|05.01.14 at 2:33 pm ET|
One of the most encouraging signs the Canadiens were able to take out of their first-round sweep of the Lightning was the play of Montreal’s third line. The trio of Lars Eller between Rene Bourque and Brian Gionta combined for six goals as the Habs cruised past Tampa.
The question now is what that line will do against stiffer competition and a starting goaltender. Ben Bishop missed the entire series for Tampa, which gave Montreal a bit of an easier path to scoring 16 goals.
Bourque in particular saw the biggest uptick in his game, contributing three goals after scoring just nine goals all regular season. The 32-year-old hasn’t produced at the pace he did in his Calgary days when he scored 27 goals in back-to-back seasons from 2009 to 2011, but he thinks he’s at a point now with the Habs where he’s contributing a deep offensive group that could give the Bruins problems.
“I think we match up great against them depth-wise,” Bourque said Thursday morning. “Obviously they’re a good team, but I think we can play with them.”
Should the third lines play against one another, Bourque will go up against a familiar opponent in Loui Eriksson. The two played against one another often in their days out West, as Bourque played for the Blackhawks and Flames while Eriksson played for the Stars.
Eriksson is one of Boston’s top two-way players, and he and fellow 200-foot skaters Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci were part of an offensive group that aided Boston’s defense tremendously in eliminating the speedy Red Wings in five games in the first round.
Bourque hopes that the Habs can use their speed to their advantage against the Bruins with better success. The aim is to chip pucks behind Boston’s defense and maximize on Montreal’s quickness down low, but Bourque knows it won’t be easy.
“I think every round’s going to get harder,” Bourque said. “Boston’s a big, physical team, especially in front of their net. It’s going to be tough for us to get in front there and get those second and third opportunities. I think we have to sacrifice our bodies and just get to the front of the net. We know they’re going to be physical on us, but that’s where we’re going to score our goals.”
It goes without saying that Montreal’s top line is its most dangerous. The trio of David Desharnais between Max Pacioretty and Thomas Vanek packs an offensive punch, but Bergeron’s line figures to match up against them in Boston. From there, Krejci’s line will likely get Tomas Plekanec‘s line with Brandon Prust and Brandon Gallagher.
Peter Chiarelli said before the first round that top-six forwards often cancel each other out in the playoffs. If that’s the case, it will be interesting to see how the two offensively deep teams fare in the battle for secondary production. After all, Eriksson’s line with center Carl Soderberg and Justin Florek had a superb series against the Red Wings.
“I think they probably are [better defensively than Tampa], but I think that’s what made our team successful the first round, is that every line chipped in with a goal here and there in every game,” Bourque said. “To be successful against Boston, that’s what we’re going to need again because they have a lot of depth up front, a lot of depth on the back end and a good goalie, so I think goals will be hard to be come by, but I think the same could be said for our team.”
|05.01.14 at 12:44 pm ET|
The Canadiens are feeling plenty confident heading into their second round matchup with the Bruins, but Michel Therrien painted a pretty black-and-white picture of his team’s situation prior to Game 1.
After finishing second in the Atlantic Division to the B’s in the regular season, Montreal swept a Tampa team that was missing its starting goaltender in the first round to set up a meeting with the Bruins. Asked Thursday morning whether he felt his team should be considered an underdog in the series, Therrien, whose team beat the Bruins in three of four regular-season meetings, said Boston deserves to be favored.
“We’re playing against the best team. Underdog or not, the Boston Bruins are the best team in the league right now,” Therrien said. “We understand that it’s a huge challenge not only for us, but all the teams that play the Bruins this year.
“They finished in first place and it was well-deserved. So yes. We’re confident, though. I liked the way we finished the [regular season]. The way that we finished the year gave us the confidence to approach the playoffs. We had a really good first round, and again, the way that we played in the first round gave us the confidence for the next step, and this is the next step.”
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|05.01.14 at 12:04 pm ET|
Montreal sports radio host Mitch Melnick of TSN 690 joined Mut & Merloni on Thursday to discuss the Bruins-Canadiens playoff series and accusations that the Habs sell out in an effort to get penalty calls. To hear the interview, go to the Mut & Merloni audio on demand page.
