|04.14.11 at 1:54 pm ET|
The anticipation for the playoffs has been great enough for the Bruins, but “anticipation” might not even be say it all when it comes to Gregory Campbell.
The Bruins’ fourth-line center/unsung hero has been dependable for the B’s since being acquired in the Nathan Horton deal last June, and now he will finally be rewarded with his first playoff appearance since being drafted as a second-round pick in 2002. Six seasons in Florida yielded no opportunities to chase the Stanley Cup, so it’s safe to say Campbell is happy to be where he is.
“When you first start out in the league, it’s just a pleasure to be here and play in the league, but as you go further on into your career, I feel like winning becomes more important, and there’s a lesser chance of that,” Campbell said Thursday. “I’m fortunate enough to be here in Boston and have this chance to play in the postseason.”
Campbell tied a career-high with 13 goals this season and was a rock for the Bruins over 80 games this season. He hopes to extend that success into the playoffs, and he doesn’t seem to mind all of the heightened expectations.
“Playing hockey is fun enough, but when the games really matter is in the playoffs, and that’s what I’m looking forward to most, is playing games that actually matter,” he said. “Already you can tell, it’s just a different feeling. It’s been a while since I’ve had this, and I can’t wait to get started.”
Perhaps it’s no surprise that Campbell and Horton got head-starts on their playoff beards. The wait for the playoffs has been long enough for those two, as neither one has seen the postseason since their junior hockey days.
“It’s been six, seven, eight years since we’ve been able to grow one,” Campbell said with a laugh. “I’ve been champing at the bit. The last time I grew one, I was 19.”
For that reason, Campbell can actually identify with rookie Tyler Seguin. The 19-year-old’s playoff beard isn’t nearly as noticeable as some of his teammates’, but Campbell knows what it’s like.
“I give him credit for trying,” he said with a smile.
|04.14.11 at 1:09 pm ET|
The 2010-11 regular season was a successful one for the Bruins, but as they begin the playoffs Thursday, a reminder was offered for how it wasn’t so great for every player.
Center Marc Savard remains at home in Peterborough, Ontario, as he attempts to recover from post-concussion syndrome for the second consecutive season. Savard played in just 25 games this season before a routine hit from Matt Hunwick left him in such bad shape that the team had to shut him down for the remainder of the season and playoffs. He reportedly has experienced memory loss, among other symptoms. While the B’s are focused on the Canadiens, they haven’t forgotten about their star center.
“I’ve kept in contact with Savvy every week or so. We communicate, and things haven’t changed in his case, and it’s unfortunate for him,” Claude Julien said Thursday. “I’m sure he’s going to be sitting at home and watching these games and wishing he could be part of it because as a player that part of you will never leave.
“This is the most exciting time of the year, and I know he loved the times that he was in the playoffs. He was obviously a pretty important part of the success of our hockey club, so will we miss his play? Absolutely. You don’t lose an elite player like him and not feel it.”
|04.14.11 at 12:38 pm ET|
When Milan Lucic scored his 30th goal of the season last month, he shocked many, and it had nothing to do with the fact that nobody expected him to reach the 30-goal mark.
Instead, it was his wardrobe choice that came off as perplexing. It was March 22, and it was the debut of the now famous Bruins jacket.
The jacket, a worn-out windbreaker seemingly from the late 80’s or early 90’s, was brought into the Bruins’ dressing room by Andrew Ference. Since Lucic debuted the windbreaker, it has been worn by a variety of differnt players in post-game interviews, with it signifying that the player wearing it was crucial to the team’s success. The list has included Daniel Paille and Zdeno Chara, and though it’s a bit snug on the 6-foot-9 captain, Ference isn’t concerned.
“Tough luck for him,” Ference said of Chara with a laugh. “He shouldn’t be so big. It’s not our fault.”
Ference said Thursday morning that he bought the jacket on eBay. He frequents the auction site, and was happy to pick up the jacket for the B’s room to keep the players loose. He did note that the jacket may not be worn by the best player every night, noting that “Timmy [Thomas] would hog it all the time.”
To those seeing the players interviewed the disgusting threads, the purpose of jacket may be confusing, but Ference sees it as just another sign of how close-knit a group this Bruins team is.
“You’ll drive yourself crazy if you don’t have fun,” Ference said. “It’s not just this time of year. This time of year is intense, so you need a release, but it’s a long year. When people talk about camaradie and a good dressing room, I think the value of a good dressing room comes at this time of year.
“At the end of 82 games, you’ve spent a lot of time together. If you don’t have camaraderie and a good vibe in the room, you’re sick of each other. I’ve been on teams where you are kind of sick of each other. ‘¦Chemistry is a very important thing.”
Now in his 11th season, Ference has been around a few locker rooms in his time. The former Penguin and Flame knows what it takes to cultivate the right chemistry, and he feels the Bruins are doing it right.
“It’s been good here for years, but I think it’s like a marriage. It takes work,” he said. “You have to make sure that theirs a certain attitude. The biggest thing we’ve done in this locker room is just the inclusion of everybody, whether it’s the rookies or the older guys, or the Europeans or the Canadians.
“Everybody goes out together. The benchmark is you can literally see any person in the room and go out with them for dinner on the road, and it wouldn’t be weird. That’s not normal. I’ve been on teams where there was a cliquiness with certain groups. Literally, around the room, everybody’s been out for dinner with each other and hangs out together. It’s not forced. It’s really good. It’s really nice.”
