BOSTON, MA – The buzz and excitement has been building since Sunday night when the playoff schedule was released. The Bruins and Toronto Maple Leafs, two Original Six rivals and Northeast Division foes, will be meeting in the playoffs for the first time since 1974.
And tonight, shortly after seven o’clock, the series will finally get under way.
“Absolutely, I think everybody’s excited about this, and we’re no different,” said B’s Head Coach Claude Julien following today’s morning skate. “Our guys this morning went on the ice, they were looking forward to going out there.
“I think there’s excitement in the air, and it should be that way. It’s playoff time. You work hard all year to earn that opportunity, and we’ve earned it.”
Andrew Ference talked about the playoffs having a different feel. There is a heightened atmosphere around the building and in the dressing room.
“I mean there’s always the same excitement,” said the B’s alternate captain, when asked what it is like to wake up the morning of a playoff game. “It’s so hard to get to this stage, to get to the playoffs. So there’s that feeling of pride for the season you had, and to battle here, but that’s yesterday.
“You’ve got to turn the page to today and get excited for today, for the challenge. Everyday you wake up and watch the highlights from the other games, and you come in here and everybody’s kind of got that extra buzz in the room. It’s a really good feeling. It’s fun.”
The Garden faithful feel the buzz, too, and when the B’s and Leafs hit the ice this evening it will be deafening. The building is always booming, but when it is playoff time, Bruins fans take it up a notch. For David Krejci, that is always what he remembers most about the playoffs.
“The crowd,” Krejci said, when asked what he can recall from his very first playoff game. “Boston fans have been great. In the playoffs it's like another level. It's really fun to play in front of those fans and I expect it to be the same thing tonight, so I'm looking forward to it.”
While the Garden will be rocking tonight, and the Bruins will no doubt draw energy from their fans, they will have to try reel themselves in and make sure they play a composed game.
“You’re excited,” said Tyler Seguin, “but that being said, you want to keep your emotions in check and stay focused and make sure you have everything prepared.”
For many of the Maple Leafs, it will be their first taste of the postseason. Combined, the Leafs – who are making their first trip to the playoffs since 2004 – have just 206 games of playoff experience, to the Bruins 1273. Fifteen members of the Leafs will be making their playoff debuts tonight, including young forward Nazem Kadri.
“The guy’s haven’t stopped talking about it for the last three or four days. It’s finally nice just to be here and ready to go,” said the 22-year-old Kadri, who has played just 99 career games.
“This is something, growing up, I used to watch all the time. Being on the ice, Stanley Cup playoffs, is almost like an eye-opener for you. It gets me that much more excited for seven o’clock.”
Kadri’s teammate Clarke MacArthur is making his playoff debut, as well, but has had to wait a bit longer than his younger linemate. MacArthur is in his seventh season in the league, and has played 403 games, but none in the playoffs.
“It’s been a long time coming,” he said. “I can’t wait to go out there and get a piece of it for myself.”
On the other hand, Wade Redden is one of the most experienced playoff veterans in the series. The defenseman has suited up for 101 career postseason games, fifth-most on the Bruins.
“This is what we all play for, this time of year everything is on the line,” Redden said. “It’s going to be fun, going to try and enjoy it as much as I can. It’s obviously an intense atmosphere, but [I’ll] try to go out there, play loose and play free, and that’s the best way to approach it.”