BostonBruins.com – Over the past few years, the Bruins and Penguins have been among the best teams in the Eastern Conference.
And tonight, after a long wait, made even longer by having a week off before starting the series, the teams will kick off the Eastern Conference Finals in Pittsburgh.
“I think both teams feel the same way. It's been a good week, time to get some rest and heal, hopefully make it an even more interesting series by adding that break,” said B’s Head Coach Claude Julien, following the team’s pregame skate this morning.
“This is the best time of the year to be playing hockey. We all know that. June and hockey seem to go hand in hand; beautiful weather and a great sport to be a part of. It's great to be here. I know our team is excited about it and I have no doubt [the Penguins] are as well.”
The Bruins are aware that facing the Penguins, who lead the NHL in goals per game during the postseason (4.27), is a difficult task. Many consider the Black & Gold to be the underdog.
“On the roster, maybe,” said David Krejci, when asked if the Bruins feel like the long shot. “But we'll see. They won our conference for a reason, they have a good team. But this series starts from 0-0.”
“We're expecting a tight match-up, some hard games, some hard-fought games, especially with what's at stake,” added Patrice Bergeron. “It's pretty obvious, but we're looking forward for the game.”
Tyler Seguin was feeling the excitement on the ice and around the room this morning.
"It was a long week but you know it was some good practices and some great rest for, I guess, both sides," said Seguin.
"I think everyone’s very excited, or - calmly excited," he smiled, understanding the controlled and composed intensity that Coach Julien likes to see from his players.
"Excited to get things going tonight and, you know, play a hockey game."
Down the hall, just a half an hour prior to the Bruins' media availability, Penguins forward James Neal wasn't too focused on his team being perceived as the favorites, with the B's pegged as the underdogs. To him, when the playoffs come around, none of those things matter.
“No, I don't think so,” said Neal, on if there is added pressure being the favorite. “I think right from day one when [we played] the Islanders, I think the favorites go out the window. It's two teams battling to move on to the next round. That's how we're going to look at it.”
During the regular season, Pittsburgh won all three meetings with the Bruins. But to Neal (like David Krejci), those games won’t have any bearing on the series.
“It's definitely a different season,” he said. “They've been playing better as of late and [have been] getting on a little roll. So have we. But it definitely gives us confidence that we had success with them in the regular season. We'd like to carry that over into the postseason.”
What those three regular season games taught the Penguins, though, is that the Bruins will bring a bruising style of play to the ice. They know they will have to match the physicality that Boston brings to be successful in the series.
“Obviously they're bigger, they're stronger,” said Norris Trophy finalist Kris Letang of the Bruins. “[We] expect that they're going to come hard at us and try to be really physical against our top guys like Geno [Evgeni Malkin] and Sid [Sidney Crosby]. We have to play our game and keep playing the same way.”
“They roll four lines, they're a deep team,” added Neal. “They're physical and they're big, they got skill. When you put that together, you're going to have a good team. At the same time, we match up just fine. It's going to be a great series.”