Love Them Or Hate Them: The Montreal Canadiens, From The Rivals' Point Of View
"Affliction comes to us, not to make us sad but sober; not to make us sorry but wise." - Henry Ward Beecher.
The Montreal Canadiens aren't certainly made only of great histories, Stanley Cup quests, big names, legends. There have been tough moments, of course.
They are part of the team's identity, they have built what today's Montreal Canadiens are made of. They are part of the centenary.
So to underline a centenary of rivalry, I asked die hard fans of Montreal Canadiens' rivals to share with us their favourite "Habs-kicking" moment, or their favourite Montreal Canadiens-related story.
KP Wee, Boston Bruins.
For a Bruins fan like myself, the April 29, 1991 tilt between the Montreal Canadiens and Boston Bruins was one I will never forget.
Montreal at Boston, Game Seven of the Adams Division Finals. It was a classic battle between the arch rivals, and the winner would move on to face the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Conference Finals.
For both teams, the victor would have home ice advantage the rest of the way, as the remaining teams (Pittsburgh, Edmonton, and Minnesota) finished with inferior records to the Habs and B’s. Montreal was looking to participate in its third Cup Finals in six years, while Boston was seeking its third Finals appearance in four seasons.
In a classic that seemed to have been forgotten, the Bruins came out on top with a 2-1 squeaker, propelling them into the next round. After a scoreless first period, Dave Christian put the Bruins on the board with a long shot that eluded Patrick Roy in the second period.
Cam Neely scored in the third period, blasting a shot from the blue line that again beat Roy, and the B’s were up 2-0. Habs coach Pat Burns pulled Roy for an extra skater with just under three minutes left, and the Bruins had numerous chances to ice the game, but kept hitting the posts and some fine defensive stops by Habs players in front of their own goal.
Montreal showed heart and made one final rush up the ice, trying to beat Bruins goalie Andy Moog. Incredibly, the Habs finally scored with exactly a minute left to make it a one-goal affair. Could the Habs pull one out? After all, they had gone 3-0 all-time against Boston in seventh games.
But there would be no miracle as time wound down, with Moog (and his 35 saves) and the Bruins moving on with the one-goal triumph.
It was a series filled with several big names: Roy and Moog in goal. Fifty-goal men (former or current) in Stephane Richer and Neely. Ray Bourque. Guy Carbonneau. Shayne Corson. Russ Courtnall. Craig Janney.
Though the Canadiens fell short, there were several memorable moments for the Habs: Richer scoring the tying and winning goals in Game Two to even the series after the Habs seemed destined to fall behind two games to none; Corson scoring twice before getting ejected in Game Four as Montreal again tied the series; and Corson potting in the OT winner in Game Six after the Habs tied the contest with less than four minutes left in regulation.
For my Bruins, it was the Cam Neely and Andy Moog show. Neely’s two goals won Game One 2-1, and his hat trick (and Janney’s four assists) in Game Five was memorable. Moog’s Game Three heroics at the Forum (38 saves with the B’s badly outplayed) reminded everyone of his 1981 classic performance with the Oilers against the mighty Habs (in which Edmonton swept Guy Lafleur and company in three straight).
For the series, five one-goal contests, two OT games. Clutch performances. Bruins win. Though not many remember this series, it will forever be my all-time favourite Habs-B’s matchup.
Bryan Thiel, Toronto Maple Leafs
The Toronto/Montreal, Habs vs. Buds, or Leafs versus Les Habitants rivalry is as old as hockey—every hockey fan knows this whether they are a fan of either of the teams or not. Unfortunately though, due to the fact that the two were in opposite conferences during some of the golden years of hockey (although for Leafs fans these were the duldrums as they were the "Ballard years") there's been a bit less excitement between the teams leading into the new millenium than some of the other rivalries at the forefront of the NHL's present mindset.
Despite that though, the heated rivalry leading into 1967 (the Leafs last Stanley Cup), and the rebirth since the realignment of the divisions has led to some added fire, including both teams nearly meeting each other in the Stanley Cup finals in 1993 (The plan was scratched due to Wayne Gretzky being a cheater), and 2002 (where the upstart Hurricanes squashed the Canadiens, and dispatched the Leafs best shot at a cup in recent memory).
Even with all of those memories though, it's something the Canadiens did for the Maple Leafs that I'll always treasure.
In 2003, Doug Gilmour—forever a Maple Leafs' legend and Captain—was contemplating an end to his gritty career. The Leafs (in all their wisdom) were shopping draft picks in hopes of landing some veteran support for a (hopefully) extended playoff run, and the Habs were honorable enough to trade Gilmour back to the teams and the fans that loved him so much.
Granted a knee injury ended his second Leafs go-around all-too early, forcing Gilmour to retire (and the Leafs did squat—as usual—in the playoffs), but it was that trade that defined this rivalry for me: Age-old rivals engaged in a battle as old as the league itself (almost), but respect each other's history and legacy enough to be equal trading partners.
Sometimes not all rivalries are bitter.
Alan Bass, Philadelphia Flyers
My favorite Flyers-Canadiens moment was this past season, when the Flyers upset the Habs in the Eastern Conference Semifinals to advance to a third round matchup against the rival Penguins. It was an extremely fun series to watch, and even more fun, since no one, including me, expected the Flyers to win.
The main thing I remember from that series was Kimmo Timonen and Braydon Coburn's abilities to stop Alexei Kovalev and Saku Koivu. They were also able to stop Andrei Markov from getting much of anything.
When Coach Guy Carbonneau pulled Carey Price and started Jaroslav Halak in game five, although Halak is a reliable backup, all Flyers fans knew the series would be over. The Habs had lost confidence in one of the best young goaltenders in the league, and were showing how down they were. The last thing I remember is watching the final seconds of game five tick down, and having my dad look at me, and say, "This team could win the Stanley Cup."
I guess we won't go in to what happened in the Conference Finals.
Oh, I am sure everyone has his favourite moment, when it comes to crashing down the Bleu Blanc Rouge! Make sure to share with us, in the comments' section below.
With all my respect, from a Habs' fan.
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