|04.18.14 at 2:00 pm ET|
Pressure is what you make it.
As the Stanley Cup playoffs begin, the Bruins are making it nothing more than chance to fulfill their own expectations.
According to the Vegas line provided by Bodog.com, the Bruins are 7-2 favorites to win their second Stanley Cup in four years by the time late June rolls around, and for good reason. They are relatively healthy heading into the playoffs, though nursing injuries to Daniel Paille and Chris Kelly while battling a flu bug.
“Well, we never get comfortable,” Claude Julien said before Friday’s Game 1 with the Red Wings. “We’ve always talked about that. No matter what we’ve accomplished, we always know that the good things happen from hard work, so the minute we stop working hard and focusing on the areas we need to focus on, things can change. So that’s always been our approach.”
But it’s not the flu or injuries to Paille or Kelly that are of primary concern – it’s the parity in the Stanley Cup playoffs that present the biggest obstacle. Julien reminded everyone Friday that there’s nothing to be taken for granted when a team like the Bruins take on a club like the Red Wings, a difference of 24 points in the season standings.
“Not with parity,” Julien said. “I don’t think that exists anymore. I’ve been mentioning that for the last couple of days, about the percentage of upsets in the first round over the last couple of years. So it just goes to prove to you that anything can happen in the playoffs. We’ve seen it many times before and I don’t expect that to change this year also.”
Bruins defenseman Torey Krug says he learned a lot from his first experience in the playoffs last year. That experience, he says, will help as he and the Bruins open the 2014 Stanley Cup playoffs against the Detroit Red Wings at TD Garden.
“Pressure is whatever you put on yourself,” Krug said. “This team has high expectations of itself. I wouldn’t call it pressure. We’re going to respond well to whatever it is. We’re excited to get things going.”
Krug broke onto the scene in the 2014 playoffs as a power play weapon and an offensive force.
“You have to play like that,” Krug contined. “If you’re scared to make mistakes, the puck is going to end up in the back of your own net. You have to make sure you play with confidence. That’s the same message the coaching staff was preaching today. It’s the same thing as last summer. Just eager to get going. It’s an exciting time.”
|04.18.14 at 12:49 pm ET|
Brendan Smith is a bit more vocal than Reilly Smith.
Reilly, more of the shy type with the media, is extremely self-effacing. When things are going well, he’d rather somebody else get the credit. When things aren’t, he’s a little harder on himself.
So it was interesting Friday to talk to his brother, a defenseman for the Red Wings, about some of the major storylines that have surrounded Reilly’s young career.
Reilly was a big part of the package the Bruins received in the trade that sent Tyler Seguin to Dallas. Brendan recalls the day the trade went down, as he was hanging out with Reilly that July 4.
“The thing was, the first time we saw it was on Twitter. We were just on the couch and [see] ‘Reilly Smith is traded for Seguin with Loui Eriksson,’ and the whole deal,” Brendan said Friday. “We were kind of thrown off, and then when we thought about it, we thought it was a great fit for him. He could earn his position and go in and play hard.
“I knew going up, he worked really hard in the offseason. I wouldn’t say he was nervous, but he was really adamant [about] going into camp in really good shape and trying to earn a good spot on the team. Look what he’s done. He’s done a great job, and you’ve seen him. He’s a mature kid for his age, so it’s a been a testament to him. I have to give him a lot of credit.”
|04.18.14 at 11:59 am ET|
Every Stanley Cup playoff series got a head start on the Bruins and Red Wings. Now, on Friday night, Patrice Bergeron and the Bruins get their chance to show how ready they are after a league-best 117 points in the regular season.
“It was great to have those games and get in the mode of playoff hockey and watching it all helps to get a focus,” Bergeron said Friday morning after participating in a light optional skate before Friday’s Game 1 at TD Garden. “I was getting antsy just watching, for sure. You want to get out there, you want to get going. It’s nice that it’s finally tonight.
“I’m not rooting for anyone except us right now, so I’m just watching games and, like I said, it helps me getting focused just by watching it and being ready for tonight.”
The biggest break for the Bruins and the Red Wings is that they’ve had a full four days off since the regular season ended on Sunday.
“I think it’s good for everyone, just with the schedule we’ve had after the [Olympic] break,” Bergeron said. “It was pretty crazy so it was good everyone to get ready and now we’re looking forward to it.”
|04.18.14 at 11:44 am ET|
Matt Bartkowski was once again not on the ice Friday for the Bruins’ morning skate, meaning he has not skated at all this week. Bartkowski, who was spotted in the Bruins’ dressing room Friday after showering, may have been one of the Bruins battling the flu this week.
With Bartkowski’s status for Game 1 against the Red Wings in question (Claude Julien is not giving updates on his players), Andrej Meszaros could be called upon to play Friday night to play on the second pairing alongside Johnny Boychuk. If he is, he says he’s ready.
“Yeah, if I play, I’m ready to go,” Meszaros said Friday morning. “I can’t wait actually to start the playoffs. It should be fun.”
The Bruins acquired Meszaros, a left shot defenseman who can play both sides, at the trade deadline from the Flyers for a conditional draft pick. Assuming everyone on Boston’s back end is healthy, Meszaros would likely serve as an extra defenseman.
