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Eric Wilbur's Sports Blog

10 Years After Canadien Player's Flop, Bruins Aren't Any More Saintly

Has it really been a decade?

Amazing how time flies when you continue to pull the same crap.

It was ten years ago this month that Montreal Canadiens center Mike Ribeiro pulled one of the most memorable acts of on-ice embellishment during Game 3 of the Bruins-Canadiens Eastern Conference quarterfinal round. It was in the final minute of play, with the Canadiens leading, 3-2, in a series that Boston led 2-0, that Ribeiro played a Mike Knuble hit into something devastating. Ribeiro lay there on the ice, flopping like a fish in feigned agony, yet remained on the bench for the remainder of the game, and even made some gestures in the Bruins’ direction, satisfied in having pulled one over the referee’s eyes.

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"Obviously as you can see he got hurt really badly and I really felt bad for him," Bruins right wing Martin Lapointe said sarcastically. "The way he acted out there, I thought he needed a stretcher."

"I just think when I started -- and I don't want to sound like I'm some old guy here -- guys were embarrassed to dive, and now you see more and more of that, too," Brian Rolston said.

“Our game, a lot of it, is based on honor," Knuble said. "When I was coming up, if you did something like that, heck, you'd be embarrassed to come back to your own room. But maybe some guys figure they have to do what they have to do. I don't know, now I'm reaching, I guess."

It would all make you wonder what someone like Bruins head coach Claude Julien, who famously called the Canadiens out for their embellishment tactics last season, might have thought of such transgressions.

Oh, wait. He was Ribeiro’s coach.

"They were yelling and he yelled back. You see him chirping, but they initiated it," Julien said after his Habs won their first game of the series. "How can we all stand here and say he was faking it?"

Yes, Claude, how?

See, this is where this gets tricky for Bruins fans, who take immense pride in calling out their rivals for a hockey culture bred on diving, embellishing, and drawing penalties. Julien was behind the bench, coaching the likes of Ribeiro, Maxim Lapierre, and Alexei Kovalev, It was only a week ago that he had to watch Brad Marchand play up a questionable knee injury in Game 3 against the Detroit Red Wings. Certainly, for Julien to maintain that embellishment is embarrassing the game of hockey is somewhat disingenuous, particularly when he’s coached some of the most notorious offenders of the lot north of the border, and doesn’t exactly employ 23 Eagle Scouts in Boston.

That video clip is about five minutes long. There isn’t enough space here to present the vast library of incidents involving the Montreal Canadiens.

Oddly enough, the Canadiens head into the second round of the NHL playoffs with only 13 power play opportunities under their belt, better only than the Tampa Bay Lightning (seven) the Habs just dispatched in four-straight. They’ve scored on two of the 13 opportunities, a 15.4 percent success rate that ranks in the middle of the playoff pack. The Bruins, of course, are leading the way with a remarkable 37.5 percent success rate (6-for-16), but have only had three more opportunities than their rivals.

Pittsburgh’s 29 opportunities lead all active (sorry, St. Louis) NHL playoff teams, which isn’t all that surprising since, you know…

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Call it ease of opponent if you will, but you just know the Canadiens won’t be on the same behavior track against the Bruins that they displayed against the Lightning. It certainly won’t be on the same track as the regular season, when the teams were on “church league behavior” as the Montreal Gazette’s Dave Stubbs put it, “The Bruins picked up 53 penalty minutes total compared to the Canadiens' 45, and 24 of those 98 minutes — 12 each — were assessed to Montreal's Brandon Prust and Boston's Kevan Miller.”

“Good rivalry,” said Shawn Thornton, continuing our week-long downplaying of the hatred that exists between the franchises until later this week or the weekend. “My initial feeling is, embrace it . . . both teams get into it, so I’m going to enjoy it.”

The last times these two teams faced off in the playoffs, the Bruins were forced to come back from an 0-2 deficit to beat the Canadiens in a Game 7 overtime, to that point, arguably the biggest win for the franchise in more than a decade. It had only been a year prior that the Bruins, of course, blew a 3-0 lead to the Philadelphia Flyers in one of the greatest collapses in NHL playoff history.

Six years earlier, Boston held a 3-1 advantage on the Montreal Canadiens (a series which included an epic double overtime win for Boston in Game 4),only to watch Julien’s team win three straight and move on in 2004, a year in which the Bruins boasted one of the team’s strongest units of the past 20 years.

Yet it collapsed in frustration at the hands of the Canadiens, with Ribeiro playing the poster boy for how the Habs’ culture of drawing their opponents into a disadvantage is the Montreal way. They deceive to achieve. And their fans and embedded media members prey on the nauseating actions more than any other in the NHL.

"When you develop a reputation like that, hey, you're not just mocking or embarrassing us, you're also embarrassing the referees,” Knuble in the wake of Ribeiro’s Oscar performance. “And I'll bet some of his teammates are embarrassed as well. I mean, you start to flop around like that . . . hey, the next time you deserve a call, or you're hurt, you aren't going to get any sympathy from the referees, that's for sure. It's the boy who cried wolf, I guess."

Nothing has changed. Prepare for the howling.


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