The stakes are higher, the hits are harder and the post-whistle scrums come often.
There’s been eight suspensions handed out in the first round of the playoffs, including the one-game ban Washington Capitals center Nicklas Backstrom received for his cross check to Rich Peverley
’s face at the end of Game 3.
That said, the Boston Bruins vowed not to change their style of rough-and-tough play and the decision was reflected in the team’s practice Wednesday.
“We need to battle, we need to make sure we’re ready for that,” Bruins forward Patrice Bergeron
said. “[Tuesday] was a day to get our energy back and rest, but still today was the day to get back on track and make sure we’re battling and ready for tomorrow. And tomorrow’s going to be the same thing again and every battle, every inch is really important.”
Towards the end of the team’s practice Wednesday, the Bruins worked on battle drills – something forward Milan Lucic
said is a pivotal key to winning games.
“That’s a big part of our game and that’s a big part of the series right now,” Lucic said. “There’s a lot of one-on-one battles and winning them, that’s why we do a lot of those drills in practice just to fine tune.
“Like I said, we’re looking forward to a big Game 4 and I’m sure [Washington is] as well and it’s going to make for another loud game at the Verizon Center.”
Boston Bruins forward Shawn Thornton
agreed with Bergeron and Lucic, and said that this time of year warrants physical play.
However, the B’s pugilist advised that physical play doesn’t mean dirty play.
“It’s playoffs so I think a lot of teams are playing that style of game,” Thornton said. “Physical, I mean you can’t pass up on any checks this time of year. Every little bit helps. So as long as no one is spraying snow, everyone’s playing through bodies and that’s the type of playoff hockey everyone wants to see.”
While Thornton said he fueled off the boisterous crowd at the Verizon Center in Game 3, he turned his ear to the noise surrounding the suggestion that the Bruins had a hidden agenda for their physicality in the series.
“We’ve been getting criticized?” Thornton asked rhetorically. “I just worry about going out there and playing the same way every night. I don’t look at the outside stuff too much.”
Bergeron took a similar approach on the conflict, and preferred to ignore the outside distractions.
“I said it last year and the same thing this year, it’s about making sure we stay in our own bubble and don’t listen to what’s happening outside our room or our own team,” Bergeron said. “It’s about us playing well and bringing our A effort and you know, it’s not easy. [Washington’s] a great team and every game’s a huge battle.”
Even without Backstrom playing in Game 4, Lucic anticipates a strong challenge from the Washington Capitals.
“Backstrom’s a great player and he’s one, if not their best centerman on their team,” Lucic said. “But in saying that, they’ve had to battle without him for a long time with him missing all that time with the concussion and they were able to get some success without him so with him in or out of the lineup, we expect them to bring their best and we have to bring ours as well.”