Imagine if the Boston Bruins win the Stanley Cup.
The thought strikes fear and loathing into the hearts of Canadiens’ fans. But even the most hardcore supporters of le Bleu Blanc Rouge can’t deny the fact that our dreaded rivals in Beantown are six wins away from doing just that. I know there’s the small matter of finishing off the Carolina Hurricanes, who are now trailing the Bruins 2-zip. But let’s face it. At this point, the only thing that’s going to stop these Bruins in the conference final is some heroics from backup goalie Curtis McElhinney, and frankly, that’s about as likely as the Habs hiring a unilingual anglo coach.
I am also aware that the Bruins will then have to battle through whoever they face in the final, most likely the San Jose Sharks, and if that comes to pass, it will indeed be a ferocious fight. But many of us think this Bruins team has what it takes to make it all the way.
In short, Habs fans have to start thinking the unthinkable — that we’ll have to see another Cup parade in Boston. I say ‘Quelle horreur!’
I put the thought of the Bruins winning the Cup out there on social media Sunday after they positively thumped the Hurricanes 6-2, and it elicited much angst from Habs fans.
But others said they’re so fed up with the way the Canadiens are managed that they’re happy to support our archrivals. The other thing my Bruins posts on Twitter and Facebook unearthed is the dormant pro-Bruins subculture here in Montreal. Paul Rupert commented on Facebook: “Not the end of the world, don’t forget, the Bruins are the team of working-class anglophone Montreal.”
I think that’s maybe overstating the case a bit, but there has definitely always been a Bruins thing among English Montrealers, a sentiment I think is partly based on a feeling bred in the politically charged ’70s that these fans didn’t want to support the Flying Frenchmen. I’ll never forget a moment during the 1989 playoffs when I was working at the late, unlamented Montreal Daily News and a young Pierre Karl Péladeau, who was running the paper then, walked into the newsroom one night and saw the entire Sports department cheering for the Bruins during one of the games in that Boston-Montreal division final. PKP looked visibly disturbed by what he saw. This, after all, is a guy whose dad, Pierre Péladeau, founded a newspaper, Le Journal de Montréal, that is virtually built on the back of the Habs.
But most Montreal hockey fans detest the Bruins more than any other team in the NHL. Jay Baruchel captured the feeling eloquently in his book, Born Into It: A Fan’s Life, in his open letter to the Bruins: “I hate you. As I am a Habs fan, true and true, I’m sure you wouldn’t have it any other way … It’s that particular brand of rock-solid hatred that vulcanizes over a lifetime of facing an adversary you truly respect, or maybe even fear.”
We hate the Bruins and thus we hate to see the Bruins win it all, like they did in 2011. But this time will be even worse for Habs fans given that the Bruins’ turnaround basically happened when they fired Claude Julien and hired Bruce Cassidy in February 2017. Boston Globe columnist Tara Sullivan penned a piece on the weekend with the headline: “Bruce Cassidy belongs among Boston’s great coaches.”
Meanwhile, Montreal ended up with the coach who couldn’t get it done in recent years for the Bruins. Julien’s a respected coach who did, in fact, win that Cup in 2011 with the Bruins, but you know why that coaching change happened ici in February 2017. Habs management stuck with former coach Michel Therrien far too long and then fired him even though he had a winning record that year. He was fired at that exact moment simply because Julien had just been axed and all of a sudden a quality francophone coach was available.
Is Julien the best coach to guide this young Montreal team? Probably not. And in his first two full seasons as Habs head coach, he has failed to bring the team into the post-season. Meanwhile, his former team is killing it in the playoffs.
The Bruins’ success also puts lie to the oft-cited refrain of the uncritical Habs fans who say to the critics, ‘Yeah, we haven’t won for 26 years, but it’s hard to win in today’s 31-team NHL.’ Yes, it is hard, but somehow the Bruins won in 2011, returned to the final in 2013 and look almost certain to at the very least be back in the final this year. So apparently well-managed teams can have big-time playoff success.
Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2019