Bruins

Haggerty: Has the Bruins-Habs rivalry lost that hating feeling?

571934.jpg

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: Predators kicking it into gear

cp-morning-skate.jpg

Morning Skate: Predators kicking it into gear

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while anticpating the turkey leftovers, ready for the taking.
 
-- NHL referee Wes McCauley is at it again, this time going with a fun no-goal call after having some trouble with his microphone.
 
-- After getting humbled on Opening Night by the Bruins, the Nashville Predators are starting to get on a roll.

-- NBC Pro Hockey Talk has Kyle Turris excelling for the Predators, and Matt Duchene very much still stuck in neutral for the Ottawa Senators.

-- NHL stars go through their favorite traditions, and what they enjoy is a game that’s full of routine, superstition and tradition.
  
-- FOH (Friend of Haggs) Ray Ferraro says “it looks rotten” with the Edmonton Oilers as they continue to struggle out of the starting gate.
 
-- Larry Brooks goes through an all-time ranking of the general managers for the New York Rangers, and it’s an illustrious list.

-- The Vegas Golden Knights could make the playoffs in their very first season, and are absolutely far ahead of expectations for a new expansion team.
 
-- For something completely different: Wild turkeys are making a major comeback in Massachusetts after being all but extinct here.
 

Even in their struggles, Bruins have reason(s) to be thankful

cp-spark-thanksgiving-bruins.jpg

Even in their struggles, Bruins have reason(s) to be thankful

Thanksgiving in the United States has become an important holiday in NHL circles because it provides a regular-season marker that allows teams to gauge their playoff viability. Roughly 75 percent of teams in a playoff spot at Turkey Day end up qualifying for the postseason, and teams within a handful of points of a playoff spot retain a pretty decent chance of pushing their way in. 

But Thanksgiving is also a great time for teams like the Bruins to also give thanks, just like everybody else, while they’re passing the turkey, the stuffing and the mashed potatoes.

Given that it’s the time of being thankful ahead of the holiday season, here is this humble hockey writer’s annual list of things that each member of the Bruins has to be thankful for as they sit down to enjoy a tryptophan-induced nap:
 
David Pastrnak – The 21-year-old is still thankful for the big bucks he signed for this fall . . . $40 million, to be exact. That should keep him in $8 sushi meals at the mall food court for as long as he wants them.
 
Brad Marchand –Marchand is thankful he finally got bumped up to the top power-play unit over the last couple of seasons, after Claude Julien really dragged his feet putting him there. Eleven power-play goals and 29 power-play points in his last 94 games certainly tell the story.
 
Patrice Bergeron – Bergeron is happy and thankful that he’s regained his health after missing the start this season, and that he’s been able to adequately handle the 21:01 of ice time he’s averaging per game.
 
Torey Krug – Krug is thankful he can again eat a nice steak dinner after being forced to have his food come out of a blender for months after fracturing his jaw during the preseason. Of course, that goes for a nice turkey dinner on Thanksgiving as well.
 
Danton Heinen – The 22-year-old is thankful for second chances after he whiffed during an eight-game audition last season in his first year of pro hockey. He’s making up for it by cementing a role with the Bruins this season now that he’s stronger, faster and a little more confident with the puck.
 
Charlie McAvoy – The 19-year-old defenseman is thankful he decided to leave BU after his sophomore season, making the very correct deduction that he was way more than ready for the NHL. If he plays his cards right, he may be thankful at the end of the season for a Calder Trophy.
 
Anders Bjork – The rookie is thankful that the B’s will be playing the Chicago Blackhawks in the Winter Classic at his alma mater, Notre Dame, next season. He may get to live out a lifelong dream of playing a hockey game on that iconic football field.
 
Jake DeBrusk – The rookie left winger is thankful that he got to score his first NHL goal in front of his family and his teary-eyed dad, Louie, during a pretty cool opening-night win over the Nashville Predators.
 
