You know, for a Habs fan, I've always had surprisingly little hate for the Boston Bruins. I liked the way Ken Dryden described them in "The Game," as the worthy opponent against which a good team can measure itself. Over the years, if the Habs were good, Boston was the hardworking team that gave the Habs a test before gracefully submitting to defeat. When the Habs were bad, the Bruins were the team that provided the metaphorical mountain to climb on the way to unexpected glory. The Bruins always provided good competition, and even in the years when they beat the Habs in the playoffs, we could all say, well, it's the law of averages. After so many defeats, the worthy opponent...the Washington Generals, take your pick...is bound to win a few.
So, for twenty-five years, I've always kind of begrudgingly respected the Bruins. Sure, there have been some not-so-admirable players wearing the black and gold. But overall, the team has a long history of being the testing ground for our guys. Now, suddenly, I find the respect turning to hate.
It's not that they're off to a pretty great start. It's not that they're nine points ahead of the Habs just before Christmas, or that they've beaten the Canadiens in the last two meetings between the teams. It's not even that Milan Lucic is a cult hero to Bruins' fans and the guy who beat Mike Komisarek onto the IRL for six weeks. It's because the Bruins are having the Candiens' season.
Coming into this year, the Habs were a first-place team full of young, talented players, who added more talent and experience in Robert Lang and Alex Tanguay, and much-needed toughness in Georges Laraque. They were supposed to be unstoppable. The number-one PP in the last two years was supposed to just continue to click along, despite the loss of Mark Streit on the point. They were supposed to have learned playoff hockey and come back more determined than ever to be successful after last spring's ignoble loss to Philly.
But here we are in December with a rash of injuries, no PP to speak of, a half-dozen scoring threats sputtering and a coin-toss mentality regarding whether half the team shows up in any given game. Boston, on the other hand, has received stellar goaltending from Tim Thomas, their young players are breaking out and big guys like Lucic and Blake Wheeler are talented and scary. Kessel and Bergeron have made what was a slow team faster, and Chara is looking like a sure-fire Norris candidate...and maybe winner. Their team looks unbeatable. They're strong, talented, and determined.
In short...they're the team the Habs were supposed to be this year. Of course, I know it's rare for a team to roll through an entire season on top of its game. Every team slumps sometime or other, and we can hope what we're seeing now is a depleted Habs' lineup going through the slump process, while Boston's comparative dominance is making our team look worse. I'm not sure it is, though. There seems to be something intangible fundamentally missing from the Habs this year, and Boston seems to have it.
So, for now, I kind of hate the Bruins. It's not really logical or fair. But I want the season they're having. I hate to think that the Habs had a real chance to win last year, with all the stars aligned, and they blew it. Unfortunately, I think a team is only gifted with the right chemistry and the lack of injuries along with the talent once in a very rare while. I wanted the Habs to have it for the big hundredth year drive. If they had it last year and it's actually Boston's turn during the Centennial, it'll be just too bad. Of course, this is written after only thirty games. Tim Thomas could come back down to earth at any point. They could have injuries. The Habs could pull up their socks and get the PP working. There's a lot of hockey to play.
But the Bruins have been playing it very well so far...and I hate that.