Brian Leetch on M&M: Bruins ‘don’t feel an underdog’
|06.01.11 at 12:09 pm ET|
Hall of Fame defenseman Brian Leetch joined the Mut & Merloni show Wednesday morning to talk about the Stanley Cup finals, which get under way Wednesday night in Vancouver. To hear the interview, go the Mut & Merloni audio on demand page.
Leetch, who grew up in Connecticut and played collegiately at Boston College, was asked about the Bruins being underdogs in this series.
“I know they don’t feel an underdog,” he said. “When you have two good teams playing, sometimes it’s just an easier pick to pick the team with more points during the regular season, or they had a couple of better stats. But you look at their stats up and down, these teams ‘ we’ve almost gotten to 100 games now ‘ are almost identical. Right through the playoffs and the regular season, there’s not much that separates them. The goaltending is both excellent, their top players, their depth.”
Asked about the Bruins being physical while avoiding penalties, Leetch said: “I think when we talk about the Bruins playing physical, it kind of gets taken a little out of context, of them going outside of their game or playing some different style. Really, their game is to get the puck in, is to finish their checks. It’s not to physically intimidate a team or to injure or to get a different style of play going.
“It’s their strength. It’s the way they play. And that doesn’t mean taking the extra run, it doesn’t mean going out of your way. It means getting he pucks int eh areas where you can get in on the forecheck, where you can take the body, where you can play physical. And the Bruins know as a team, you’ll hear it come out of each guy’s mouth, that we’re at our best when we play that way. We’re at our best when we finish checks, we’re moving our feet, we’re involved physically. So, I don’t think it does anything to take them out of a comfort zone or to run around. It’s just emphasis on playing the game the right way, which for the Bruins means playing physical.”
Defenseman Tomas Kaberle has received some criticism for failing to produce for the Bruins. Leetch talked about the possibility that the former Maple Leafs star will be able to get things in gear in the finals.
“If you’re struggling with your confidence it’s hard sometimes to make that flip,” Leetch said. “That’s when you need your teammates and your coaches and everybody to help you out. That’s where I give coach [Claude] Julien and his teammates a lot of credit. It is hard coming into a new team, and when you’re facing some criticism or comments on the outside that get to you ‘ I don’t know if they are with Kaberle ‘ but I know his teammates have been behind him all the way and his coach has done a good job of putting him in advantageous situations out there and continues to play him on the power play.
“I really don’t see his game suffering from a lack of confidence, and I think that’s always the key. I think when you lose a player’s confidence out there, especially going into a big series like this, that’s where things can really get ugly. I think confidence-wise he’s ready to go. Obviously, they would love to get this power play going. I know I hear a lot of talk about him shooting the puck, but he’s a passer and he moves that puck and he puts a lot of guys in good positions. You need to score those goals on the power play as a five-man unit.”
Another Bruin looking to break out in this series is forward Milan Lucic.
“He’s a player that I’m not worried about on the Bruins,” Leetch said. “I see him relishing this opportunity. I know he puts pressure on himself to be better on the bigger stages in the big games, and I believe he’ll do that. I believe his personality translates well to pressure situations. I don’t think he gets significantly down on himself.
“I know he hasn’t had the production that he’s wanted to this point. And when he’s had opportunities they haven’t gone in. But as long as he is moving his feet and physically involved, I believe that will be enough to create opportunities because [David] Krejci‘s playing so well and [Nathan] Horton is shooting that puck well. I would be surprised if he’s not a factor in this series.”