By Brian Willwerth
Over the past week, the sports world has been focused on the NCAA tournament, which continues Thursday night with the regional semifinals. Fans from eight schools will be rocking in New Orleans and Anaheim.
But in Boston, expect the crowd noise at TD Garden to reach a much higher intensity.
The Bruins are playing at home. The Canadiens are the opponent.
Ah, yes. There’s no love lost between these two bitter rivals. Heck, the last two meetings between Boston and Montreal have resembled more of a heavyweight fight than a hockey game.
Flash back to February 9, a game won by the Bruins. There were 14 goals, 182 penalty minutes, and a plethora of punches thrown during a battle royale in the second period. And lest we forget the images of the penalty boxes being so crowded with players from both teams, there just wasn’t enough room for any more visitors. Oh, and there were more punches thrown in the final period. How quickly we forget.
Remember the last meeting in Montreal on March 8? The Canadiens won that game, 4-1. But that matchup will always be remembered for Zdeno Chara’s hit on Montreal’s Max Pacioretty, a hit that left the Canadiens’ forward with a severe concussion and fractured vertebra. The hit was so vicious that Montreal police launched a criminal investigation of Chara. Pacioretty later said he did not want Chara to be prosecuted.
The fans who are lucky enough to have tickets to Thursday night’s game will undoubtedly be looking for more big hits, big brawls and big goals. But this matchup is also important in the standings. Boston leads Montreal by 3 points in the Northeast Division. This is the final meeting of the season between the two teams, and Montreal has won 4 of the previous five against Claude Julien’s squad. If the season ended today, the Bruins would be the #3 seed in the Eastern Conference. The Canadiens would be the #6 seed. You know what that means.
Don’t you wish the season did end today?