On February 12, the Boston Bruins will take on the New York Rangers in yet another pivotal Eastern Conference clash. With both squads tipped to fight for the Prince of Wales Trophy this spring, the age-old animosity between Beantown and the Big Apple is heating up.
Tuesday will mark the third meeting of the Broadway Blue Shirts and the Big Bad Bruins in the young season. The Bruins opened the 2013 campaign with a 3-1 home victory over the Rangers on January 19. Four days later, a Marian Gaborik hat trick helped the Rangers return the favor in overtime at Madison Square Garden.
As we look ahead to Tuesday's big game, let's reflect on some of the moments that define this Original Six rivalry.
Eighty-four years ago, the Bruins-Rangers rivalry was born with Lord Stanley's hardware on the line.
After beating the Rangers in a 44-game race to the Atlantic Division crown, the Art Ross-coached Boston Bruins met Lester Patrick's New York club in the finals.
Led by Hall of Famers Eddie Shore and Dit Clapper, the Bruins swept the two-game series, held at the Boston Garden, to claim their first championship.
Boston's rookie goaltender, Tiny Thompson, shut out the Rangers in Game 1 of the series and surrendered only one goal the following night to clinch the title. Thompson went on to win the Vezina Trophy four times in his 13-year NHL career.
Forty-three years after first battling for the Cup, the Rangers and Bruins squared off again in the 1972 finals. Though the league evolved dramatically in the decades following Boston's first Stanley Cup triumph, the result remained the same.
The legendary Bobby Orr led the way for the Bruins, with four goals and four assists in the series. He failed to find his way onto the scoresheet in just one of the six games, as he helped Boston hoist the Cup for the second time in three years. Rangers defenseman Brad Park raved about the Conn Smythe winner following the series, saying, "Bobby Orr was—didn’t make—the difference."
Of course No. 4 had plenty of help from fellow Hall of Famers Phil Esposito, Gerry Cheevers and John Bucyk, who each made major contributions to Boston's 4-2 series victory. But in the end, Vic Hadfield and the Rangers simply couldn't neutralize the Hart Trophy winner.
Unfortunately for the Bruins, Orr's body would wear out over the next few seasons, and he would spend just four more seasons in Boston, beginning a 39-year Cup drought that lasted until 2011.
In November 1975, the Bruins dealt superstar center Phil Esposito and Carol Vadnais to the Rangers for Brad Park, Joe Zanussi and Jean Ratelle.
Considering that Esposito won the Art Ross Trophy four times in the five seasons preceding the trade while averaging 137 points per year, the deal looked like highway robbery. However, the transaction turned out to be a major coup for the Bruins.
Esposito never again scored 100 points in a season, while Brad Park rejuvenated his career in black and gold. In eight seasons with the Bruins, Park posted 417 points, a total that ranks third among defensemen in Bruins' history behind only Bobby Orr and Ray Bourque.
Esposito was far from a failure in New York, as he led the team in scoring four times in six seasons. Park, however, finished as a runner-up for the Norris Trophy twice in Boston, while Esposito steadily declined in Manhattan.
Two days before Christmas in 1979, the Bruins paid a visit to Madison Square Garden and returned with one of the darkest memories in their long history.
Hanging onto a 4-3 lead with seconds remaining, Boston goalie Gerry Cheevers stoned former Bruin Phil Esposito on a breakaway to earn the win. As Esposito smashed his stick in frustration and stomped off the ice, tensions emerged, leading to a bench-clearing scuffle surrounding the Boston net.
While Al Secord and Frank Beaton pummeled each other along the boards, a spectator latched onto the stick of Boston's Stan Jonathan and wrenched it over the glass. Fiery Bruins captain Terry O'Reilly then made the notorious decision to launch himself over the boards and into the stands.
He would be followed by Peter McNab and a number of other Bruins, who pounded away on several fans while the stunned Rangers looked on. In the ensuing chaos "Mad" Mike Milbury infamously beat a fan with his own shoe.
The altercation resulted in surprisingly lenient eight-game suspensions for O'Reilly and McNab, with Milbury getting six games.
The fight severely tarnished the Bruins' reputations but also further established the legacy of the Big Bad Bruins.