Claude Julien scratching his head with puzzlement after Game 7 was over.
“You talk about disrespect, and I don’t think we disrespected them. There’s a rivalry here and what I said in French was we don’t like each other because it’s a rivalry. At the same time, the pounding of the chest — the people who have been here, have seen us do that all year, because it’s related to Boston Strong. Our guys take some pride in what’s happened in Boston Strong, and unfortunately, everything we did seemed to be seen as disrespect in Montreal,” said Julien. “We heard a lot of that whining in terms of the series, but it had nothing to do with disrespect, and whether it’s flexing a muscle — that’s gamesmanship.
“It’s like that in every round. So it’s too bad that it gets blown out of proportion, but you know what? They won the series, fair and square. They were the better team tonight, and you have to respect that. So it’s up to us to move on, and them to keep moving toward their goal.”
Leave it to the classy Bruins coach bring to some logic, reason and a cooler head to the subject rather than some of his own players who lost control, or the Canadiens whimpering and caterwauling about disrespect when they should be drinking in the delight of another playoff round victory.
A rivalry in the Stanley Cup playoffs means putting it all to bed when the handshake line and media scrums happen after the series has been decided, and both sides would have done well to do that rather than engaging in a respect war.