WILMINGTON, MASS. --
While Claude Julien
has been forced to wait far too long for his Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series against the Montreal Canadiens
to begin, he refuses to be lulled into a false sense of security as he whiles away his time
The Bruins coach knows his top-seeded team is a heavy favorite against a Montreal team that did almost everything possible to flush away a postseason berth before holding on at the season's conclusion to slip into the eighth seed.
Yet, Julien knows all too well anything can happen when the puck drops at 7 p.m. Thursday (CBC, RDS) at TD Banknorth Garden to start Game 1 of what should be an emotion-filled, best-of-7 series between these two Original Six rivals.
He knows, because he has lived it.
Remember, last year, Julien's undermanned, young team -- the No. 8 seed, by the way -- pushed the top-seeded Canadiens to a Game 7 before finally running out of steam. It was a scare from which the Canadiens never recovered, going out meekly to Philadelphia in the second round.
"I learned no matter what the standings are, it doesn't carry into the playoffs," Julien said. "It really doesn't matter. It's what happens on the ice. There shouldn't be any reason to be overconfident."
There was no overconfidence on display at Ristuccia Arena Wednesday morning as the Bruins went through their final preparatory practice; but there certainly was confidence. After all, the Bruins are healthy -- Patrice Bergeron
was at 100 percent after a foot-injury scare in the season's final week -- and the memories of their inspiring climb to the top of the Eastern Conference standings this season remain fresh.
But any sense of overconfidence was likely scared out of the B's when they hosted Montreal six days ago in the final game of their regular-season series.
In that game, Boston took an easy 3-1 lead just 26 minutes into the game and appeared to be on its way to a laugher. But Montreal preyed on some emotional mistakes by the Bruins to score three straight goals -- two on the power play -- in a 10-minute span to take an improbable 4-3 lead. Boston came back to win the game in overtime, but an important lesson was learned, say the Bruins.
"It was a wakeup call, absolutely," said veteran Mark Recchi
. "They have too many good players that can change the game to be doing that. There is a fine line between playing physical and being stupid. But, we have to remember that our game is about being physical."
Boston clearly crossed that line last Thursday against the Canadiens, taking eight roughing penalties, a slashing minor and a goalie interference penalty in 25 minutes of game time that bridged the first and second periods. In all, the Bruins were penalized 15 times for 41 minutes, and Montreal was sent to the sin bin 12 times for 35 minutes.
Montreal has already announced that tough guy Georges Laraque
will play in this Thursday's Game 1 after appearing in just 16 matches since the start of February. He has been a healthy scratch more often than not in the season's second half.
Laraque celebrated his return to the lineup by promising to play a physical, aggravating brand of hockey. Plus, he already has had regular-season run-ins with Boston's Milan Lucic
and Shawn Thornton
to add even more zest to the story line.
"They have a good power play that can do a lot of damage. If we can control our emotions, it should be good."
-- Marc Savard
Yet, on the eve of what Boston hopes will be a long playoff run, the Bruins players refused to get suckered into something that can only hurt their performance.
"We've got to be able to contain our emotions," said Marc Savard
, talking about his team's overall game plan in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals. "They have a good power play that can do a lot of damage. If we can control our emotions, it should be good.
"(Thursday) was a learning lesson and I don't think there will be a lot of that (after-the-whistle) stuff in this series."
The Bruins know that talk is cheap, however, and that the intensity of playoff hockey has a way of sapping the best of intentions. So, it will be up to the favorites to prove it on the ice. They get their first chance at it in Thursday night's Game 1.