When the Eastern Conference playoff bracket was set a few weeks ago, it felt like a Bruins-Canadiens semifinals was a foregone conclusion.
Neither the Lightning nor Red Wings put up much of a fight in the first round — winning one game combined.
It has all the elements — quality teams, high stakes and genuine hatred between the teams, players and cities — to make it an instant classic.
Perhaps knowing how much hype it will get, especially with such a long layoff between series, most of the Bruins players and head coach Claude Julien were trying not to stir up any additional emotion on Saturday after they eliminated Detroit at TD Garden.
“We know they are a quick and talented team,” said goaltender Tuukka Rask. “I’m sure it’ll be an entertaining series for the fans.”
Boston won the Presidents’ Trophy during the regular season but Montreal was one of the few teams to clearly have their number. The Canadiens were 3-1 against Boston in the regular season, but so was Detroit.
Bruins-Canadiens is unlike any other rivalry for Boston. Detroit just moved to the Eastern Conference this season so even though they are both “Original Six” teams, they don’t have much recent history to draw on.
That’s not the case with Boston and Montreal who will be meeting for an NHL-record 34th time in the playoffs.
The series will begin either Friday or Saturday at the Garden.
Nobody in the current mix can better relate to what the rivalry means than Julien, who was head coach of the Canadiens for three years. He spent four seasons in New Jersey and he is now wrapping up his fourth season in Boston.
However, he said Saturday he wanted to enjoy the series win over Detroit before jumping into that fray.