There is nothing better about being a sports fan than a good rivalry.
Seeing your team best a rival and then rubbing their fans’ faces in it is a satisfying feeling, even if you know that when the shoe is on the opposite foot, you’re inviting them to seek revenge.
As they tend to do, the Bruins’ rivalries have fluctuated over the last decade. We, as Bruins fans, will always despise the Montreal Canadiens, but the team’s recent dominance over the Habs and their position in the standings (barring their fluke 2021 run) have lessened the stakes.
It’s been that way for a while now, but given the offseason moves by some division rivals, maybe the Bruins will help get the blood flowing (literally and figuratively) in a rivalry that has yet to blossom.
However, there’s one Atlantic team that might sneak up on you in the rivalry charts this year: the Detroit Red Wings.
To say the Bruins and Red Wings have been recent rivals would be an outright lie. They’ve faced off in the playoffs just once in the last 60-plus years, in a 2014 series that the Bruins won in five games.
They were in different divisions from 1974-74 to 2013-14 and other conferences from 1981-82 to 2013-14, not to mention they weren’t really in the same class in recent history.
Though both had long playoff streaks – 29 seasons for the Bruins and 25 seasons for the Red Wings – they only overlapped for six seasons in the early to mid-90s.
By the time they moved into the Atlantic Division and the Eastern Conference, the magic the Red Wings had from the 90s through the early 2010s finally dissipated, and they missed the playoffs for the first time in 2016-17. They haven’t been back since.
The Red Wings and Bruins rivalry has been tame for two Original Six teams, but that might be about to change.
The Yzerman Effect
We’ve seen the machine that Steve Yzerman built in Tampa. That wagon has been rolling along consistently since he left the Lightning and signed on with the team for which he became a Hall of Famer.
He’s had four drafts to rebuild the Red Wings back to the dynasty they were during his playing days, and now that those players are cracking the NHL, the results are starting to show.
Yzerman’s first, first-round pick with the Red Wings, Moritz Seider, won the Calder Trophy last season. His first pick the following year, Lucas Raymond, finished fourth.
Filip Zadina had his most productive season in 2021-22, and leading scorers Dylan Larkin and Tyler Bertuzzi are in contract years.
Yzerman added Ben Chiarot and Olli Maatta to his blueline and two consistent point producers in Andrew Copp and David Perron (we’ll get back to him in a minute) on offense.
They lost nobody of consequence besides maybe Marc Staal, so they will be a better team this season.
Will they be good enough to compete for a wild card spot? I don’t think so, but that doesn’t mean they won’t be a thorn in the Bruins’ side this season - they already were last season.
Seeing Red Wings
The Red Wings split the season series with the Bruins last year, but it was the final game that stands out.
Their final matchup of the season, in April, saw the Bruins jump out to an early 2-0 lead. The Red Wings stormed back to win 5-3 in a game that ended in a huge scrum and resulted in 56 penalty minutes, 36 of which came after the final buzzer.
The game had all the hallmarks of one that would boil over and one where the animus would carry over into this season.
This game was the one where Pius Suter and Hampus Lindholm collided knee-on-knee and forced Lindholm to leave the game and miss the next seven.
The Bruins were all over Zadina, and he egged it on. That included a quick forearm shiver by Brad Marchand to the Zadina’s right arm that he embellished right in front of the referee.
The game-ending brawl broke out after (now Vancouver Canuck) Anton Blidh crosschecked Zadina at the final buzzer, and then Carlo followed that up with a face wash while the referees tried to keep the peace.
Red Wings and Bruins nearly brawl on Darren McCarty bobble head night— Woodward Sports Network (@woodwardsports) April 6, 2022
There is something the Bruins don’t seem to like about Zadina and the Red Wings.
When you factor in their Bertuzzi – who appears to have a little Brad Marchand in him and new edition Perron, who the Bruins remember all too well from his performance in the 2019 Stanley Cup Final, you have a team that is easy to hate in the Red Wings.
You Shall Not Pass
The final factors are the current states of each franchise. The Bruins’ window is closing, with perhaps one last kick at the can coming this season.
Most (realistic) people agree the team is looking at a battle for the final spot in the division or a wild card berth.
On the other hand, Detroit will be lucky to be in a wild card fight once the end of the season rolls around, although it’s not out of the question.
Given their two predicted seasons, the chances are strong that the Red Wings will be targeting the Bruins to secure their first playoff appearance in seven seasons.
That means division matchups against the Bruins throughout the season will take on more intensity, and if Detroit wants to increase its chances at success, it will have to prove itself in a huge back-to-back against the Bruins in March.
The NHL’s national broadcast partners also think these will be important games. The home-and-home series comes March 11 and 12. Both matinees will be aired on ABC and TNT, respectively.
Mark your calendars, and maybe save some of that hate in your heart for a potential new rivalry.