This rivalry feels less built on vitriol, and more on pre-destination.
It’s something about Blue and White teams, man.
Something about the Blue and White teams of this league that seem to be the biggest pain in the tuchus for Boston.
Tampa is this powerhouse who showed up when nobody was looking that seems to do nothing but annoy everybody (or more accurate to Florida, begin firing at will) who looks at them, that’s bad enough. It’s far more annoying when you’ve become so familiar with the other. Especially when it feels like you’ll be seeing them come April.
It’s a brand new season in the NHL, a full one with normal divisions and no bubbles (for now), and that means…once again…the Toronto Maple Leafs are once again a massive blight on our lives, starting on November 6th, and ending at some point in the first round of the playoffs.
And it will be a massive blight, there’s no doubt about it.
Everything is about the Leafs
Indeed, the NHL’s version of the Cowboys or Yankees will once again occasionally show up during the regular season with it’s massive media engine demanding both perfection and success while also hearkening back to the old days (I don’t know why, they weren’t any good in the last half-century), while also decrying any form of hockey that happens to interact with their stars at all, all of whom they seem to have various amounts of blind love and rage for.
The actual playing of these games is almost tangential, and y’know what? That sucks, because by and large they’ll be great games.
They’ll definitely be closer than they have been in the past decade; both teams play a fast, fun, and most importantly successful form of pro hockey, so that when the Leafs come to town, they’ll unquestionably be hot tickets.
And yet it’ll never actually be the game that matters. It’ll all be about how the poor, misbegotten Leafs fared against the Boston Bruins and what that means for the poor, misbegotten Leafs.
It’ll always be about how the poor, misbegotten Leafs ran up into the Big Bad Bruins who had nothing but bad intentions with the poor misbegotten Leafs even if they have more money than god and have spent it on a bunch of major, top-10 players, many of whom will be Olympians, some of whom even came from the Bruins themselves.
They’ve had every advantage afforded to an NHL franchise and still play the downtrodden wretch when in reality they piss it away. Maybe during the Ballard years they might’ve been able to say that. Maybe.
But not right now.
I’ve seen this movie before
But the worst part. The very absolute worst part…is just how obvious it will be that the Leafs will probably end up being in the exact position come Game 82 to play the Boston Bruins a g a i n in the playoffs.
It feels like destiny is smashing these two teams together like action figures and demanding they kiss. The Bruins could lose every game from February to March and it’d still wouldn’t matter. The Leafs could have a mathematically unassailable point lead by December and it wouldn’t matter. The Scotiabank Arena and TD Garden could fly 200,000 feet into the air and they would inevitably collide so that this misbegotten strategy the league devised in getting “rivalries” to form continues to mutate into what it is today.
And for what it’s worth, its predestination has only ever been one-sided: this rivalry isn’t Detroit and Colorado trading haymakers in the late 90’s and early 00’s, this is just eternally coming from one team trying so hard to say it’s their “debut” like they’re a belle at a ball year after year after year and then falling flat on their face with a big wet fart punctuating it. It hasn’t even been Boston the last couple times this happened! But we’ll still harbor the blame for it.
It’s not just that it’s obnoxious, it’s that there’s so much of it so fast. I mean, shit. If it was the Habs? It’d be at least a little easier to stomach. This is just…aggravating.
Anyway, we’ll see them for Game 7 of the first round. I’m sure it’ll be a barn burner.
Streaming games this year
Hey, we finally get to see some real rivalry teams again, including the Leafs!
With the return of old foes come new ways to watch games, and ESPN+ is one of the new places you can see some old rivalries this season.
The streaming service will broadcast more than 1,000 games this season, which is a lot of games.