As a Montreal Canadiens fan living on Canada’s west coast, there are two teams I find myself paying strict attention to. And no, it’s neither the Pittsburgh Penguins nor the Washington Capitals, the two everyone’s talking about because they deserve to be talked about, with Alex Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby on display, with Evgeny Malkin, after being hammered in the media for having a quiet round two, quickly finds his game and takes it to another level. Or even the play of Marc-Andre Fleury, who sometimes plays like a playoff goaltender, and other times plays like Theoren Fleury with pads on. Yes indeed, a great series to watch, but these aren’t the teams I’m paying special attention to.
I’m watching Boston and Vancouver in their particular series. Vancouver because they’re just down a windy road from me, involving two ferries to get to, and considered for most, not me but most, the home team in these parts. And Boston, well, because Boston is Boston. Montreal’s most despised rival, the team who swept the Habs in round one, and everyone, from the Boston Globe’s Kevin Dupont, to every Bruins fan on the planet, made us eat humble pie and they may have even peed it in first. Bruins faithful absolutely hate the Habs. Hate what they stand for. Hate the fact that they won so many more cups than them. The prediction was the Bruins would be too much for Montreal, and it became a lousy, gut-wrenching fact when it happed like that. And they rejoiced in our misery. Kicked us when we were down.
That’s why it’s a beautiful rivaly. We want our chance to kick them when they’re down too.
Surprisingly now, both the Bruins, who finished first overall in the east, and the Canucks, who finished strong and won their division title, are now in big doo doo. Bruins fans are surely reacting differently than the first series, as their team is now down three games to one to the Carolina Hurricanes. This wasn’t supposed to happen, thinks every single Bruins fan. “And heck, we don’t even hate Carolina like we hate Montreal. This really sucks.”
And the Vancouver Canucks, after sweeping the St. Louis Blues, now find themselves down three games to two and heading back to Chicago for game six. The Canucks knew they were going to be in tough against a good, young Chicago team. Just not this tough. If Vancouver gets eliminated, it’ll be yet another year where the team can’t get it done. Been this way since their initial season in 1970. They’ve never won the big one, and I know for sure that fans are sick to death of year after year of big-time disapppointed. And now I’m hearing everywhere that Mats Sundin in Vancouver is just a lousy carbon-copy of Mark Messier in Vancouver. Two big over-paid stars brought in to be saviours, and poof. Folks in these parts aren’t feeling good at this stage, being behind in the series like this. They’ve had it up to here with losing every single year. Incredibly, many are almost used to it.
If Boston loses this series, does it mean it turns out they just weren’t as good as they thought? They seem to have what it takes. Just play Zdeno Charo fifty minutes a game and the defence is looked after. The snipers are there, Bergeron, Savard, Ryder. Tim Thomas seems to be having fun between the pipes. Claude Julien’s a good coach. But if they lose, and you close your eyes, you can see millions of Habs fans in all corners of the earth with very small, very gentle smiles forming on their mouths.
Vaancouver has the world’s best goalie, Roberto Luongo, but from what I’ve seen, the young guns like Alex Burrows and company are starting to crack. There’s been unacceptable penalties taken by the Canucks, which of course, opens the door for the young Chicago studs to do their thing which they do very well, like score.
Time will tell. Both these teams can bounce back and win their series and breathe sighs of relief big enough to douse the Santa Barbara fires. But right now, both are in trouble. It’s all very interesting.