The Canadiens often are criticized — at least in Boston — for embellishing physical contact in an effort to draw penalties.
“When the Bruins talk into microphones and cameras and are talking about stuff like, ‘We don’t do stuff like that. We don’t dive. We don’t embellish. We don’t do this, we don’t do that.’ Everybody does it. Everybody does it. Shawn Thornton, stand-up guy, he does it. Every player dives and embellishes a little,” Melnick said.
“The fact of the matter is, if you polled players around the league, who’s the most disliked guy on the ice, Brad Marchand probably wins that poll by a mile since Sean Avery was kicked out of the league. And do they respect Brad Marchand? Absolutely. It’s kind of like Boston toward [P.K.] Subban. The bigger the moment, the more P.K. Subban wants that spotlight. Those guys are winning hockey players. On the ice, in the heat of battle, they do things that drive you absolutely up the wall, and you want to strangle them. But there’s a respect factor. As long as they don’t cross the line and do stuff that ends up in a serious injury. These are winning hockey players.”
Subban has become the poster child for Bruins fans’ distaste for the Canadiens’ style. Melnick said Subban “takes a lot of abuse ‘¦ behind the play” and it’s not always visible to fans.
“I’m not trying to defend him. He’s still learning. He’s still a kid,” Melnick said of the 24-year defenseman. “He’s doing things that he won’t do a year from now, or two years from now. But it’s a growing process. And he feels that he gets so much abuse that once in a while he’s got to put some mustard on it.”
|05.01.14 at 11:41 am ET|
For the second time in three days, Brad Marchand was not on the ice with his Bruins teammates as the team held its morning skate in anticipation of Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semifinals against the Canadiens.
Marchand, who missed Tuesday’s practice but practiced Wednesday, was hoarse when he spoke to the media Wednesday, suggesting he was ill. Claude Julien — as is customary in the postseason — offered no update on Marchand’s health after Thursday’s morning skate, saying that “he took his option.” Based on that, the expectation should be that Marchand plays.
Daniel Paille, who missed the first round against the Red Wings due to a head injury, has been cleared to play for a number of days. Julien said that Paille is a game-time decision for Game 1. Assuming that Paille returns to the lineup, Jordan Caron would sit after filling in for Paille in the first round.
On the Canadiens’ end, Max Pacioretty was not on the ice for morning skate, but Michel Therrien said he too took his option. When asked if Pacioretty was OK, Therrien responded, “of course.”
For more Bruins news, visit weei.com/bruins.
|04.30.14 at 10:28 pm ET|
Boston’s most notorious pest knows he had better be on good behavior in this series since the whole hockey world – especially officials – will be watching.
Brad Marchand accepts the reputation he has built for himself as the Bruins most tenacious bad boy. It may have contributed to a pair of roughing calls in the third period of Game 5 against the Red Wings that gave Detroit some life before the Bruins extinguished the Wings, 4-2, to advance to Round 2 against Montreal beginning Thursday night at TD Garden.
Does Marchand feel like a marked man in these playoffs by both the opponents and officials?
“Yeah definitely, especially that second one,” Marchand said of his second roughing call in Game 5 last Saturday. “It was a push and you don’t see too many penalties called like that, even in pee wee like that. It was a tough but that’s a reputation that I’ve built for myself and I have to play through that. I think the biggest thing is to walk away from things that I don’t need to be part of.
“I think in time you get to know where the line is and the refs do a pretty good job of filling you in along the way. I got a couple of penalties that last game that I thought were tough calls but other than that, I think everyone is really doing a great job of playing our game, playing physical and walking away at the right times.”
Marchand knows he, Milan Lucic and the Bruins better skate away at the right time because Montreal enters the series with a potent power play at 17.2 percent in the regular season. The Bruins did finish the regular season with the eighth-ranked penalty kill in the league, coming in at 83.6 percent.
“Against Montreal, they have a really good power play for one [reason], and two, they do a really good job of drawing penalties,” Marchand said. “I think our biggest thing is we can’t get frustrated. We have to make sure that even when we do get a penalty called against us, we don’t let it bother us, and go out and kill it and continue to try and push our game on them. We want to try and be physical and play the way we did last series and hopefully, we’ll be able to draw a couple of penalties on them.”
