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Chris Nilan on D&C: ‘If anybody has an edge in any way in this series, it’s Boston’

04.30.14 at 10:16 am ET
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Former Canadiens and Bruins forward Chris Nilan joined Dennis & Callahan on Wednesday to discuss the upcoming playoff series between Montreal and Boston. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.

The Canadiens and Bruins met four times during the regular season, with Montreal winning three and Boston winning one. Despite that, the Bruins finished with the best record in the NHL and are considered not only the best team in the Eastern Conference but the favorite to win the Stanley Cup. Nilan sees Boston as having the slight advantage because of its tough, hard-nosed approach.

“If anybody has an edge in any way in this series, it’€™s Boston, and I think it’€™s the edge physically and size-wise,” Nilan said. “Montreal, I think they’€™re a better skating team, but if Boston takes that away from them, and they’ve done it before, then the Canadiens will be less effective. If Montreal can get their skating game going, and they have good support in all the areas of the ice, and they’€™re willing to pay the price, they’€™re willing to go the areas that are difficult to go to, then they can have success.”

Nilan, a Boston native who played for the Canadiens for 10 years and the Bruins for two years, has seen the rivalry from both sides.

“When you’€™re in it and you’€™re involved in it, you quickly realize how difficult it is to play against — I mean when you’€™re on either side,” Nilan said. “I was on both sides, I was in Montreal, and being in Montreal playing against the Bruins back in the day was extremely difficult. You’€™re always in for a tough game. You had to fight, you had to take the hit. You had to do some things that were very uncomfortable.

“It was the same for the Bruins when I was there. The same thing. Both teams come on at each other. Both teams dislike each other. And it doesn’t matter back in ‘€™53 or what happened in ‘€™79, but it all builds and it all lends credence to the tradition of such a great rivalry.”

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Source: Bruins-Canadiens to begin Thursday at TD Garden

04.29.14 at 6:08 pm ET
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The Bruins and Canadiens will begin their Eastern Conference semifinal series Thursday night at at 7:30 p.m. at TD Garden, according to a league source. Game 2 is expected to be played Saturday, with the likelihood that it will be a matinee.

RDS reported the schedule for the series earlier Tuesday, which falls in line with all of that information. According to RDS, the schedule is:

Game 1: Thursday, May 1, 7:30 p.m. at TD Garden
Game 2: Saturday, May 3, 12:30 p.m. at TD Garden
Game 3: Tuesday, May 6, 7 p.m. at Bell Centre
Game 4: Thursday, May 8, 7 p.m. at Bell Centre
Game 5: Saturday, May 10, TBD at TD Garden
Game 6: Monday, May 12, 7 p.m. at Bell Centre
Game 7: Wednesday, May 14, TBD at TD Garden

For more Bruins news, visit weei.com/bruins.

Daniel Paille cleared to play, Bruins glad to have Dennis Seidenberg practicing

04.29.14 at 1:18 pm ET
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Bruins forward Daniel Paille said after Tuesday’s practice that he has been cleared to play after recovering from a suspected head injury.

Paille hit his head on the ice after a hit from Jake McCabe on April 12 and missed the entire first-round series against the Red Wings. Given that Paille had two concussions earlier in the season, he said Tuesday that the team was extra careful in bringing him back this time.

“Because it’s my third injury this year, there’s a lot more precautions to kind of rule out,” Paille said. “I believe I could have played midway through the series — I didn’t feel like I had too long of any symptoms/injuries — but there was a lot of precautions and I had to continue with that process.”

Paille began taking light contact last Thursday, but Tuesday’s practice saw him participate in battle drills. As for the notion that he could have been brought back sooner, Claude Julien said the Bruins simply followed protocol during the last round.

“I waited for the OK from our doctors. That’s basically what I waited for,” Julien said. “To say that he might have been ready, I needed to know that he was ready. I know he’s ready for the next round now.”

Paille practiced Tuesday on Patrice Bergeron‘s line in place of Brad Marchand, who did not practice. With Paille back, the assumption is that he will slide back into his old spot on the fourth line in place of Jordan Caron. Julien cautioned against assuming Paille is in the lineup just because he is cleared, but there is no doubt that Paille would be an asset against the speedy Habs.

