Leafs vs. Bruins: Two Solitudes

By HOWARD BERGER

TORONTO (Feb. 2) – For a dedicated Leaf fan, tonight’s visit to Air Canada Centre by the Boston Bruins should perhaps include one of those TV warnings: “The following program may contain images that are disturbing to some audience members. Viewer discretion is advised.” Certainly, children should be watching another program.

Then again, maybe a new season will furnish a different result. It cannot be uglier than a year ago for the Maple Leafs, who were systematically destroyed by their pre-expansion rival. The Bruins prevailed in all six match-ups, concluding with an 8-0 destruction at TD Garden on Mar. 19.

Such dominance may have been extreme last season, but it followed a pattern that dates nearly half-a-century. Since 1966-67, when Bobby Orr graduated to the NHL as an 18-year-old and the Leafs won their last Stanley Cup, Toronto and Boston have been on different hockey planets.     

BOBBY ORR TAKES A BOW BEFORE THE 2010 BRIDGESTONE WINTER CLASSIC AT FENWAY PARK IN BOSTON. HIS ARRIVAL AS A ROOKIE DEFENSEMAN IN 1966-67 SIGNALED DECADES OF SUPREMACY BY THE BRUINS OVER THE TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS.

Simple numbers indicate how the Bruins have run roughshod over the Leafs. In 44 NHL seasons – beginning with the expansion year of 1967-68 – head-to-head statistics are emphatically lop-sided. Here is how Toronto and Boston compare since the Leafs last NHL title.

STANLEY CUPS: Boston 3, Toronto 0

STANLEY CUP FINALS: Boston 8, Toronto 0

STANLEY CUP SEMIFINALS: Boston 14, Toronto 5

MISSING THE PLAYOFFS: Boston 4 years, Toronto 18 years

LONGEST PLAYOFF STREAK: Boston 29 years, Toronto 8 years

MORE POINTS IN ONE SEASON: Boston 38, Toronto 6

100 OR MORE POINTS IN ONE SEASON: Boston 19, Toronto 3

It should therefore come as no surprise that Boston took Leafs to the wood-shed last year. Only time will tell if the clubs are more evenly matched this season and it all begins tonight at the ACC.

THE CARNAGE AT TD GARDEN IN BOSTON ON MAR. 19 OF LAST SEASON.

THROUGH THE YEARS…

IT BEGAN WHEN THE NHL EXPANDED FROM SIX TO 12 TEAMS (1967-68 LEAGUE GUIDE, ABOVE). IN 44 SUBSEQUENT YEARS, THE BRUINS HAVE ALMOST ALWAYS HAD THEIR WAY WITH THE MAPLE LEAFS – NEVER MORE-SO THAN LAST SEASON.

RARE EXCEPTIONS…

The Bruins haven’t demolished the Leafs without interruption. In fact, Toronto held quite an edge during the Pat Quinn era (1998-2006) – out-pointing Boston in four seasons. Even in 1996-97, when Leafs were coached by Mike Murphy and both teams missed the playoffs, the Blue and White prevailed with a clean sweep. Of course, the clubs met only twice that year, as Leafs were still in the Western Conference (a minor detail). Nonetheless, here’s a scrapbook reminder than should be appealing to fans in this city:

OCT. 24, 1996 – TORONTO 3 at BOSTON 1

NOT SURE THERE WAS AN “O. DOMI” PLAYING FOR BOSTON IN 1996-97. THE BOSTON GLOBE SIMPLY HAD A FUNNY TYPO (ABOVE) ON OCT. 25 OF THAT SEASON.

MAR. 3, 1997 – BOSTON 2 at TORONTO 4

And so the TORONTO-BOSTON rivalry resumes tonight here in town – the first of four meetings this season (MAR. 7 at Boston / MAR. 23 vs. Boston / MAR. 25 at Boston). Enjoy… if you can.

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