The Habs have kept it together on the ice—can their fans do the same off of it?
If you are an NHL fan, you’d have to have been hiding under a rock to have missed the brawl that took place between the Montreal Canadiens and Boston Bruins way back on February 9.
That game saw the two teams pile up 12 fighting majors, three misconducts and four game misconducts.
Regardless of the outcome of those fights (most of which Bruins players won) one thing was clear—these two teams and their fan bases hate each other and always will.
Fast forward to a month later and you’ll have watched Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara nearly decapitate Canadiens forward Max Pacioretty when he ran him into one of the stanchions.
Montreal players and fans alike were disgusted with the Chara hit. Players felt the hit was intentional, fans called for a police inquiry and, just like that, a historic rivalry got a little juicier.
Given the press both of these incidents received, many NHL fans were hoping to see these two teams meet up in the playoffs. Low and behold, the Bruins and Canadiens are facing each other in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs and, as such, this match has been hyped up as one of the most anticipated NHL Playoff series in recent memory.
In their first head-to-head match of the series, the Canadiens did a spectacular job of shutting the Bruins' first line down, while taking advantage of what little offensive opportunities had been presented, resulting in a 2-0 win for the Habs.
The Bruins lost on the scoreboard, which was bad, but they also lost the mental battles as the Canadiens players turned the other cheek countless times when challenged by the Bruins players, frustrating the Bruins and leaving them a little lost as to what to do.
The last time these two teams met in the playoffs the Bruins made quick work of the Habs, sweeping Montreal in four games.
While that series had its fair share of intense moments, few playoff series had the intensity of the fans' love for their teams than the 2007-08 first-round matchup between the first seed Canadiens and the eighth seed Bruins.
The Canadiens got off to a great start in that series, dumping the Bruins by a final score of 4-1 in game one, followed by a thrilling 3-2 overtime win in game two, which saw the Habs go up 2-0 in the series.
The Bruins fought back in game three, winning a 2-1 nail bitter in overtime, but then promtly lost game four by a final score of 1-0 at the Boston Garden, giving the Canadiens a 3-1 lead in the series.
Boston won game five in convincing fashion, hammering the Canadiens by a final score of 5-1. The Bruins tied the series at three games apiece when they responded with a spirited 5-4 victory at the Garden in game six, which meant the home team (with their fans behind them) had won every game of the series.
With the series shifting back to Montreal very few people gave the Bruins much chance of pulling off a victory. As it turned out, the masses were correct as the Canadiens spanked the Bruins by a final score of 5-0, which gave Carey Price two shutouts in the series and the Hated Habs a 4-3 series win.
As tough as the series was on the ice, the real violence started when Canadien fans hit the streets of Montreal.
Amped up on the emotions of defeating one of their most hated rivals, hundreds of Habs fans rioted in the streets of Montreal—smashing windows, lighting police vehicles on fire and looting stores.
The entire ordeal lasted upwards of two hours, forcing police to engage with the unruly fans.
Police were criticized for not responding in a timely manner. Fact is, this was not the first time Montreal fans had rioted in the streets after a hockey game, which led many shop owners to ask why police were not more prepared.
Now, nobody dislikes a hockey celebration, but on this occasion the Montreal fans took things too far, leading to hundreds of thousands of dollars in damage and leaving a black mark on the city of Montreal and the fans of the Canadiens.
With all this in mind, one wonders if the Montreal police are taking the proper precautions leading up to what could be a Montreal victory in their series against the Bruins.
With emotions running so high both on the ice with the players, in the media and within each fan group, there is every reason to believe that we could witness another riot that will mirror the dangerous nature of the 2008 riot.
Clearly, there are many other fan bases that have a thing or two to learn about winning gracefully but, in the case of the 2008 riot, Montreal fans were as unruly and dangerous as they come—question is, like the Canadien players themselves, can the fans of the Habs keep it together for the entire series?
Until next time,