Maple Leafs vs. Bruins: Memorable Moments from Original Six Rivalry
The Toronto Maple Leafs.
The Boston Bruins.
Two Original Six franchises rich in history and lore.
These two teams have played hundreds of games against each other, and while this Original Six rivalry isn't a blood feud like the Habs and Bruins, the history ensures that these games are still special.
So what makes this a good rivalry? Here are five reasons why this rivalry is still relevant, and a look at what the future might hold.
It is a cliche, but true, that rivalries are born in the playoffs.
The Bruins and Leafs have met 13 times in the playoffs, with the Leafs having won 8 of the matchups to the Bruins 5.
They once met in the Stanley Cup Finals, back in 1939, when the Bruins captured one of their six Stanley Cups.
Unfortunately, the last time they played a playoff series was 1974.
Now that the Leafs are in playoff contention again, hopefully the Bruins and Leafs can meet in an Original Six playoff series. 39 years is long enough.
Big hits, or dirty hits depending on your perspective, help to fuel a rivalry. They get the players looking for revenge, and the fans calling for blood.
And when one of the teams is the bruising Boston Bruins, you get a lot of those types of hits.
Of course, when you have big hits, you also tend to get a lot of fights. So far, the Bruins and Leafs have met once this season, and that game generated a pair of fights.
I'd be remiss when talking about the Bruins and Leafs' shared history if I didn't mention the Phil Kessel trade.
In 2009, the Bruins traded Kessel to the Leafs for two first-round picks and a second-round pick, as part of Brian Burke's strategy to jump start a rebuilding in Toronto.
The Bruins used those two picks to select Tyler Seguin and Douglas Hamilton. Seguin provided some valuable speed and scoring as a rookie when the Bruins won the Stanley Cup in 2011.
The depth provided by Hamilton helped the Bruins feel secure enough in their prospect depth to trade picks back to Toronto to acquire Tomas Kaberle at the 2011 trade deadline. Kaberle, like Seguin, would provide some valuable depth and secondary scoring to help the Bruins hoist the Stanley Cup.
To add insult to injury, both Hamilton and Seguin are looking like future stars and are from the Greater Toronto Area to boot. They sure would have looked good in blue and white—instead, the Bruins get to rub salt into the wound by having the pair make big plays against the Maple Leafs for the foreseeable future.
Regular Season History
While the Bruins and the Leafs haven't met in the playoffs in my life time, they do meet regularly as members of the Northeast division. Unfortunately, for it to be a good rivalry, there has to be two teams involved.
Last season was all Bruins.
The Bruins absolutely dominated the Leafs in the 2011-12 season, winning all six games handily with a combined score of 36 to 10. To put that into context, that means the Bruins won by 4.3 goals a game on average.
This year, with a new coach, new general manager and a more physical roster, the Leafs have been much more competitive, winning the only meeting with the Bruins this season on Feb. 1, 1-0.
As Original Six franchises, these two teams draw huge followings amongst fanbases that go back generations. As such, they get a high level of attention from the media.
Toronto is the center of the hockey universe. Every week, the Leafs are on national TV with Hockey Night in Canada on CBC, and regional games on TSN and Sportsnet. Boston features prominently on NESN regionally, and NBC nationally.
An event in a Bruins/Leafs game is magnified because of this focus—something that wouldn't be remarked upon in a game between Columbus and Phoenix or Carolina and Florida instead becomes a talking point.
Case in point is the video embedded above. Any small-market coach rips officiating after a game, and no one cares.
Claude Julien does it, and every sports show is talking about. And when a fan makes a mocking video, it goes viral overnight.
None of that happens without the spotlight that shines on an Original Six team.
Future of the Rivalry
This rivalry is set to take a step forward in 2013.
The Bruins are still dominant, and the Leafs are finally respectable again. Although I wouldn't put money on the Leafs beating the Bruins on any given night, they are getting competitive and improving with an eye to the future.
There are still three meetings on the books for the 2013 season. Thursday, Mar. 7, Saturday, Mar. 23 and Monday, Mar. 25. These three games in close succession should help foster some bad blood between the the two teams.
And for the first time in almost a decade, both the Bruins and Leafs should be in the playoffs.
If they happen to meet in the first round, expect it to be the highest-rated series short of the Stanley Cup Finals. And the hockey shouldn't be half bad either.