BostonBruins.com – The series is between the Boston Bruins and the Toronto Maple Leafs. But much of the spotlight during this Eastern Conference quarterfinal has been on the battle between B’s defenseman Zdeno Chara and Leafs forward Phil Kessel.
It is strength and power versus skill and finesse. In the first game of the series, a 4-1 Bruins win, Chara got the best of Kessel, holding the former Bruin to just one shot on goal. Game 2 was the opposite; the Maple Leafs came out on top, with a 4-2 victory. Kessel tallied four shots and netted the winning goal just 53 seconds into the third period.
Tonight, the Leafs, being the home team, have an advantage because they have the last change. Leafs Head Coach Randy Carlyle may be able to keep Kessel away from Chara more than usual. But B’s Head Coach Claude Julien isn’t expecting much of a difference even with Toronto having the ability to determine the matchups.
“It doesn't,” said Julien, when asked how the dynamic differs on the road without last change. “There's a lot being said out there about Kessel and Chara and stuff like that. Phil scored a goal the other night the way he knows how to score goals, but not because Chara wasn't on the ice. It's because we had a parting of the Red Sea with the two D's that were out there.”
Julien has faith that no matter which pair of defensemen are out on the ice against Kessel, they will be able to shut him down.
“We don't have the last change, but we certainly feel confident with the D that we have that we're able to get the right guys out there,” he said. “So maybe Chara will be out there against him, maybe not. But again, I'm going to repeat the same thing that I said, this is a Leafs team, it's not a Kessel team.
“You look at the other players that have scored goals, there's some good players on that team that you have to look at, instead of just worrying about Phil. So, it's not just a one-man show here, it's a team. We respect that team as a whole.”
The Leafs have the same respect for the Bruins, and especially their Norris Trophy-winning captain.
“His reach,” said Leafs forward Matt Frattin, when asked of the biggest challenges that Chara presents. “He has a reach compared to nobody else in the league. That's something that you don't have that two or three extra feet when you're lined up against him. To try and get the blue line, you have to kind of chip it low and wear him down that way.
“What does he log, 28 minutes a game? He's out there half the time, you definitely notice him when he's on the ice, just have to play hard against him and play simple.
“He's the best defenseman in the league for a reason, we've just got to play hard on him.”