We are 30 Days away from the beginning of the 2015-2016 NHL Season. Summer is coming to an end, and we are all looking forward to puck drop. We still need to go through the steps of the off season before we get excited. For Habs fans, we welcome the Golf Tournament, Medical Checks, Training Camp and Pre-Season Games. If we could fast forward to October 7th, and skip the events that have to fill the void of Regular Season hockey, I'm sure we would all agree that we would take that road. It is what it is, and we have to take the small grains of news to get through the next month.
I try to watch all 82 games once the season starts, but we all know there are some dates circled on your calendar. They are the games you need to watch and will change plans and re-work your schedule to make sure you're on your couch, cracking open a beer, and watching the pre-game. Everyone has there personal favourite rivalry for the Habs, but over the years, the popular opinion seems to shift to who, we as a fan base collectively hate the most. But who will be "The Team" for the upcoming season that has Montreal fans starting asking a higher power just to make sure they don't lose to the Enemy.
The Boston Bruins:
The Big Bad Bruins always make Montreal fans cringe with anger and hatred, and I'm sure Bruins fans feel likewise. The rivalry that has really ramped up through the early/mid 2000's and has been pretty consistent until last year, is a hatred we all love. Let's be honest here, as much as we hate each other, there is no other team you would rather watch with your friends and hopefully celebrate victory over. They hate us, we hate them, and it's fantastic. I personally started to dislike the Bruins once Richard Zednik came in flying toward the Bruins goal, only to meet a Mclaren elbow to the face in the 2001-2002 playoffs. Some may rack up the Chara hit on Pacioretty, but that's just another chapter in this heated relationship. Last year, while the rivalry was still strong, Montreal seemed to out play the Bruins, and with the Bruins not making the playoffs, and eventually dismantling some big names, I fear this hatred may need to take a rest. Fingers crossed that Marchand can still make sure swear, and some new Bruins emerge to keep the anger flowing, over the years, the devil we know seems to have a different face.
The Toronto Maple Leafs
This may be a bias from me personally. I live in the GTA, and by no means is it easy. Toronto Fans love to consistently take shots at Habs fans and they have a bit of an arrogance for a team that pretty much implodes yearly. If I'm going to be fair, when Montreal and Toronto face off against each other, I never have confidence, because the Leafs never make it easy on the Habs and your pretty much flipping a coin on if your team is going to win. I'm the lonely Habs fan when watching the games with all my friends, so I can tell you that the anxiety I feel when playing the Leafs is real. I really do like Leafs Fans because they are extremely passionate and they understand that their team isn't in any place to pump their chest. That being said, if the Habs lose on a Saturday Night, My Facebook page is flooded and the upcoming work week seems a bit longer. I'm sure it's the exact same for a Leafs Fan in MTL though, so I can't complain too much.
This year the Leafs got Babcock. That's all you need to know to make you feel like every game will be well coached and the new system will be harder to compete with. They are a bit of a misfit bunch, but I think with their coaching staff, we shouldn't put anything past them. Sadly over the years, with the Leafs falling ever since the Salary Cap era, the rivalry has diminished. No more Tucker to yap, Domi to fight, or Sundin to score. I think Leafs Fans still think Montreal is their greatest Enemy (Maybe Ottawa), but you have to consider that it's difficult to build a passionate rivalry when it's game 60 and the Toronto fan base is already thinking about the draft, and really don't mind another mark in the "L" column. While I don't like them, I do want the Leafs to do well, because I would welcome a MTL/TOR Playoff Series and so would you!
The Tampa Bay Lightning
The 2013-2014 Playoffs is where this seed was planted. Montreal swept the Lightning in four straight games in the first round, which did not sit very well with the Tampa Bay Squad, and they made it known. Last year Tampa completely owned Montreal, winning every single regular season game, and kicking Montreal out of the playoffs in six during the Eastern Conference Semi Finals, paving the way for their Stanley Cups Final appearance. Montreal definitely deserved a better fait here and played well, but maybe it's payback for the sweep Montreal delivered to Tampa, which would not have happened if Ben Bishop wasn't injured and actually had a chance to play.
If there is a team that can poke holes in Montreal's system, it's the Tampa Bay Lighting. They were the better team last year, and they don't look like they are going to slow down this year. Being a fan of your team isn't stating you are the best, because 29 times out of 30, you're wrong, and I think we can admit that Tampa was the better team in 2015. The good news is, as much as we know it, the players know it. If anyone wants to make a statement next year, the guys wearing their own names on their jerseys are most likely itching to do so. The competition to lead the Atlantic looks to be a good one.
So who is Montreal biggest rival next year? Will it be a team from the above list, or maybe a team that we may not be thinking about? Would love you thoughts.
Thanks for Reading.