BOSTON -- Let's get one thing straight: The Bruins will give a stick tap and a handshake to the Montreal Canadiens for their second-round Stanley Cup playoff victory, but Boston isn't about to kiss the Habs' sweater crest or their backsides, too.
This is a rivalry. It's one of the best in all of sports and it will remain that way going forward.
The Canadiens were a confident group and finished the Bruins' once-promising season with a 3-1 victory in Game 7 Wednesday night at TD Garden. Throughout the series, Montreal complained about a lack of respect from the Bruins, and the Canadiens used that as motivation.
Fair enough for the underdog team to use whatever is necessary for inspiration. But to spew those emotions after the series win, as the Canadiens did, is uncalled for.
Montreal defenseman P.K. Subban was one of the best players in the series. He's been a force for the Canadiens the entire postseason. He led the so-called disrespect cry and his teammates fed off of it.
Before Montreal's victory, Subban said it was the team's goal to silence the Bruins fans in their building and beat the hometown team. After the win, he continued his spiel.
"Anytime you're moving on to the conference finals it's a good feeling, but more importantly with the rivalry and against this team," he said. "Listen, it comes down to respect. I think we've done a lot of great things in this league since I've been here. Our team's done a lot, but we failed to get the respect that I think we deserve and I think we earned that."
Subban said he was "sick and tired" of the lack of respect and of those not giving Montreal the credit it deserves.
"Listen, everything that comes out of my mouth I try to think in the best interests of my team," Subban said. "It's just another opportunity for maybe people to talk about me a little bit more, maybe focus on me while my teammates do the job and get it done."
In the Bruins' locker room after the loss, Boston players disagreed with the notion of disrespect. Their belief, and it's understandable, is that this is the Stanley Cup playoffs, and things are said on and off the ice in the name of gamesmanship. It happens in every series, between every opponent. It was only magnified because the Bruins were playing the Canadiens. And it was magnified more because Montreal wanted it exaggerated.
The Canadiens' Dale Weise, who scored Montreal's first goal in Game 7, said the Bruins have a few players that do some "disrespectful things" and added that during the traditional postseries handshake, Boston's Milan Lucic was the one player who gave them a problem.
"They had a couple of guys, or sorry just one, that couldn't put it behind them and be a good winner," Weise said. "Milan Lucic had a few things to say to a couple of guys."
Lucic was irate that Weise would make such a comment.
"It's said on the ice, so it'll stay on the ice," Lucic said. "If he wants to be a baby about it, he can make it public."
Added Lucic: "Disrespect? I don't know what they're talking about, disrespect. Having a goal celebration, what kind of disrespect is that? I mean, I'm not going to say anything. I've got nothing to say about that."
Too many times in this series the Canadiens complained about the Bruins pounding their chest after a goal or flexing their muscles on the bench. The goal celebration in Boston is not something new to this series. Montreal took it the wrong way and made a big deal out of nothing.
"You talk about disrespect, but I don't think we disrespected them," Bruins coach Claude Julien said. "There's a rivalry here. We don't like each other because it's a rivalry. At the same time, the pounding of the chest, people who have been here have seen us do that all year because it's related to 'Boston Strong.' Our guys take some pride in what's happened with 'Boston Strong' and unfortunately everything we did seemed to be seen as disrespect in Montreal.
"We heard a lot of that whining throughout the series, but it had nothing to do with disrespect, whether it's flexing a muscle -- that's gamesmanship. It's like that in every round, so it's too bad it gets blown out of proportion.
"But you know what? They won the series fair and square. They were the better team tonight and you have to respect that. It's up to us to move on and then keep moving toward our goal."
This was exactly what everyone involved should have expected from these two teams. They have played more Game 7s (nine) against each other than any other two teams in professional sports. The current rosters have learned firsthand to accept the hatred. The respective ownerships, managements, coaching staffs, players and fans all feel the same way.
Still, the Canadiens felt it necessary to use "disrespect" as motivation.
Forget about squirting water at opponents, snowing the goalie, sticking the opposition in the groin, flops and cheap shots. Both teams engaged in all of it. It was hard-fought on both sides, and in the end Montreal won and Boston lost.
"To beat the Boston Bruins in Game 7 in their building, I believe those guys earned some respect," Canadiens coach Michel Therrien said. "Respect, you've got to earn it, and I think tonight those guys earned it."
Bruins forward Jarome Iginla is considered one of the most respected players in the NHL. He's a future Hall of Famer and he plays the game the way it should be played. He doesn't believe for one second that the Bruins did anything wrong.
"I don't think so," he said. "They talk a lot and we're just trying to play hard on the ice. We had a little ruckus after one game [Game 3] and that's playoff hockey. Hockey's been like that for a long time, but I thought [this series] was extremely tame, as far as the ugliness or whatever.
"They can say whatever they want. I give them credit, they played a good series, but I really don't think that's the case. We played a Game 7 and we would've liked things to go differently. It didn't."
Julien gave Montreal goaltender Carey Price plenty of postgame praise. Price, who also led Team Canada to a gold medal at the Winter Olympics in February with Julien as an associate coach, was the difference in the series.
"You've always got to give credit to the team that moves ahead," Julien said. "I'll tell you one thing: Their goaltender, Carey Price, was outstanding. He gave them a chance to win every night. There were some nights where we thought we could've come up with a win, but the way he played he allowed that team to win every night and certainly to play the way he did certainly gave his team a lot of confidence. That was, to me, one of the keys to their success was how strong Carey Price played for them."
I'm sure if you ask Therrien for an honest answer, he probably didn't like his players making the comments they did between Games 6 and 7. The last thing the Bruins needed was bulletin board material. But the Canadiens seemingly used the nonsense as motivation -- and won the series. The Canadiens did everything to convince themselves of the so-called disrespect.
"I'm not going to talk about the other team. I never talk about the other team," Therrien said. "The one thing I could tell, we were a group that was really, really motivated to win this series."
It will be interesting to see how badly the Canadiens will be disrespected by the New York Rangers in the Eastern Conference finals. I hear New Yorkers are really tough, too. Maybe the Canadiens will claim food poisoning next round.