OTBH: It's "Rivalry" Night!

Johnny Bucyk plays his 1000th game (and the Sabres were there, too). - Danny Goshtigian - Boston Globe

Digging into the early history of this Bruins-Sabres rivalry I keep hearing so much about.

On October 4, 1970, the Boston Globe offered its readers a preview of the upcoming NHL season. It offered a look at all the other teams in the league, and the challanges they might present the Bruins in the coming year. Of the brand-new Buffalo Sabres, the Globe had this to offer:

Buffalo--Punch Imlach might get the Sabres sharpened up for an occasional upset, but this new team is relying much too heavily on Gil Perreault, who was playing Junior A only last year in Montreal. There are some names you'll recognize in goalie Roger Crozier and forwards Donnie Marshall, Phil Goyotte and Reg Fleming. Nothing to set off any temors though.

It certainly doesn't sound like the press in Boston saw the nascent Sabres as much of a threat, and indeed they weren't, at least not at first. Boston was coming off a Stanley Cup victory, after all, and with players like Bobby Orr and Phil Esposito kicking around, they had to feel good about their chances going into the next year.

The Bruins and Sabres ended up playing each other six times over the course of the Sabre's inaugural season, and the Bruins went 4-1-1 in the season series. Actually, the best part of that year was the scores: the Bruins won 9-4, 8-2, 4-3, and 6-3. All told, the two teams combined for 59 goals in the 6 games against one another. Olde tymey hockey, man.

In any case, the Bruins dominated quite handily that year, though they bowed out in the first round of the playoffs -- the Sabres missed altogether. An auspicious beginning to a rivalry, it was not, but constant divisional battles and a Sabres team that got much better fairly quickly did end up creating a bit of a heated competition between the two teams. It was, however, a fairly one-sided battle: all time, the teams have played 268 games against each other, and the Bruins have gone 122-108-29-9. Not a total blowout, to be certain, but the Bruins have (over the long term) won more than they've lost against our friends from Buffalo.

Wins and losses aside, however, there's another element to Bruins-Sabres history: the donnybrooks. The fisticuffs, if you will. When these two teams fought -- and they fought a ton -- they fought hard, as Mike Millbury and Lindy Ruff would like us to remember.

That sort of stuff can, of course, carry over into the playoffs. The Bruins and Sabres have faced off 6 times in the playoffs to date. Here's what that series looks like:

Year Series Winner
1982 Division Finals Bruins
1983 Semi-Finals Bruins
1992 Semi-Finals Bruins
1993 Semi-Finals Sabres
1999 Semi-Finals Sabres
2010 Quarter-Finals Bruins

So, fairly one-sided on the surface, then. And the Bruins didn't just win, sometimes they dominated. From the Globe, after the Bruins clinched the 1982 series:

Last night's victory was really a 40-minute game - two periods of the most intense hockey a Bruins team has played in several seasons. "The first two periods were the best I've ever seen Boston play," said Scotty Bowman, the Sabres' coach and general manager.

The first 40 minutes left a Buffalo crowd of 14,243 whistling and chanting to owner Seymour Knox, "Seymour, we want our money back." And it left the Sabres gasping at the tempo.

-Francis Rosa, Apr 12, 1982, Boston Globe

The following year told a different story -- a classic seven-game series, with the final game coming down to OT and the chance of a lifetime.

Overtime. That is the special dimension of the playoffs. Last night it turned a great game into a classic. Remember that the Bruins had put themselves under a two-goal impost. Remember that they played a second period that would have demolished a less- courageous team than Buffalo. Remember that Park plays the game without knees. Remember that goalie Pete Peeters had saved the game by stopping Phil Housley on a breakaway with Buffalo ahead, 2-1. Remember, though, that the Bruins haven't won anything yet, just the chance to play in the semifinals. But don't go away.

- Francis Rosa, Apr 25, 1983, Boston Globe

It was Brad Park who won that game for the Bruins, by the by, the little scamp.

Ten years later, there was another game 7, and a blown 3-1 series lead by the Bruins:

The season stood still for the Bruins last night, but not so still that they couldn't recover, recharge and eventually execute one long tippy-toed triple jump -- actually, a Dave Reid slap shot -- that vaulted them over Buffalo and into Round 2 of the Stanley Cup playoffs.

-Kevin Paul Dupont, May 2, 1992, Boston Globe

In 1993, for the first time, Buffalo beat Boston in a playoff series, and beat them good. They swept the series, leaving Boston pundits to opine that "this was not the team that Boston knows and loves." And in 1999, the Sabres did it again, taking down the Bruins, 4 games to 2.

As for 2010 -- well, you all remember that. That brings us to what we might call the nouveau rivalry, the more recent history: playoff OT, goalie running, retribution for said goalie running, John Scott beating a concussion into Shawn Thornton's head. On top of that, there's the niggling little fact that the Sabres managed to beat up on the Bruins not once, but twice last year (the Bruins also lost to them once in a shootout) -- a year Buffalo basically started to blow up its team. So alright, NHL/NBC Sports. It's a rivalry of sorts, I grant you. The last few years have created hate where there was before only....slightly less intense hate.

The Bruins and Sabres play on "Rivalry Night" twice this season. The story of this year is only beginning to be written.

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