McCarthy: Home has disadvantages for B's
For additional insight into the Stanley Cup Playoff series between the Boston Bruins and Montreal Canadiens, NHL.com enlisted the help of longtime NHL assistant/associate coach Kevin McCarthy.
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."
-- Arpon Basu
The Bruins are not shy to say they hate the Canadiens, with coach Claude Julien openly saying so Tuesday and forward Milan Lucic admitting as much Wednesday as the teams prepared for the start of their Eastern Conference Second Round series Thursday (7:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, RDS).
"Yeah, I mean I do," Lucic said Wednesday in Boston. "If you ask them the same question, I'm sure they'd give you the same answer about if they hate us. You know it's just natural for me being here for seven years now, and just being a part of this organization.
"You just naturally learn to hate the Montreal Canadiens, and the battles that we've had with them over the last couple years, it's definitely made you hate them. And I think this being the first time meeting them outside the first round, I think it's definitely going to go up another level."
However, it's difficult to find the same sentiment coming out of the Canadiens toward the Bruins.
Maybe that's what makes the rivalry that much better.
"I don't think hate is a good word," Canadiens goalie Carey Price said after practice Wednesday. "Competitive, maybe."
When told the Bruins hated the Canadiens, Price looked like a father admonishing his child for using a bad word.
"That's not very nice," he said, with a little grin.
The Canadiens look at the Bruins like any other team, or at least that's all they're willing to admit, and insist they don't make any changes to their style or identity when facing their fiercest rivals. But that style has invariably infuriated the Bruins over the years, and the Canadiens are hoping it has the same effect in this best-of-7 series.
"They're a big team and they like to play real physical," Canadiens forward Max Pacioretty said. "Obviously, we want to play physical, but when we just worry about our game and don't let the stuff after the whistle affect us, when we walk away from that and stay disciplined, I think we've had good opportunities to win games against them. They're going to be smart too in the playoffs. They're not going to be taking as many penalties as if it were just a regular game.
"We've just got to focus on our game and not worry about them."
Some might be surprised to know the Bruins were actually a less penalized team than the Canadiens in the regular season, with 10.8 minutes per game for Boston compared to 12.7 for Montreal. However, in the four regular-season games the Bruins played against the Canadiens, Boston averaged 13.3 penalty minutes per game compared to 11.3 for Montreal.
The disparity in power plays for the two teams reflected that, with Montreal holding a 17-13 advantage, or one extra power play per game, though the Canadiens held only a 2-1 edge in power-play goals.
"I always keep hearing the same thing, how Boston's going to hit us all over the ice, and maybe they will," Montreal defenseman Francis Bouillon said. "But all we need to worry about is winning games. If they do that and take penalties, then we need to score on the power play and win that way."
One player who often finds himself the target of some hatred is Canadiens forward Brendan Gallagher, the NHL leader in goalie interference penalties in the regular season and someone who regularly angers defensemen around the League with his relentlessness crashing the net looking for rebounds.
"I enjoy that part of the game," Gallagher said. "I don't go out saying I'm going to try and get under so-and-so's skin. It's just a part of my game. I try to go out and play hard, and the style of game I play, that usually happens.
"It's just a part of the game I welcome, especially in a series like this."
Unlike Julien, Canadiens coach Michel Therrien did not want to go anywhere near a question regarding his hatred of the Bruins, but his answer was revealing because it appeared to suggest the Canadiens don't care one way or the other.
"We're focusing on us," Therrien said. "That's my only comment.
"For me, it's not about the Bruins."
Except for the Bruins, it appears to be about the Canadiens. That difference is just another wrinkle in a fascinating rivalry that will write a 34th playoff chapter beginning Thursday in Boston.