“We’ll see where we are, guys,” Julien said. “The series hasn’t started yet and we haven’t made any decisions yet. Let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves here.”

Dennis Seidenberg also practiced Tuesday, but he did not take contact. Julien said that Seidenberg is skating with the team to prevent the “boredom” that comes from skating on his own each day. Seidenberg was initially ruled out for the season after tearing his ACL/MCL in late December, but he is well ahead of schedule in his recovery.

“It’s great to see. It gives you an emotional lift to see your teammate battling like he’s been battling just to be better,” Bergeron said. “Obviously he’s been doing that for a while. It’s nice to see him back out there, and obviously I don’t know what the timeline is there.”

For more Bruins news, visit weei.com/bruins.

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Dennis Seidenberg, Daniel Paille practice with Bruins

04.29.14 at 11:22 am ET
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The Bruins returned to practice Tuesday at TD Garden, with Daniel Paille and Dennis Seidenberg both participating. Chris Kelly, Corey Potter and Brad Marchand were all absent.

Paille, who has been cleared for contact since last Thursday, participated in battle drills and skated on Patrice Bergeron‘s line in place of Marchand. Seidenberg did not take contact.

Seidenberg skated on an extra pairing with Andrej Meszaros, with the rest of the lineup looking like this:

Lucic – Krejci – Iginla
Paille – Bergeron – Smith
Florek – Soderberg – Eriksson
Caron – Campbell – Thornton

Chara – Hamilton
Bartkowski – Boychuk
Krug – Miller

For more Bruins news, visit weei.com/bruins.

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Speed kills: Why the Bruins are annoyed with what you think of the Canadiens matchup

04.28.14 at 1:35 pm ET
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Bruins coach Claude Julien gets visibly annoyed when people talk about other teams’ speed being an issue for the Bruins, or the Bruins being too big and slow to hang with any squad with zip.

Turns out Peter Chiarelli does too.

After eliminating a fast team in five games, the Bruins once again face a speedy opponent in the Canadiens, and they’d like to be given a little more credit.

“It’€™s too [much of a] stereotype, and we’€™ve improved our speed,” Chiarelli said Monday. “I just hear about it all year, too, and obviously Claude and I talk, and we get tired of it. We have speed and we have heaviness and we have a little bit of a chip on our shoulder because of that, because of this label that we have. But fair enough. I understand where it’€™s coming from, I understand when you bring it up in the context of the Wings and now the Canadiens because they are — they’€™re both fast teams.”

Chiarelli traded away a lot of speed last summer when he shipped Tyler Seguin and Rich Peverley to Dallas, but the team has hardly turned into a bunch of cavemen on skates. The development of strong skaters on the back end in Dougie Hamilton, Torey Krug and Matt Bartkowski has actually made the Bruins a faster team in getting out of their zone and getting through the neutral zone.

Montreal is faster, to be sure, but the Bruins have quickness of their own to go with their physicality, which was seen throughout Boston’s five-game elimination of the Wings.

“It’€™s about closing gaps more quickly. It’€™s about establishing a forecheck and leaning on guys. It’€™s about our special teams,” Chiarelli said. “Both our PK and PP has been outstanding. We maintain that and we’€™re going to have success.”

Indeed they have. The Bruins scored six power-play goals in a series for the first time since 2010 in going 6-for-15 on the power play while holding the Red Wings to two goals on 20 Detroit power plays.

The biggest victim of the “Bruins are slow” narrative is Zdeno Chara, both literally and otherwise. The 6-foot-9 Norris finalist has never been a great skater, and the fact that he’s gotten up there in age and got injured late last postseason has painted the picture in some minds that he can be exposed. That’s yet to really happen though.

“We can’€™t really control what’€™s being said about us or maybe other teams, when they play us,” Chara said. “It’€™s more how we’€™re going to play and how we do things on the ice. I don’€™t think we are a slow team. Obviously we are built a certain way and we want to thrive on the way we’€™re built and excel in areas that we are good at, but I don’€™t think we are necessarily a slow team.

