|Bruins vs. Canadiens: keys to the first round||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.
|Claude Julien stresses importance of special teams||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.
|All present for final practice before playoffs||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:
|Bruins will pick ninth overall in NHL Draft||04.12.11 at 8:35 pm ET|
The Devils won the NHL Draft lottery Tuesday night, meaning they got to move up the maximum four spots from No. 8 to the fourth overall pick. Given that the team that won the lottery was already picking ahead of the Bruins, the B’s, who have Toronto’s first-round pick from the Phil Kessel deal, will remain at ninth overall.
For the second consecutive year, the Oilers will pick first overall. Edmonton selected Windsor (OHL) left wing Taylor Hall with the top pick last season. Edmonton general manager Steve Tambellini had tried to swing a deal with Boston to get the second overall pick as well in order to secure both Hall and Plymouth (OHL) center Tyler Seguin, but the B’s kept the pick and selected Seguin.
The rest of the top five sees Colorado picking second, followed by the Panthers, Devils and New York Islanders.
|Bruins answer northern practices question: Lake Placid it is||04.12.11 at 6:25 pm ET|
Given the odd setup of the Bruins and Canadiens’ first-round schedule (thank you, Rush and Lady Gaga), one of the oddities of the B’s trip to Montreal next week is that they will have both Tuesday and Wednesday to practice in between Games 3 and 4.
The question hasn’t been how, but where the B’s will spend next Tuesday and Wednesday. One logical option seemed to be somewhere in Vermont, but the team announced Tuesday that they will head to Lake Placid, N.Y. to practice at the Whiteface Lake Placid Olympic Center.
|Michael Ryder: ‘I know what I have to do’||04.12.11 at 2:35 pm ET|
WILMINGTON — All things considered, Michael Ryder stunk it up down the stretch for the Bruins in the regular season. Playing out the third season of a three-year, $12 million deal Ryder scored just one goal over his last 17 games en route to wrapping up a second consecutive 18-goal campaign.
Through his struggles, the hope for the Bruins was that Ryder could pick it up in the playoffs. Given his 13 points in 11 games in the 2009 playoffs, it wouldn’t seem so inconceivable. It’s far from a sure thing, as the signs of life from the forward seemed minimal at times over the final two months of the season (two goals over 25 games). Ryder had only five points in 13 playoff games last year, but he can understand why fans might expect him to elevate his game come the postseason.
“Playoff time is pretty easy to get pumped up for,” Ryder said in his usual reserved demeanor. “This is what we play for. It’s the most exciting time of the year, and if you can’t have fun and can’t get excited to play, the I think there’s something wrong. I enjoy the playoffs, and I want to make sure I get off to a good start and try to help this team go as far as we can.”
Given his laid-back attitude, it’s no surprise that Ryder rarely shows frustration with any individual struggles. Even prior to the season, Ryder never got too low on the fact that he had a tough year in 2009-10. Yet just as he rarely shows frustration, Ryder is not the type of player to get carried away when things are going right. It seems it isn’t so much a lack of emotion as it is keeping a level head.
“Through my career, I’ve been through everything,” Ryder said. “I’ve been a healthy scratch here and there and I’ve been through tough seasons. I’ve learned a lot from everything. For me, when I stay calm, I know what I have to do. I’ve been in the league long enough, and I know what I have to do to be successful to do things.
“When things go bad, I kind of [have to] calm myself down, even though I don’t show it sometimes,” he admitted. “It takes a toll on you when you don’t score and you’re supposed to score. I just try to stay calm and try to find my way. I guess everyone has their own way of getting out of things.”
The Bruins can only hope that Ryder can find his way out of his funk. Coach Claude Julien, who hasn’t been afraid to make Ryder watch games in the press box as a healthy scratch, is simply trying to look ahead rather than in the past.
“Where [his game] it at doesn’t really matter right now,” Julien said after Tuesday’s practice. “Where it’s going to be when the playoffs start is what should matter. That’s what we’re going to wait and see.
“It’s a new season, it’s a new start, and our worry right now is where we’re going to be as a team.”
|Brad Marchand tones it down: ‘If they hate me, they hate me’||04.12.11 at 1:39 pm ET|
WILMINGTON — It was too predictable that with the Bruins playing the Canadiens in the first round of the playoffs, Brad Marchand‘s stall in the Bruins dressing room had media members awaiting him Tuesday. The B’s forward has not been afraid to speak his mind in the past, especially when it comes to the Habs.
Yet Tuesday, which marked the B’s first postseason practice, Marchand, who earlier in the season said that the Habs like to “shoot their mouths off” and “dive down easy,” was far more complimentary of the Canadiens and was focused more on his excitement to play them.
“It’s going to be a lot of fun,” Marchand said. “The history between the two teams is going to make it very interesting. I know the fans are very excited for it. It’s going to be a great series. They’re a great team over there, and they’ve played very well against us this year, so have to make sure we’re ready.”
Marchand had 21 goals and 20 assists in his rookie season, becoming a fan favorite for his scrappy play and abundance of interesting quotes. He also is responsible for one of the bigger brawls of the season in Feb. 9’s game when he hit James Wisniewski What’s made him so popular in Boston has predictably made him one of the more disliked Bruins in Montreal, but he doesn’t mind.
“I don’t care what the fans [say]. I just want to go out there and play my game and try to help the team any way I can.
“I’m not there to get the fans to hate on me. I’m here to help the team win, and if they hate me, they hate me. That’s how it goes.”
The playoffs begin Thursday, with the B’s hosting the first two games before heading into Montreal for what’s sure to be a hostile environment.