The fact that the Bruins’ opponent is Detroit makes the situation all the more interesting, as Meszaros had one of his worst games as a Bruin in Boston’s 3-2 loss to the Red Wings on April 2. Meszaros, who was paired with Boychuk for that contest, was a minus-2 in the game and was exposed by Detroit’s speed.
In particular, Darren Helm flew by him in the neutral zone with the B’s on the power play in the second period before Tuukka Rask stopped the shorthanded bid. He was also on the ice for Tomas Jurco’s game-tying goal in the third period.
“They’re a really, really good team,” Meszaros said. “They have a lot of skill and a lot of speed. We have to be ready for that and match their intensity. It’s going to be a fast game.
“We should have won that game, but obviously we didn’t,” he added. “We had a lot of chances. [Jimmy] Howard played way too good. You have to put pucks on net and get traffic in font and get as much traffic as we can. When you go to the net, you’ve got score goals.”
Meszaros was rotated in and out of the Bruins’ lineup down the stretch and has played 14 games with two goals and there assists for five points with the B’s. He admitted there was an adjustment when he came over, but says he’s all caught up now.
“I understand everything. Everything is fine now,” Meszaros said. “I know the system, so it’s just about execution and playing hard and playing the right way that they want me to play.”
|04.18.14 at 10:21 am ET|
Bruins forward Daniel Paille skated with defenseman Adam McQuaid prior to Friday’s morning skate, which might suggest he will not be in the lineup for Game 1 of the first round of the playoffs against the Red Wings. Paille has been out since last Saturday with what appeared to be a head injury.
The morning skate was optional, with Chris Kelly and Matt Bartkowski — neither of whom have practiced this week — among the missing. That group of absent players also included Zdeno Chara, Tuukka Rask, Jarome Iginla, Milan Lucic, Kevan Miller and David Krejci.
Following the skate, Claude Julien said there were “no updates” to offer on the status of his players.
Before you rule out Paille, here’s a quick conspiracy theory: Considering morning skates are non-contact, perhaps the B’s just had Paille do his work before to throw folks off the scent as to his availability. However, his skating beforehand should be taken as a sign he won’t play.
For more on the Bruins, visit weei.com/bruins.
|04.18.14 at 9:47 am ET|
The Bruins will take on the Red Wings in Game 1 of the playoffs Friday evening at TD Garden.
“We like what we have,” Thornton said. “We said that at the deadline when people were talking about it. We like the group of guys we have. We like the room, how it’s made up, so hopefully that equates to some success here.”
Boston is favored in the matchup despite going 1-3 against the Red Wings during the regular season.
“If you start believing your own hype, it comes back to bite you sometimes,” Thornton said of the expectations for the Bruins.
Thornton added that it’s difficult to accurately predict the outcome of a hockey game.
“You put the work in and play the right way,” Thornton said. “You hope that you’re doing the right thing that will get you the win. We don’t really look at the big picture too much.
“You’re right, hockey is a sport that can go either way. Freaky things happen out there. … You just focus on playing our game and hopefully we get the win out of that.”
Following are more highlights from the interview. For more team news, visit weei.com/bruins.
On Jordan Caron: “We’ve played with him during the year. He’s a big body, good skater. He hasn’t played a whole lot of playoff games, but we have some chemistry — me and [Gregory Campbell] with him. He plays a straight-line game. It should be pretty good.”
On Chris Kelly and Daniel Paille: “They’re both really good players. They’re both really fast skaters. Their speed is a big attribute for us. I don’t know what’s going on there if they’re in or out.”
On the B’s needing hatred for the Red Wings to play at their best: “This time of year you shouldn’t need anything extra to motivate you. It’s playoffs. I think, like you said, we can play without [hatred]. If it happens, it happens. I like the way our team’s built. We can play any style game that way as far as we’re not going to get pushed around, but we’ve got a lot of skill that can play hockey, too.”
|04.17.14 at 1:04 pm ET|
Chris Kelly, Daniel Paille and Matt Bartkowski were all absent from Thursday’s practice, which puts their availability for the start of their series against the Red Wings in question. Kevan Miller, who had not practiced Tuesday or Wednesday, did return to practice.
Following the practice, Claude Julien wouldn’t rule any of the three out.
Paille has not played since leaving the team’s win over the Sabres last Saturday with what appeared to be a head injury, while Kelly sat out the last three games of the season with back spasms. Neither have practiced this week, while Bartkowski, who didn’t have any injury-related absences from games this season, has been off the ice as well. He may be dealing with the flu, as several Bruins had been sick earlier in the week.
“I don’t know that it’s official yet on any of that stuff,” Julien said. “Today was another day where we had another player, so we’ll see what tomorrow brings. It’s hard for me to start giving you my lineup when I don’t know what’s going to happen day to day. Hopefully it continues to improve, which it has this week, and we’ll go from there.”
Dennis Seidenberg skated again prior to practice Thursday, which marked at least the fourth consecutive day in which he took the ice. Seidenberg did the same routine that he had done in recent days (big laps, smaller circles in the neutral zones, shooting and moving laterally across the blueline), but added a drill in which he skated out to a cone and took a tight turn before catching a pass and turning. Tighter turns would suggest further progress as he tests what his surgically repaired right knee can handle. Video of that drill is below.
For more on the Bruins, visit weei.com/bruins.
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