“I think we are able to skate and make quick transitions as well as any other team. I know what we can do it, and I believe that we can play with anybody.”

Said Chiarelli: “Despite the common belief that speed kills, I think we’€™ve shown that we have some speed and we have some size and we have experience. So it will be a challenge, but I think we’€™ll overcome that challenge.”

Read More: Peter Chiarelli, Zdeno Chara,

Zdeno Chara named Norris Trophy finalist along with Duncan Keith, Shea Weber

04.28.14 at 11:30 am ET
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Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara has been named a Norris Trophy finalist, the NHL announced Monday. The other two finalists are Chicago’s Duncan Keith and Nashville’s Shea Weber.

Chara won the league’s top defensive honor in 2009 and finished in the top three in voting in 2004, 2008, 2011 and 2012. Keith won the award in 2010, but hasn’t finished higher than sixth in voting any other year. Weber has never won the award, but he finished second in voting in both 2011 and 2012.

Chara ranked third in points among the group of finalists with 40, but his 17 goals were just six behind Weber’s 23, which were tops among all defensemen. Keith ranked second among all defensemen with 61 points (6 goals, 55 assists), while Weber was third with 56.

Chara posted a plus-25 rating on the season, while Keith finished at plus-22 and Weber at minus-2. Perhaps the strongest case for Chara comes from advanced stats — a case we detailed here last month.

Updating those numbers and applying them to this three-way comparison leaves Chara looking pretty good. He was used in more defensive situations than Keith (48.3 percent offensive zone starts vs. 57.3 percent for Keith) while facing tougher competition (29.9 percent quality of competition vs. 28.9 percent for Keith) and still put up a nearly identical CorsiRel (+1.8 percent vs. +2.0 percent for Keith). Basically, Keith was used in a role that gave him more offensive opportunities, while Chara was used in a true shutdown role. And yet, Chara still swung possession in his team’s favor nearly as much as Keith.

Weber started in the defensive zone more than Chara (44.6 percent offensive zone starts), but actually finished with a negative CorsiRel (-0.7 percent), meaning that while Weber was used in similar situations as Chara, he didn’t drive possession for his team as much as Chara did.

Here is a visual representation of all those numbers via ExtraSkater.com. The pink for Weber indicates his negative Corsi, while Chara and Keith get the positive blue.

Shawn Thornton on D&C: You feel rivalry with Montreal ‘once you put your jersey on’

04.28.14 at 11:11 am ET
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Bruins forward Shawn Thornton joined Dennis & Callahan on Monday to talk about the team’€™s win over the Red Wings in the first round of the playoffs and its upcoming series with the Canadiens. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.

The Bruins clinched a trip to the second round after defeating the Red Wings in five games. In Game 5, Zdeno Chara gave Boston a lead that it would not give up when he made it a 2-1 game with four seconds left in the second.

“That was a huge goal for us,” Thornton said. “The timing was unbelievable. I think he, obviously, tried to put it through the back of the net, but with [four] seconds left in the period put us back up. I think that was a real kick start for us.”

With the win, the Bruins will move on to play a heated rival — the Canadiens.

“You feel (the rivalry) once you put your jersey on the first time going to the rink or the first time they come to you,” Thornton said. “The way both cities are into it, the history of it, you embrace it. It’€™s a fun rivalry.

“I think Montreal’€™s very, very opportunistic with their goal-scoring ability. I think — from what I can remember — they’€™re very dangerous around the net. They have guys who put the puck in. They have tall, speedy guys. Their (general manager) Marc Bergevin has done a pretty good job with getting them a little bit of sand paper and grit in the last year too, trying to not be all speedy guys. They’€™re a well built team.”

Thornton added that while Montreal’€™s Bell Centre is one of the most challenging buildings to play in, he also enjoys the atmosphere.

“Their crowd’€™s on top of you, somehow. And every once and awhile, they can force a ref into calling penalties,” Thornton said. “It’€™s not the easiest building, but it’€™s almost the most fun place to play on the road too because you can feed off the energy in there. … It’€™s got a good energy, and you can feed off it from both sides, I think.”

For more team news, visit weei.com/bruins.

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