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that Ference found the jacket on eBay, as he certainly has a history of getting his clothing online. Back in February, Ference strutted through the B’s dressing room at Ristuccia Arena rocking a “Darth Quaider” shirt that he customized online. The shirt, an homage to fellow defenseman Adam McQuaid, was certainly clever, but he can’t take credit for it.
Turns out the inspiration for the shirt came from his daughter. Prior to the season, she called Milan Lucic “Looch Skywalker.” From there, a Stars Wars-themed nicknaming frenzy began, with “Darth Quaider” sticking for McQuaid.
|04.14.11 at 10:40 am ET|
With the Canadiens in town for Game 1, there’s only one thing to do: play soccer.
After two straight days of practice in anticipation of the playoffs, the B’s held an optional skate Thursday morning, with the rest of the players getting loose with some hallway soccer.
Tuukka Rask, Anton Khudobin, Shane Hnidy, Tyler Seguin, Michael Ryder, Gregory Campbell, Chris Kelly and Matt Bartkowski participated in the skate. From the goes-without-saying department, expect Tim Thomas between the pipes and Tyler Seguin to be the healthy scratch.
We’ll have more from the Bruins and Canadiens dressing rooms after each team has its morning availability.
|04.14.11 at 1:35 am ET|
Finally, after plenty of hype, the Bruins and Canadiens are a matter of hours away from beginning their best-of-seven first-round series.
While one group of fans (and both will be present at TD Garden) chants ‘Ole’ and the other chants ‘USA’ (Bruins fans must really like Tim Thomas, as chanting ‘USA’ applies to only one player on the team), there will be hockey to be played. The Bruins-Canadiens rivalry is the circus of all circuses, but if either team gets caught up in it, they could slip. Here are the things that will actually matter in this series:
DICTATING THE TEMPO EARLY
The first game of a playoff series is a big one, but the first 20 minutes of this series might be even more important. The Bruins are capable of overpowering the Canadiens with their style of play, but there were multiple instances in which the B’s sat back early and waited until the Canadiens had already established their presence. The two teams were split, 3-3, in the first-goal department, and in the four instances that a team got on the board in the game’s first 10 minutes, that team won.
The Habs certainly gave their netminder plenty of work this season, as price finished second to only Cam Ward in games played among goaltenders with 72. That’s a heavy workload, but Price handled it well, and it will be interesting to see whether the 23-year-old wears down in the postseason.
While Price was very good for the Canadiens this season, TD Garden was far from good to him. After allowing one goal in a 3-1 Canadiens win back on Nov. 11, his other two trips to Boston this season provided Habs fans with reason to worry. He gave up 13 goals over two losses at TD Garden in 2011 and was yanked from the the March 24 game less than five minutes into the third period.
The mystery of how Price can handle this series is very intriguing. His eight shutouts this season suggests he should be considered capable of taking over a playoff series, and if he does, it could be a classic goaltending matchup. If not, the Habs could be in trouble.
MILAN LUCIC AND NATHAN HORTON
The Bruins are the better team in this series, so they need their best players to be relentless. It’s no secret that Horton can disappear in games and struggled with consistency at points of the regular season, but it’s unknown whether he’s susceptible to drop-offs in the playoffs. Horton had a pair of forgettable games in his first two contests against the Canadiens (zero points and just one shot on goal over a pair of losses), but came up big in the other three (three goals, four assists).
Lucic, meanwhile, enjoys being known as a playoff player, and his 18 points over the last two postseasons speak for that. Lucic stepped up his game big-time this season but after scoring his 30th goal failed to strike again in the final 10 games. Will he also take his postseason play to a new level, or will his goal-less streak spill over into the playoffs?
The Bruins couldn’t buy a power play goal down the stretch, and with special teams always playing an important role in the postseason, they’ll have to find a way to convert against a very good Montreal penalty kill. The Bruins were just 3-for-24 against the Canadiens on the power play this season, while the Habs were 9-for-28.
THE BELL CENTRE
The reason this series might not be a short one is because the Bruins could struggle playing at the Bell Centre, as they did during the regular season (0-2-1). The difficulty they’ve encountered winning games in Montreal will make the B’s home games even more important. The Habs are capable of stealing one or two on the road, and the B’s need to prove they’re capable of doing the same.
|04.13.11 at 12:40 pm ET|
WILMINGTON — Bruins coach Claude Julien spoke Wednesday about what his team must do to find success against the Canadiens in the first round of the playoffs. Among the things touched on was the play of special teams, an area in which the Habs have excelled and the B’s have struggled of late.
“This is a team that we’re playing that played good on the power play,” Julien said. “They’ve had success, and we’ve got to stay out of the box as best we can.”
While the Bruins’ penalty kill unit (which allowed three goals in the last six games) will be key, there is no area more lacking for the Bruins than the power play. Since acquiring puck-moving defenseman Tomas Kaberle, the success on the man advantage has trended in the opposite direction. The B’s have just seven power play goals in 67 opportunities since Kaberle joined the team.
The Bruins finished 20th in the league with a 16.2 power play percentage, while their 82.6 penalty kill percentage was 16th. Boston was 3-for-24 on the power play in six regular season games vs. the Habs this season. The Canadiens finished seventh in both power play percentage (19.7) and penalty kill percentage (84.4).
The Bruins got some work in on the power play Wednesday, and they can only hope their success with the man advantage is better in the playoffs than it has been for the last two months.
|04.13.11 at 11:06 am ET|
WILMINGTON — All the expected Bruins were accounted for Wednesday as the B’s held their last practice before they square off with the Habs in the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs.
No surprises in the color-coded lines: