Bruins, Flyers making history

LANCE HORNBY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:48 AM ET

BOSTON -- They are a generation removed from the last time the Broad Street Bullies and the Big Bad Bruins met in playoffs.

But like seeing cave drawings of war-like ancestors come to life, the tales are being told and re-told this week of the four series between 1974-78 when the Philadelphia Flyers battled Boston for the mantle of the NHL’s roughest gang in the Slap Shot era.

Bruins’ Marc Savard was channel surfing all-sports stations Thursday night and saw one of the battles from Boston’s five-game win in 1978, when only nine of the players in this series were even born. There in all their gory glory, were Clarkie, The Hammer, Orest Kindrachuk, Wayne Cashman, Terry O’Reilly and Mike Milbury.

“The physicality of it all,” Savard said was his biggest impression. “They showed all the old-time fighting, while the Dropkick Murphys were singing. It looked like an old-time rivalry and hopefully, we can keep it going.”

Well, they might get hauled on Gary Bettman’s carpet today for some of the free-for-alls permitted then, but Savard’s wish is a popular one here. If a Boston-Montreal dream series in late May is still a long way off and dependent on many outside factors, then why not Bruins vs. Flyers, with fans of the latter spilling out of trains and buses all day Friday.

“I’ve got to say it’s fun to play against them,” said Bruins bashing winger Milan Lucic. “It seemed like every team they’ve had the last 40 years has their Broad Street identity. It hurts after every game. But you find ways to put a smile on your face after playing a team like that.”

Starting with the 1974 Stanley Cup showdown when the Flyers won their first title at the expense of Boston, burnt orange and black became the most feared flag on the widening NHL seaboard. Philly and Boston split four series in five years, but original Broad Streeter Don Saleski cares less for the results of ’76, ’77 and ’78.

“The mantle (of toughest team or any kind of team) can only change hands if you win a Cup,” Saleski said from his office at a Philly area health insurance company. “They (Bruins) are still trying to get it back from the first time and they won’t get it back in this series.”

But Saleski added it would be insulting to think only two teams were worthy of consideration for most aggressive in the ’70s.

“Montreal beat us and beat Boston for the Cup and they were a combination team of skill and as tough as they needed to be,” Saleski said. “Buffalo (which came close to beating the Flyers for the ’75 Cup) were like that and Toronto was very competitive then, too.

“But fast forward to 2010, to the rate of speed and the hitting that occurs in the game, I just love it.”

The late Flyer genius Fred Shero would be pleased at how successor Peter Laviolette pulled this Flyer group together.

One of Shero’s favourite motivational tools was a bucket of water placed in the middle of the dressing room. He’d invite one of his scoring stars, such as Rick MacLeish, to roll up his sleeve, put his elbow deep in, remove it and then tell him ‘look at the hole in the water’.

“What hole?,” would be the confused player’s reply, to which Shero would snap “Exactly. That’s how much we’d miss you if you were gone.”

If Savard comes back at even 80% and the injured Flyers such as Jeff Carter doesn’t, Laviolette might need to keep a lot of buckets on hand.

“I don’t know if this will be as legendary as those (1970s) series,” Flyers goalie Brian Boucher said. “I think we both have lineups that like to play physical. So in that aspect, we’re going to have to fight for every inch we get out there. I think it will be a typical (Flyers-Bruins) series that fans are probably hoping for.”

lance.hornby@sunmedia


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