Chris Nilan is a former NHL player who certainly has seen the intense Boston-Montreal rivalry from both sides. He’s a Boston native who grew up idolizing Bobby Orr. He was a winger known as “Knuckles” for his ability to fight. He still holds the record for average penalty minutes in a game (4.42), and has a Stanley Cup on his resume(1986). He played ten seasons in the NHL for the Montreal Canadiens(1979-1988), the Boston Bruins for a year (1990-1991), and a season (1991-1992) where he played on both teams. If any player in the NHL has seen the rivalry from both sides, it’s him. He sat down with WEEI. com today to discuss his opinion on who would be victorious in the second round. His answer was simple and straight forward.
“If anybody has an edge in any way in this series, it’s Boston, and I think it’s the edge physically and size-wise,” said Knuckles. “Montreal, I think they’re a better skating team, but if Boston takes that away from them, and they’ve done it before, then the Canadiens will be less effective. If Montreal can get their skating game going, and they have good support in all the areas of the ice, and they’re willing to pay the price, they’re willing to go the areas that are difficult to go to, then they can have success.”
“When you’re in it and you’re involved in it, you quickly realize how difficult it is to play against — I mean when you’re on either side,” offered Nilan, counting on his experience in both jerseys. “I was on both sides, I was in Montreal, and being in Montreal playing against the Bruins back in the day was extremely difficult. You’re always in for a tough game. You had to fight, you had to take the hit. You had to do some things that were very uncomfortable. It was the same for the Bruins when I was there. The same thing. Both teams come on at each other. Both teams dislike each other. And it doesn’t matter back in ‘53 or what happened in ‘79, but it all builds and it all lends credence to the tradition of such a great rivalry.”
The man has seen it all in the NHL. He’s got a Stanley Cup, and he knows how the Montreal system works. If he says the Bruins will win this year, I’m inclined to believe him. The puck drops tomorrow in game one of the Bruins-Canadiens series.