Fans have had a love-hate relationship with the NHL’s rivalry Wednesdays on NBCSN since they debuted during the 2012-13 season. Since then, the league has hand-delivered one “rivalry” game per week on national television, hyping the contests up as clashes between two teams that simply don’t like each other.
These games get specific ad pushes and are built up more like pro-wrestling matches than hockey games.
That’s not necessarily a bad thing, as NBCSN has received a fair bit of praise for upping the ante when it comes to covering the NHL. The league come a long way since the dark days of games being broadcast on OLN, and they don’t want to look a gift horse in the mouth. But the question has to be asked: how many of these rivalry games actually feature rivalries?
Every Wednesday here at FanRagSports.com, we are going to take a look at the featured rivalry game of the week and decide whether or not the two teams playing that night are actually rivals. There’s probably no better way to start than with the Montreal Canadiens vs. Boston Bruins clash that will start at 7:30 P.M. ET on NBCSN.
Good luck finding Rivalry Night games with more historical significance than the B’s vs the Habs. These are two Original Six franchises that have faced off a whopping 906 times and have played each other in 34 playoff series. The Bruins and Canadiens have played more games against each other than any other two teams in league history, and the contests are just as vicious now as they were in the 1950s.
There are short-lived sports leagues that have less history than these two organizations, and that’s a testament to both Boston and Montreal as fantastic hockey cities.
From the Richard Riot in 1955 to Zdeno Chara’s devastating hit on Max Pacioretty in 2011, there has been no shortage of bad blood between these two teams.
That hit would have sparked a rivalry between any two squads in the NHL, but it was just another chapter for the Bruins and Canadiens. Since then, we’ve seen Milan Lucic fined $5,000 for giving Habs fans at the Bell Centre the middle finger and allegedly threaten to kill Dale Weise.
Lucic is with the L.A. Kings now, and on the surface it seems like that may bring the temperature of these games down a few degrees. There’s still no love lost on the organizational level though, with players like Chara, Carey Price, Patrice Bergeron and P.K. Subban all still in place and well aware of the teams’ histories.
What’s on the Line Tonight
As if the historical perspective wasn’t enough to get these two teams fired up, one can safely assume that the current Atlantic Division standings will add more fuel to the fire. The Canadiens swept the Bruins in the season series last year, and you can bet that the B’s will be looking to get back in the win column this evening.
This is essentially a four-point contest, which could provide a huge boost to the Bruins as they try to chase down the first-place Canadiens in the Atlantic. Montreal has a 10-point lead over the B’s, but a victory for Boston could change shake the playoff picture up a bit. This is the third time these two teams have met this season, leaving three more games to be played on down the line. The Canadiens have won both of the first two games this season via a 4-2 final.
After this rivalry night outing, they will see each other again at the 2016 Winter Classic at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Massachusetts on January 1.
The Bruins are 6-2-2 in their last 10 while the Canadiens are 6-3-1, so both teams will be looking to continue on the right side of .500.
So… Is This a Rivalry?
In the coming weeks we will have more interesting choices to make. The Pittsburgh Penguins are playing in the next two Rivalry Wednesday games, squaring off with the Bruins and Chicago Blackhawks respectively. There will be some fun conversations and debates there.
For this week though, there is none. This is one of the most tried and true rivalries, not just in the NHL, but in all of professional sports. We’re talking New York Yankees/Boston Red Sox level here. The NHL may be force-feeding us some of these games with exaggerated back-stories and over-the-top announcing, but this isn’t one of those contests.
Verdict: This rivalry is about as real as it gets