Original Six rivalry renewed as the Boston Bruins and New York Rangers set to battle in realigned East Division
The New York Rangers and Boston Bruins have seen their fair share of grudge matches against each other over the years. The two franchises have kept their bitter rivalry alive despite not being in the same division of play since the 1973-74 season.
But in 2021, that is about to change.
Original Six Rivalry Renewed
As part of a new divisional realignment for next season that is COVID protocol-friendly, the Rangers and Bruins will see themselves together in the new East Division. The two Original Six rivals will battle it out along with the Sabres, Devils, Islanders, Flyers, Penguins and Capitals. This will also represent the 20 time these two rivals were in a division together.
The rules for the division, as stated by the NHL, will have the Rangers face the Bruins eight times this season, which is different from the usual four seasonal matchups the Rangers play against fellow Metropolitan Division teams.
The 1970’s was the peak of the Rangers-Bruins rivalry. Blood was shed, punches were thrown, sweaters were pulled, and other forms of anger were unleashed on the ice. But which particular moments and incidents stand out the most?
The Infamous Mike Milbury shoe incident
In 1979, typical rivalry matchup at Madison Square Garden went unusually south, and fast at that. After punching Ulf Nilsson, Boston winger Al Secord was accosted by a fan in the stands, which had the Bruins, led by Terry O’Reilly, go into the crowd, to hunt down the culprit.
“There was no way he was going to strike one of my teammates and steal his stick, wield it like a weapon and then disappear into the crowd and go to a local bar with a souvenir and a great story,” O’Reilly said in a 2009 New York Times interview. “As soon as I got him into a bearhug, I felt like I was being pummeled by multiple people. All I could do was cover up.”
Blueshirts get some Stanley Cup retribution
The Rangers eliminated the Bruins from the 1973 playoffs in a four-game sweep, but it had an even more bittersweet feeling than usual.
The Blueshirts had fallen to Boston in the Stanley Cup Finals the prior year before, and after 1973, the two franchises wouldn’t face off in a playoff series until 2013.
Two years after the sweep, a major, impactful moment occurred between the two Eastern Conference power houses.
Espo heads to Broadway
Before the 1975-76 season, Phil Esposito had twelve seasons-worth of NHL experience under his belt, and had led the league in goal scoring in the previous six-straight seasons before then. On November 7, 1975, he was sent to Madison Square Garden.
The Bruins traded their star goal scoring machine to the Rangers along with Carol Vadnais, and received Jean Ratelle, Brad Park and Joe Zanussi from the Blueshirts. It truly was a massive trade.
Esposito would go on to score 184 goals and notch 220 helpers in 422 games played donning the Rangers sweater, and finished up his tenure after the 1980-81 campaign.
The extensiveness Rangers’ history against the Bruins isn’t nearly as prominent as compared to other clashes. The Devils and Islanders, for example, have served more of a role as personal hatred for the Garden Faithful. But there are clearly certain moments in time the two clubs have marked with special interest in their history books. And now that the Blueshirts and B’s will face each other more than they’ve ever had this season, perhaps some more memories will be made. Whether they’re good or bad remains to be seen.
Rangers vs Bruins Dates
- 2/10/21 vs Boston
- 2/12/21 vs Boston
- 2/26/21 vs Boston
- 2/28/21 vs Boston
- 3/11/21 @ Boston
- 3/13/21 @ Boston
- 5/06/21 @ Boston
- 5/08/21 @ Boston (Final game of season)