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|
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.”
Boston and Montreal are considered two of the hardest places to play in the NHL, with both featuring diehard fans who pack their respective arenas. Nilan sees the Bruins as having a more significant home advantage due to the team’s culture and style of play.
“I honestly think the Bruins do [have the better home advantage] because of the fan base, and it does go back to the old Boston Garden days,” Nilan said. “It’s a very, very uncomfortable place to play. The way the Bruins play, the way they stick together, the way they have big, beastly bodies. They’ve got some big guys who play tough, mean hockey. And that’s intimidating for a lot of guys. Especially if you’re not a big guy. It’s a difficult environment to play in. I would give the edge, I think somewhat, to the Bruins in that way.”
While home advantage is considered important and vital in other major sports, Nilan doesn’t see it as a necessary ingredient to win in the NHL playoffs.
“If there’s one league you can win on the road in, and home ice doesn’t mean as much, it’s the NHL,” Nilan said. “You can go into a building and if you get your game going, you get a lead and you can establish a game and put it all on the ice, you can beat a team. And you don’t see that as much in the other sports as you do in hockey.”