“We just beat the best team in the league. Down 3-2 and [we] showed a lot of character, a lot of passion. To win a series in Boston, it is a tough place for people to come and play here.”-Montreal Canadiens head coach Michel Therrien
You won’t hear this from me often. While I am no fan of Therrien, every thing he said in that sentence was correct. The Boston Bruins were the best team going into the playoffs. They were still the best team in the league when the second round of the playoffs started. Then they took on the Montreal Canadiens. Then the best team in the league attempted to coast against a team that was determined to win.
The truth of the matter is the Montreal Canadiens were the better team in that series, hands down. There are some Bruins diehards that are now rolling their eyes, muttering profanity and prepping themselves for what they believe is a scathing (yet likely very crude) response. If were going to be objective here, the only game that any reasonable Bruins fan can say where Boston outplayed Montreal was Game five. Half of the other six games were games where the Bruins had to battle back from poor play or terrible mistakes.
“This time of year, you’ve got to play your best hockey of the year, and I don’t think we got to that point. I don’t think we played badly, but we certainly weren’t playing as well as we could, to be a team that would move ahead.” – Boston Bruins head coach Claude Julien
Mistakes were made by the Bruins, veteran and rookie alike. Game six and seven were two games where the Bruins didn’t play to their potential. That’s what hurt the Bruins in the end. The Canadiens played those last four games like their self esteem and personal identities were on the line. The Bruins may have been the better team on paper, but the Canadiens proved the Bruins wrong the same way they proved Vancouver wrong back in 2011.
Carey Price was amazing. Hands down. He’s just moved himself to the top of my list for the Conn Smythe this year. If one is going to elevate Price, you also have to put P.K. Subban on that list. Did I like the comment about him shutting up the TD Garden crowd? No, but he went and did it. It was Subban who had our number this year. He played an exceptional series against us, and I think that young man probably got one of the better birthday gifts last night in the win.
“Our team has done a lot but we’ve failed to get the respect that I think we deserve and I think now we’ve earned it. More importantly, especially the guys who have been here and were there for that run in 2010 and who were there when we lost Game 7 [in 2011] are sick and tired of people disrespecting us and not giving us the credit we deserve. We’re a good group of guys in here and a character group and I think we earned a lot of respect today.”- P.K.Subban
Brian Gionta kept his team motivated this year. He kept them focused and provided great leadership for the Habs. That leadership was supplemented by Josh Gorges and Andrei Markov. Thomas Vanek wasn’t the doom of the Bruins this time, but his presence and his points were a spectre hanging over the Black and Gold. Alex Galchenyuk and Brendan Gallagher were two young kids who were fearless in taking on the Bruins.
This year the Canadiens run for the Cup was about earning respect. Let’s face it, they’ve been the brunt of a lot of jokes. This win validates them as serious Stanley Cup contenders. This series win also puts them back on the map. They’re no longer the quaint Canadian club that insists that French comes first. They just beat the Boston Bruins fair and square. That’s something that the Bruins, the organization, and we fans have to acknowledge and accept.
This *stick tap* goes out to the blue, blanc, et rouge and to their fan base. While we may never agree to like each other, this series was about earning our respect, and it’s safe to say that you’ve done that. Our rivalry is symbolic in the National Hockey League, and this chapter of the story will be in your colors. We’ll see you again in October.