December is upon us, and with it comes a certain snap in the air that reminds me of frozen-over puddles, the rustle of dead leaves, the smell of pine everywhere you go, and maybe most of all, hockey.
Ah, yes. Hockey. Thus far this season, the Bruins have renewed old hatreds ('sup, Detroit!), and continued others right where they left off ('sup, Penguins/Sidney Crosby!). But as we sit here, 27 games into the Bruins season, the most enduring rivalry, featuring the most ancient of hated opponents, has yet to be revisited.
That's right, folks. A third of the way into the year and there has yet to be a single Boston-Montreal matchup. It's almost unbelievable that that's the case: they're divisional opponents, slated to play 4 times, and yet somehow the schedule has conspired to keep fans of these two teams in nervous anticipation over a meeting that was still far away.
Until now. Now there's only a single day between us and a Bruins-Canadiens throw-down. Let's review the facts, shall we?
All time, Montreal holds a lead in wins, goals scored, and points. The Bruins' record against the Canadiens looks a little something like this: 270-340-103-8, while the Habs have scored 2185 goals against to the B's 1909.
The recent past has favored the Bruins, but the long-term history of the rivalry swings decisively in favor of Montreal. Both clubs have seen their ups and downs, and their respective undulating waves of good-mediocre-bad have sometimes overlapped, sometimes run in opposition. Through it all, the Bruins and Canadiens have circled around one another, looking for the advantage, always with something to prove.
The history of the two clubs is well told -- both here, and in excellent pieces put out by our friends over at Eyes on the Prize. Over the course of 721 games -- 721!!! -- there have been enough battles, both on the scoresheet and on the face, to fill several books. I can't imagine fans of these teams have ever, EVER had to wait so long to see the battle renewed, though--
No wait, I'm a historian, I can totally find this out. *runs to history fact spewing machine* Ok, so in the 1999-2000 season, the Bruins and Habs didn't meet until game 35. THIRTY-FIVE. The following season, they didn't have a game until game number 43. Four-three. Nonsense. Other than that, though, never has so much of the season gone by without a meetup between the two.
In fact, my little stroll down memory lane has shown me that Montreal and Boston have actually met in the first game of the Bruins' season 18 times, including the first game back after the cancelled season in 2005. Those schedule makers obviously knew what the people wanted. These ones, not so much.
The history of these matchups are interesting: naturally, the Bruins and Habs met up earlier in the season during the eras of only 6-ish teams in the league, but still, even once the NHL hit its current 30 team format, the two usually played within the first 15 games. 1999-2000 and 2000-2001 aside, this current year stands out as a huge anomaly.
At the same time, though, there's something sort of exciting about the wait, don't you think? Sure, I would have loved to have seen these teams play once (or twice, even) already, but now the anticipation is so deliciously intense that it almost feels worth the wait.
All of this is predicated, of course, on the game tomorrow being a good one. In 1999, that first game ended in a 3-3 tie. That's the kind of game worth waiting for -- back and forth goals, energy from both squads. Ironically, after the game the Globe opined that, while the game was better than those the Bruins had played of late, the rivalry with the Habs seemed to be on the decline:
Nobody even bothered to boo. The Canadiens were in town for the first time this season last night and nobody cared. Not the way they used to care, back when it was a passion play whenever Da Broons met Le Club de Hockey Canadien.
Time was when everybody around here circled the date in red and put daggers around it. It was a holy day of obligation in this town, complete with prayer and fasting.
It isn't now and hasn't been for a while. The Canadiens are merely semi-familiar faces in bleu-blanc-rouge amid a parade of Thrashers and Predators and Mighty Ducks who drop by Causeway Street for a night and then move on.
-John Powers, December 24, 1999, Boston Globe
That hardly seems an accurate description of the way the competition between the B's and Habs has continued to evolve--if it were, the idea of tomorrow night wouldn't make me shiver with antici...pation.
No, instead we are all of us--Bruins and Habs fans alike--excited and hopeful and nervous and filled with the feeling of finally, finally.
Tomorrow night the Bruins will pay their 28th game of the season. I might be more excited for it than the previous 27 combined.
One day more.