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Barry Melrose on D&C: Maple Leafs have to ‘be the Boston Bruins to be successful’

ESPN NHL [1] analyst Barry Melrose talked with Dennis & Callahan on Thursday to analyze the Bruins’ Game 1 victory over the Maple Leafs [2]. Game 2 is Saturday in Boston, before the series shifts to Toronto on Monday.

After trailing 1-0 early in the first period, the Bruins quickly answered with two first-period goals and coasted to a 4-1 win.

“[The Bruins] were awesome after [Wade Redden‘s goal],” Melrose said. “They looked like the old Bruins after that. They were physical, their play in the neutral zone was great. I can probably think of 10 passes and plays intercepted by the Boston Bruins [3] in the neutral zone. They attacked the net with ferocity. And [Tuukka] Rask, he didn’t get a lot of work, but I thought he made three or four key saves when the game was on the line. It was just what the doctor ordered if you’re a Bruins fan.”

Melrose also discussed the importance for the Maple Leafs to be more physical in the coming games, and the consequence of not doing so — a quick exit in the playoffs.

“They have to play more aggressive,” Melrose said. “They’ve got to do some hitting. Toronto’s got to play on the edge. They’ve got to be finishing checks, winning battles. They’ve got to be the Boston Bruins [3] to be successful, and they weren’t last night. They were always retaliating, they were never initiating, and that’s got to change for the Toronto Maple Leafs [2]. If it doesn’t, this will be a short series.”

The Maple Leafs’ top offensive weapon, Phil Kessel [4], was essentially neutralized by the Bruins in Game 1. This is becoming all to familiar for Kessel, as he has struggled in his career against his former team, due in large part to Zdeno Chara [5]‘s stellar defense.

“Chara’s on the ice every time Kessel’s on the ice,” Melrose said. “That just shows how good Chara is. Year in and year out I would give Chara the Norris Trophy, he’s that good defensively and that’s what he did last night. He’s out there with that huge reach. He’s got that mean streak to him, and Kessel just has no open ice. Kessel needs room, Kessel needs some space to make plays and with Chara and that long stick and that huge reach, he just doesn’t have any time or space to make plays. Chara always eats Kessel up.”

The favorites out of the Eastern Conference are the top-seeded Penguins [6], who took care of the Islanders 5-0 in their playoff opener. However, as we saw last year with the Kings, anything is possible in the playoffs.

“We see that every year,” Melrose said. “We see LA last year make the eighth spot and win the Stanley Cup [7] and win it easily. It’s about getting your game together, it’s about getting hot at the right time, it’s about great goaltending, it’s about your special team kicking in key goals at key times and stopping their power play. We see it all the time. A team that looks unbeatable at the start of the playoffs loses in four straight. So, without a doubt things can change and change very quickly.”

Following are more highlights from the conversation. To listen to the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page [8]. For more Bruins news, visit the team page at weei.com/bruins [9].

On the Leafs’ pursuit of Canucks goalie Roberto Luongo [10]: “I’m not a big Luongo fan. He played last night for Vancouver, got beat by San Jose. Is he worth paying $9 million for 10 years or whatever crazy number it is and handcuffing your salary cap for the next generation? I don’t think so. … I thought [James] Reimer had a pretty good regular season. They made the playoffs for the first time in nine years, this kid must have done something right.”

On Wade Redden: “He found the fountain of youth in Needham, Mass., when he got traded to the Boston Bruins. He’s become the Wade Redden of old with the Ottawa Senators [11] when they went to the Stanley Cup [7] finals. Wade was one of the best defensemen in the NHL [12] at one time with the Ottawa Senators [11]. He was great. He was big, he moved the puck, he joined the rush like he did last night. He fell on hard times, the Rangers put him in the American League [13], then the St. Louis Blues picked him up and now the Boston Bruins picked him up.”

On Dougie Hamilton: “I think he’ll have an eye-opening moment. I don’t think it’s a rude awakening. I think when you’re sitting upstairs last night and you see all the hits and all the finishing checks and all the attacking the net, you can realize it’s a different brand of hockey. So I think when he gets his first game he’ll realize it very, very quickly. But he’s a smart kid and a very talented kid and he’s going to be a cornerstone for Boston for years to come. But I think he will be surprised how intense it is.”