Already, the 2014 Boston Bruins Stanley Cup Playoffs banners were coming down off the light standards in front of and around TD Garden.
“They want ’em down right away,” said the Gardens crewman on the ladder, snipping the banner ties.
Your choice: this was civic cleanliness, or the removal of a painful playoff reminder before daybreak, or outsmarting the vandals and souvenir-hunters.
The ankle-deep pile of banners at the worker’s feet summed up this night: the big, bad Bruins were litter on the midnight sidewalk, the NHL’s best team of the regular-season torn down in seven games by a Canadiens club that simply was the better, smarter squad head-to-head.
The 34th series between these cantankerous rivals ended with predictable bitterness and belligerence, a time-honoured handshake line dissolving into ugly expressions and at least one threat of physical violence.
To knock off the Bruins, the Canadiens played the game for which they are styled — a balanced attack of speed, an aggressive forecheck, grinding when necessary, all anchored by superior goaltending.
On paper, Boston was the better club, the favourite to advance to the Eastern Conference final. But as Canadiens goalie Carey Price has said more than once: “That’s why I’m glad we play the games on the ice.”
Much was said in Boston that the Habs’ confident demeanour following Game 6 was a lot of “false bravado” that wouldn’t translate to Game 7 success.
Here’s the fact: this Canadiens team has never once not believed in itself, never getting too high after a win or too low after a loss. That wasn’t false bravado; anyone who’s been around these players for any time knows it was soaring confidence.
The Bruins also had a wide edge in the arrogance department, something that’s a hallmark of their teams of recent vintage. That brewed as the series wore on and finally boiled over after the final siren as players formed the historically traditional single-file line, handshakes that can be thin on sincerity but acknowledge at least grudging respect of an opponent after hard-fought battle.
At game’s end, Bruins forward Milan Lucic removed any doubt that he’s a thug masquerading as a hockey player. His vocal, strong-arm bid to intimidate Canadiens forward Dale Weise and defenceman Alexei Emelin was as weak as Lucic’s performance on the ice during the series; he scored once, into an empty Montreal net, and had two assists. In Game 7, he didn’t have a single shot on goal.
His hollow work didn’t stop him from beating his chest like King Kong after hitting the Habs’ vacant net in Game 2, or from showboating with a biceps pump in the direction of P.K. Subban during Game 5.
Weise happily returned the gestures, thumping his chest to Lucic when he scored in Game 3, then flashing Lucic a sarcastic biceps pose during the Canadiens commanding 4-0 win in Game 6, as the two butted heads and taunts throughout the series.
Lucic would have been wiser to skip the handshake line altogether and explain and/or apologize for his absence later; he wouldn’t have been the first player unwilling to shake hands with opponents with whom he has sourly or viciously sparred.
TSN analyst and three-time Stanley Cup champion Aaron Ward, who’s done more than a few handshake lines both as victor and vanquished, confirmed with multiple sources after Game 7 that Lucic told Weise that he would “f—ing kill” him next season.
Lucic’s actions embarrassed his entire club, which is saying something when you consider that club includes Brad Marchand.
Dave Stubbs, Montreal Gazette, (’05/16/2014).
My opinion is that Weise should probably not have leaked Lucic’s remarks to the media. It was said on the ice and perhaps it should have stayed there. That being said, Lucic is a huge jerk and a very poor sport. He is an excellent player and someone whom you really like if he’s on your team, but who is really disliked intensely if he plays for an opponent.
Bell Centre Wednesday night: the game was in Boston but there were actually three or four thousand more fans watching the game on huge screens at the Bell Centre than there were for the game itself, played at TD Gawden in Boo-ston.
Rémi Bourget wore the bear over his shoulder, like a shawl, until he realized it might not have been a good idea. The Montreal lawyer, who is an enthusiastic fan of the Canadiens, believed the bear was still a powerful symbol, but decided it was best to tuck it under the arena seats for the rest of the series, just to be safe.
“Of course, sometimes it gets dirty down there, with people spilling their beer or their Coke,” Bourget said on Thursday. “And now it’s gone through a seven-game series, so like everyone, it’s not in as a shape as it was.”
Over the course of that seven-game series with the Boston Bruins, the bearskin Bourget and a group of his friends bought online became a minor celebrity. It travelled to Boston for Game 2, and it was in the Bell Centre for all three games in Montreal, put to use as a beacon for fans nervous about playing the big, bad Bruins.
“It was important for us to show that we were not afraid of the bear, we were not afraid of poking the bear,” Bourget said. “There’s this expression in French … meaning you don’t sell the bearskin before you’ve killed it.”
Late Wednesday night, after the Canadiens eliminated their ancient rivals with a 3-1 win in Game 7 of their Eastern Conference semi-final, the bearskin was put on parade.
Good luck to the Canadiens from here on in.