When I think back to the carefree days of my youth, there are three great sport dynasties that are front and center in my memory. One was the hated Mickey Mantle led New York Yankees; another was the beloved Bill Russell led Boston Celtics; and the third was the proud Montreal Canadians, who were led by one “Flying Frenchmen” or another. Back in the day, names like Bernard “Boom Boom” Geoffrion, Maurice “Rocket” Richard, his little brother, Henri “Pocket Rocket” Richard and the smooth skating Guy Lafleur and Jean Beliveau seemed to be leading the Habs to one Stanley Cup Final after another. Back then, a solid two way player born in Quebec, would never have been allowed to leave the province. The fact that he not only left, but is wearing the Black and Gold, makes Patrice Bergeron very unpopular back home, and the odds on favorite to be voted “The Worst Bruin Ever”, by the Montreal media.
In Boston, however, it’s a different story. Here, the 6’2″, 195 pound center, is looked on as the heart of the team, and arguably the best all around player in the NHL. Although an offensive threat with 30 goals and 32 assists in 80 regular season games, and a goal and 4 assists through the first five playoff games; he is also well respected for his defensive skills. In fact, his defense is good enough that he is once again a finalist for the Selke Award for best defensive forward, an award that he won back in 2011-12. Not only is he respected for his on ice abilities, but also for what he does away from it as well, as he is the 2012-13 winner of the King Clancy award for Leadership and Humanitarian Contributions. Perhaps his greatest value to the Bruins, though, is his uncanny ability in the faceoff circle, where he wins a consistent 90% of the time; A skill that is of equal value on either end of the ice.
As I inferred in the title, I believe Boston can defeat the Canadians, likely in six, but only if they follow Bergeron’s lead and maintain their cool. Montreal likes to aggravate their opponents and draw them into retaliation penalties. Once they get the Bruins shorthanded and have the extra ice to showoff their speed, they can be very difficult to contend with. So, I’m counting on Brad Marchand, Milan Lucic, Shawn Thornton (if he plays) and the rest of the B’s, to play a disciplined brand of hockey, and hopefully get the chance to utilize their own very effective power play; a power play that can provide them with the kind of lead that Tuukka Rask has been so effective at holding; power play that should benefit by the return of Danial Paille, as well as the work in the corners by Jarome Iginla, who should have been here instead of in Pittsburgh at this time last year. At any rate, Iginla is here this year, and could very well mean the difference between just an appearance in the Finals, and actually winning them.
I am going to cut this a bit short so that I can go find a good seat to watch game one of the series. But, before I do, I want to leave you with who else is in the running for “Worst Bruin Ever” in the Montreal media; namely Ray Bourque. The Montreal born defensemen scored 68 points in 76 games against the Canadians, and apparently they have not forgiven him for that. I guess those French Canadians really can hold a grudge. Remind me not to get Celine Dion mad…
Featured image courtesy of: Joe Makarski/Boston.com
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