Bean: Why B's fans should root for the rival Habs (seriously) originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston
It sounds like the most outrageous question you could ask. If the Canadiens aren’t Boston's most hated team, they’re second or third. Historically, it’s in a Bostonian’s DNA to hate Montreal (while admitting the city is awesome).
But is it acceptable for a Bruins fan to pull for the Canadiens in the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs? I say yes.
Your options are the Vegas Golden Knights, Canadiens, Tampa Bay Lightning and New York Islanders. There’s only one totally safe choice for a Boston fan, which is Vegas, and there are plenty of reasons to like them: the Golden Knights winning can’t reflect poorly on the B’s, they’re still new and shiny enough and, most importantly, they have Dave Goucher.
But they’re a favorite, and that can be a turn-off. No Bruins fan is rooting for Tampa, given that they’ve been a greater threat to Boston in recent years than anyone. Plus, if Tampa wins another one, it only pushes the Bruins down the list of best Eastern Conference teams of the last decade-plus.
The Islanders? Definitely a likable team, but they just knocked the Bruins out. There’s going to be some hard feelings with Bruins fans.
Once you get past that whole "nearly century-long bitter rivalry" thing, the Canadiens really are a fun team to root for this year. Of the four teams remaining, they’re the one that truly came out of nowhere. They had the fewest wins and points of any team to qualify for the playoffs, and they really only qualified because there was a Canada-only division this year.
Having that division, it seemed, guaranteed that the Toronto Maple Leafs or Edmonton Oilers would make it past the second round. With Canada not having raised the Cup since 1993, an emerging Canadian team would get a crack at it by being one of the last four teams standing.
Number of years since a Canadian team won the Stanley Cup
Then the Leafs and Oilers fell apart in the first round and here we are. The Winnipeg Jets had no business even being in the second round, so they ended up being easy work for the Canadiens, who fired their coach this year.
The Canadiens making a run is the most ridiculous scenario possible. Plus -- and this is important -- you shouldn’t feel guilty for rooting for them because there is absolutely no way they’re winning the Cup. Vegas should smoke them (as they did in Game 1), and if they don’t, Tampa will.
But this is a weird year. It’s a different format and the league wasn’t sure what it would get. What it has now is a final four consisting of two wagons and two underdogs. The Canadiens just so happen to be the ultra underdog.
So root for the madness. Pull for the Canadiens. It’s OK. It’s not like they’re actually going to win.