BOSTON, MA – It all starts anew on Wednesday night. The Bruins and Toronto Maple Leafs will begin their Eastern Conference quarterfinals series at TD Garden – their first playoff meeting since 1974.
After a sluggish end to a short, but exhausting, regular season, the Black & Gold are excited to start the second season with a clean slate and fresh outlook. They also want to redeem themselves after last year’s first round exit to the Washington Capitals in seven games.
“I think we were all looking forward to getting back in the playoffs,” said Milan Lucic. “Just because, personally, and as a team, it was disappointing the way things ended and the early exit [last season]. And for myself, not really being able to get going in a seven game series.”
“I think personally and team-wise we have a lot to prove going into this year’s playoffs, and we’re looking forward to the match-up and playing against a great team like Toronto.”
Lucic said the Bruins must look ahead, not back, and forget about the way the regular season ended, despite the fact that there are only two days between the end of the regular season and the start of the playoffs.
“With all of the hockey that we’ve played and not much rest between games, even with a couple of days between, it’s a quick turnover, but we’re excited to be where we’re at,” said the B’s burly winger.
As if the playoffs didn’t bring enough added attention, the Bruins will be facing a team in the Toronto Maple Leafs that have one on of the most rabid fan bases in sports, with one of the largest media contingents. But Lucic says, they must tune out all of the hype and distractions and play to their strengths.
“To be playing the team that we’re playing is going to be a real hard battle,” Lucic added. “We’re not looking at what’s happened in the past or what’s happened this year in the [regular] season. We’re looking at what we need to do to make sure our game is at our best and what we need to do to win this series, and we know they’re going to come out hard.
“We know there’s a lot of buzz around that team, a lot of buzz around that city, and we’ve got to make sure we come out in Game One playing the way that we know how to play.”
Jaromir Jagr, who missed the final two games of the regular season due to flu-like symptoms, spoke along the same lines as Lucic, saying it is up to the Bruins to determine their own fate in the postseason.
“I feel like if we play the best hockey that we can play, we can beat a lot of teams,” said the future Hall of Famer. “That’s why I’m saying it’s up to us, and we can do it. We didn’t play our best hockey the last, probably, 10 games. Something was always missing. There were some good plays, but then we didn’t score goals; we made bad decisions.
“We never played a 60-minute game our best, so it’s up to us how we’re going to play. You don’t have to worry about other things, but we have to make sure we play our best hockey.”
For Nathan Horton, this postseason is even more special. A playoff hero during the B’s magical run to the Stanley Cup in 2011, Horton missed the entire seven game series against the Washington Capitals last season with a concussion.
“Definitely,” Horton said, when asked if he was looking forward to this year’s playoffs a little more after the injury last season. “Going through it [in 2011] and then sitting out last year, this is the time of year that you do want to play.
“The season definitely was hard on everyone this year, playing every other night for most of the year, but you play every night in the playoffs and still get up for the game because that's the way it is. Just excited to be back in it.”
“It means a lot to me, I think it means a lot to everyone,” Horton added. “Everyone didn't have their best season, including me. I think we're just looking forward to the new season, to the playoffs. This is when we have to be at our best.”
The two days between games has alternate captain Patrice Bergeron rested and ready to go. After today’s practice, he said the team is raring to go beginning Wednesday night.
“We feel refreshed, we start new,” he said. “You work so hard just to get here and get the chance to be here in the playoffs. Now it's about taking care of business. It starts from Game One.”