Tim Schaller – The New Hampshire native is thankful to be playing for his hometown hockey team, of course, but he’s more than just a local boy made good. Tim Schaller has been a positive factor for the bottom-6 with his size, speed and intermittent offense.
 
Zdeno Chara – The captain is thankful that both he and his employer agree that the 40-year-old D-man should continue playing for the Bruins beyond this season. Now it’s just a matter of agreeing on a contract at some point.
 
David Krejci – The playmaking center is thankful his cranky back has loosened up enough for him to get back in the lineup. Now the Bruins and their fans would be thankful if the points would start to follow now that he’s healthy enough to play.
 
Riley Nash – The forward is thankful that the B's thought enough of him to protect him in the expansion draft last summer, a show of commitment to a versatile, smart player who does a lot of little things well.
 
Sean Kuraly – The young center is thankful that he hasn’t yet hurt himself taking the jumping, flying and leaping goal celebrations that he’s quickly becoming known for.
 
Kevan Miller – The defenseman is thankful he’s back playing his natural right side for the most part after being pushed into left-side duty for much of the first couple of months this season.
 
Brandon Carlo – The second-year defenseman is thankful to still be on the Bruins, and not used as possible trade collateral in a possible Matt Duchene deal that was discussed quite a bit last year and through the summer.
 
Jordan Szwarz – The 26-year-old forward is thankful for another NHL opportunity in Boston after he’d gone a couple of years without a sniff during his time in the Arizona Coyotes organization after some early games with them.
 
Frank Vatrano – The Bruins forward and East Longmeadow native should frankly be happy that he’s still in the NHL given the training camp and early season he had with the Bruins. He’s scored a couple of goals and played well lately, so he has to hope that he’s pushed through the bad times.
 
Noel Acciari – The Providence College alum is happy to be healthy again after missing a month with a broken finger, and he’s proven that by going right back to the heavy hitting, shot-blocking tough kid that he’s always been.
 
Ryan Spooner – The speedy playmaker is thankful to be over his torn groin. He needs a strong season in order to once, and for all, show exactly what he could be to the Bruins, or some other team, at the NHL level.
 
Adam McQuaid – The veteran defenseman is thankful that he wasn’t selected by the Vegas Golden Knights in the expansion draft last summer, and instead continues to be a strong, robust presence in the D-zone when healthy.
 
David Backes – The 33-year-old forward is thankful to be back skating again after a couple of painful  bouts with diverticulitis that left him in surgery with 10 inches of his colon being removed. I'm still amazed that he returned to practice as quickly as he did, but he is a hockey player after all.
 
Paul Postma – The  D-man is thankful to be getting a second chance with another organization after spending his entire career with the Atlanta Thrashers/Winnipeg Jets.
 
Matt Beleskey – The winger is thankful that he’s getting a chance to bounce back from last year’s down season, but so far the zero points and minus-7 rating in 13 games leave lots of room for improvement.
 
Tuukka Rask – The No. 1 goaltender is thankful for all the rest he’s getting in the first half of the season, which should presumably make him healthy, fresh and strong down the stretch this season. That is, if he can actually get back in touch with a game that sees him with a turkey-like .897 save percentage right now.  
 
Anton Khudobin – The backup netminder is thankful he’s been given a chance to run with things this season as he’s already twice had a chance to start three games in a row after struggling to gain regular playing time last season.
 
Bruce Cassidy – The coach is thankful for another shot behind an NHL bench 13 years after the first one, and he’s making the most of it with a rag-tag group beset by injuries and youth right now.
 
Don Sweeney – The general manager is thankful the team is still within a handful of points of a playoff spot after everything that went wrong in the first couple of months.
 
Cam Neely – The tean president is thankful for the overwhelming talent within their youth movement and the strong, loyal fan base that backs this team no matter what. But it could be a bit of a rough ride ahead, as the B's rank fourth among the big four Boston sports teams, given how good, deep and close to championship-caliber the others are right now. 

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE