McCarthy played in more than 500 NHL games with the Philadelphia Flyers, Vancouver Canucks and Pittsburgh Penguins, then spent a decade as an assistant and associate coach with the Carolina Hurricanes, where he was a member of the staff that led them to a Stanley Cup championship in 2006. He joined the Flyers as an assistant during the 2009-10 season and stayed in Philadelphia until October 2013.
Teams play the regular season in order to not only earn a spot in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, but also to have home-ice advantage.
Except in the case of the Eastern Conference Second Round series between the Boston Bruins and the Montreal Canadiens, Kevin McCarthy thinks home ice might in fact be a disadvantage for the Bruins, at least to start the series.
The recent history between the two historic rivals has shown the Canadiens have an ability to goad the Bruins into a lack of discipline, something McCarthy feels could work better on enemy turf than if Montreal was starting the series at home.
"It's almost like you don't want to be embarrassed in front of your fans," McCarthy said of the Bruins. "So it becomes even tougher to stay disciplined, but it becomes that much more important for Boston.
"But I can guarantee that both coaches will be stressing the importance of staying disciplined."
Whenever the Bruins face the Canadiens, one of the primary talking points is the physical advantage Boston holds in the matchup. One might think it becomes a bigger advantage in the playoffs when you have to face the same team every second day.
But McCarthy is not of that mind, and in fact he feels this is another area where the Canadiens can draw an advantage.
"In the playoffs nobody fights, so there's no reason to feel physically intimidated," he said. "So when you're playing against a team with that physical presence, the most frustrating thing you can do is initiate contact and not retaliate.
"That just drives teams like that crazy."
One thing that might help the Bruins in the series against Montreal, according to McCarthy, is the fact they played the Detroit Red Wings in the first round, a team that plays a similar high-tempo, well-structured style as the Canadiens.
The Canadiens, on the other hand, played the Tampa Bay Lightning in the first round, a team that is in no way similar to the Bruins.
"Now the Bruins know what they're up against," McCarthy said. "Boston will probably be more mentally prepared for that series, so that's an advantage for Boston."
The Canadiens enter the series having won six of their past seven regular-season games against the Bruins. Though McCarthy recognizes the playoffs are a completely different animal, he feels a recent track record of success can give the Canadiens a mental edge.
"I think it's to their benefit going in there as the underdog knowing in the backs of their minds that they can beat them," McCarthy said. "They probably feel confident playing Boston because of that past success, even if they don't say it."