BOSTON — In the first round of the playoffs against Detroit, the Bruins were seen as aggressors. They were physical, they were heavy and there was a common conception that if Boston could exert its will by using its physicality and its heaviness — and perhaps draw a few penalties in the process — it could get the Red Wings so far off their game that they would be unable to recover.
With a second-round series against Montreal looming, though, the tables have turned.
“I think the players get up for these games,” said Bruins Head Coach Claude Julien. “As a coach, you don’t have to do much of a pep talk when it comes to playing each other. It’s more about controlled emotions, making sure the rivalry is what it is but that your game still remains a game that is under control. I think that is going to be the big challenge for both teams in this series here.”
This time, the Canadiens are seen as the aggressors. This year, and in the many that came before it, they have been able to coax the Bruins into unnecessary penalties that ended up costing the Black & Gold dearly. They have been able to get the Bruins off their game, just like the Bruins did to the Red Wings.
It’s no secret, then, that this series will come down to controlling emotions — brushing frustration aside, staying focused, and once again, exercising will.
“It’s always going to be a little bit harder than other series because it’s Montreal, and the emotions are high, so it’s pretty easy to get out of your element,” said forward David Krejci. “But you got to stick with it, play smart and have in the back of your head that you’re playing for the team and for yourself, so when something happens, you got to suck it up and try to do everything you can to help your team to win.”
The last time these two teams faced off, it wasn’t that simple. The Bruins knew they were going to have to harness their emotions, but in a shootout loss that would snap Boston’s 12-game winning streak, the Canadiens managed to draw seven penalties. Three of them came within the first five minutes of play. One of them resulted in a Montreal goal.
“They've got a really good power play for one, and two, they do a really good job at drawing penalties, so I think our biggest thing is we can't get frustrated,” said forward Brad Marchand. “Even when we do get a penalty called against us, we can't let it bother us. We have to go out and continue to try and push our game on game, and use our strength and be physical and play the way we played last series. Hopefully, we'll be able to draw a couple of penalties on them.”
In that game at the end of March, the Canadiens came out and set the tone. They did exactly what they wanted to do. They put Zdeno Chara in the box right off the bat, they got the Bruins angry, and later in that frame, they managed to capitalize on that in the form of a goal.
“You don’t want to lose your cool to where you’re putting your team in jeopardy of being down a man by taking a stupid penalty or a retaliatory penalty,” said forward Milan Lucic. “Obviously, with the emotions of the game, naturally scrums are going to happen and stuff like that. And sometimes, sticking up for yourself or for your teammates, you got to know the situation and know when it’s right to do it.
“Obviously, there’s kind of a low-tolerance type of thing so far throughout the playoffs. It’s not going to change moving forward, so you don’t want to do anything where you’re putting your team down a man in key situations. But also, you want to stand up for yourself and your teammates at the right moments.”
This series, just like it was against Detroit, the primary goal will be getting off to a good start. When the B’s managed to do that against the Red Wings, they won, plain and simple.
The Bruins know the Canadiens don’t need any help putting the puck in the net, so they don’t plan on offering any unnecessary opportunities to the Canadiens’ power play.
“Discipline is always a key for every team heading into a playoff series,” Lucic said. “Both teams have real good power plays heading into this series that have been effective for them throughout the playoffs, and also throughout the whole season, and I think both teams know what this series can bring and know what to expect heading into his type of rivalry of what this series represents. So I know we’re prepared for it.
“We’re ready for a tougher challenge and we know that they’re going to bring their best, and you see what they’re able to do when they bring their best. They were able to beat a good team in Tampa in four straight games. So no other team has done that. No other team did that in the first round, and they’ve been sitting for the last nine or 10 days. We know that they’re ready to go and anxious to play, and so are we.”
And the B's certainly don’t plan on giving in to blatant agitation attempts.
“Some guys are best when they’re hitting, some guys are best when they’re chatting with the other guys,” Krejci said. “So that’s just part of the game. That’s just part of the player. So we’re expecting that, and I think we just have to focus on ourselves and our team, what we’re going to do.”
It can be a difficult balance between using emotions as fuel while simultaneously avoiding getting too caught up in them. The Bruins know that the adrenaline that comes with a playoff series against Montreal can be a boost. They also know that the adrenaline is enough to fuel the fire — they don’t need anything extra to get themselves going.
“I think you have to find that happy medium, and going out there, it’s just insane,” said rookie forward Justin Florek. “The adrenaline’s rushing, but at the same time, it’s just another hockey game and that’s just how you have to look at it. You have to use that emotion and that energy and try to harness it and just go out there and play hockey.”