Marchand did give a little insight as to what the Bruins might try to do to get under the skin of another emotional player, Canadiens goalie Carey Price, a goalie they beat in overtime of Game 7 of the first round of the 2011 playoffs.
“I think the biggest thing is he’s a really good goalie, he’s definitely emotional and all good goalies are,” Marchand said. “They compete and we’re going to have to find a way to try and get in front of him and it’s very tough to beat him straight up so we’re going to have to try and do some of that stuff.”
But running the goalie to intimidate certainly will not be an option, as goalie interference has been called throughout the NHL with regularity in the first round.
“I think in past years, in playoffs, they let a lot more go,” Marchand said. “It doesn’t seem to be that way this year. They call it just like regular season so you have to try to play intense and play within the ref’s rules.
“I think you have to continue to go to the net hard but stay out of the blue paint. I think that’s when calls are easily made when you get inside the paint and you hit the goalie. But if you go as hard as you can and you stop outside and you battle outside, we have to continue to do our job and get some ugly goals on this guy. We can’t shy away just because the refs call penalties.”
|04.30.14 at 4:16 pm ET|
Forget all the talk about keeping the emotions in check for a moment.
Understand that the essence of the rivalry between the Bruins and Canadiens is – at its core – about despising the opponent. It’s just like the Red Sox and Yankees, only the Red Sox and Yankees haven’t met 32 previous times in the playoffs.
Milan Lucic understands this. He will be a marked man in Boston by anyone wear blu, blanc et rouge. And it’s not just because of his hits on defenseman Alexei Emelin in the regular season. The Canadiens know that if they’re to keep Boston’s top line in check, it starts with putting a body on Lucic before he does the same to you.
Does Lucic hate the Canadiens?
“I do, and if you ask them the same question I’m sure they’d give you the same answer about if they hate us,” he said Wednesday after the team’s final full practice before Game 1 Thursday night at TD Garden. “It’s just natural for me, being here for seven years now, just being a part of this organization, you just naturally learn to hate the Montreal Canadiens, and the battles we’ve had with them over the last couple of years have definitely made you hate them.
“I think this being the first time meeting them outside the first round I think it’s definitely going to go up another level.”
|04.30.14 at 2:11 pm ET|
Bruins defenseman Dougie Hamilton joined Mut & Merloni on Wednesday afternoon, a day before the B’s return to the ice to start their second-round series against the Canadiens. To hear the interview, go to the Mut & Merloni audio on demand page.
The Bruins have been off since dispatching the Red Wings in five games on Saturday.
“It’s been good just to refresh a little bit, and I guess able to refocus,” he said. “Now we’re prepping hard for Montreal tomorrow. I think we were kind of expecting it to be Friday or Saturday, but nicer that it’s already tomorrow. I guess we’re all excited to get going now.”
Hamilton made two key offensive plays that led to goals vs. Detroit by taking advantage of a gap in the defense.
“Right from the start of the series they were kind of taking away everyone else and then kind of leaving me,” he said. “So I think it was up to me to make the good play and figure out how to beat that. I thought skating was the best idea. I guess I got, I don’t know, lucky on those two plays. But I think just they were really similar, kind of just holding the first guy off and getting through the blue line and then making a decision after that.
“I’m sure this series the penalty kill will be different, and I have to go back to how it was in the season.”
Hamilton said the Bruins will continue to be physical against the Canadiens, while trying to avoid ending up in the penalty box.
“We have to play our game and not cross the line,” he said. “I think obviously when you’re playing a team in a series I think you can wear them down. When we’re effective I think we’re chipping pucks in and forechecking hard and making their ‘D’ make mistakes. I think that really helps us. I think we’re definitely going to have to do that and keep hitting them and kind of try to wear them down, and hopefully not make them want to have the puck. Obviously not cross the line, but I think it’s a different mindset in the playoffs. But we’re definitely going to try to be physical again and fast, and hopefully get on them.”
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