BostonBruins.com – The physicality of both the Bruins and the Maple Leafs has been on display through the first three games of their Eastern Conference quarterfinal series. The two squads have combined for 245 hits in the three games, with Toronto holding a 129-116 edge.
“I don't think it's pleasant, there's been lots of hits,” said Andrew Ference pregame, when asked if the playoff series seemed tame compared to the others in the league. “Lots of good, hard hockey, there's been a couple of fights. I don't think it's been tame, I know when they forecheck, they forecheck pretty hard and it still feels like a pretty real hit to me.”
For the Bruins, the physical play has been driven by the line of David Krejci, Nathan Horton and Milan Lucic. Lucic has found his game in the playoffs, following a tough regular season. The winger leads the B’s with six assists in the three games and has registered 11 hits.
Lucic, along with Horton, are using their size and strength to create room for Krejci (two goals, five assists), who leads the team with seven points in the series. The two 'bash brothers' are getting in on the forecheck and driving hard to the net to create goals, wreaking havoc on the Maple Leafs.
“Off the faceoffs they're just so persistent and hungry,” said Leafs forward Nazem Kadri, on the trio. “It seems like even when – Krejci's a good centerman – but even when he's losing the draws, it seems like he's wining them because guys are jumping our D-men and really not giving us much time to make a play with it.
“They're pretty tenacious on the puck and we've just got to make sure we're keeping them to the outside there.”
B’s Head Coach Claude Julien has been impressed with the way Lucic, specifically, has played to this point in the series.
“He's obviously feeling much better about himself,” said Julien. “It's been a frustrating year for him, a frustrating year for us as well, not seeing Milan be Milan. Once he found his game and found his groove, I think it's pretty obvious to everybody how big a factor he is for our hockey club.
“He's physical and he's turning pucks over because of his physical play. And at the same time, he's making some impact plays, so he's been, arguably, our best forward so far.”
Most think of physical play as being hits and fights, but it's often much more than that.
“Our group, our success comes from being physical. Boston’s success comes from being physical,” said Carlyle. “Physical isn’t always the big body check, physical is winning your share of one-on-one battles. When there’s a 50-50 puck, you stop on it and win that battle. That’s really the tenacity and the one-on-one battle that we’re asking of our group, we’ve asked that of our group from Day 1.
“The hit totals the other night were 51-. That’s a lot of hitting taking place on the ice. But, again, that’s what we’ve expected of our group, that’s what it is in the playoffs. To have success, you’re going to have to do something a little bit more than ordinary.”
“I think the big hits are nice but they're not always there,” added Bruins center Chris Kelly. “I think getting in the way of people, having a good stick, stick on the ice, creating those turnovers and making them make a poor pass or poor play are just as important as the big hits.”
Tonight, the Bruins don’t foresee the physicality dying down.
“It's been a physical series throughout, everyone's finishing their checks,” said Shawn Thornton. “We don't expect anything less tonight, we didn't expect anything less from the start of the series either.”