BRIGHTON, Mass – While it’s expected that the regular season meetings between the Bruins and Canadiens are going to be emotionally charged with Claude Julien behind the Montreal bench - and that goes doubly for the first time the two rivals square off - don’t expect that to be the case for Monday night’s preseason opener vs. the Canadiens in Quebec City.
Bruce Cassidy will be on the Boston bench with a lineup he said will “definitely be on the youthful side”, and it’s expected that Julien will be behind the Habs bench for the first time against the hockey club where he coached the previous ten seasons. That makes it notable despite it being an exhibition season matchup, but Cassidy didn’t think any hard feelings would creep into a game where players are just trying to get their bearings after months away from the ice.
“I’ll go over and say hello and we’ll have a chat about training camp…just like we did at the draft. I don’t think this game is much of a storyline as much as it’s a first game for both teams that are probably evaluating their talent,” said Cassidy, who replaced Julien as the B’s bench boss last season after an early February coaching change. “Obviously the regular season is different where you’ve got your full lineups, and it’s Bruins/Canadiens. It’s the rivalry.
“This one I’ll be spending a lot more time worrying about our guys, and not so much worried about lineup matchups or any of that stuff going on. Hopefully the result goes our way, but we’re looking more at how we’re playing as a team. Are we playing with energy and pace? How are the individuals we’re evaluating [looking]…are they able to do what they’re asked to do? At the end of the day, that’s the biggest thing that we’re looking for [in the exhibition opener.”
The Bruins and Canadiens never faced each other once Cassidy had replaced Julien, and then Julien, the winningest coach in B’s history, was subsequently hired by Montreal and signed to a five-year contract. So the new Bruins head coach said that he’s very much looking forward to meaningful games vs. the Habs even if Monday night’s preseason tilt isn’t one that’s going to lastingly count as a chapter in rivalry history.
“We’ll play sooner or later. Listen its Bruins/Montreal, we’re looking forward to great games,” said Cassidy. “Would we rather have, pick any team we don’t have a rivalry with. . . would we rather play them four times? I’d rather have Montreal personally, so I’m looking forward to those games.”
For the record, Cassidy and the rest of the Bruins will have to wait until the January 13 road tilt at the Bell Centre for Boston’s first regular-season face-to-face meeting with Julien since the coaching change was made last winter.