For additional insight into the Stanley Cup Playoff series between the Boston Bruins and Montreal Canadiens, NHL.com enlisted the help of longtime NHL assistant/associate coach Kevin McCarthy.
McCarthy played in more than 500 NHL games with the Philadelphia Flyers, Vancouver Canucks and Pittsburgh Penguins, then spent a decade as an assistant and associate coach with the Carolina Hurricanes, where he was a member of the staff that led them to a Stanley Cup championship in 2006. He joined the Flyers as an assistant during the 2009-10 season and stayed in Philadelphia until October 2013.
Home-ice advantage has shifted to the Montreal Canadiens in their Eastern Conference Second Round series against the Boston Bruins, and Kevin McCarthy feels that might prove to be significant.
Canadiens coach Michel Therrien will now have the last change, and if he's smart about it, he could drive Bruins coach Claude Julien up the wall, McCarthy says.
He remembers facing Julien and the Bruins in an Eastern Conference Semifinals series of the 2009 Stanley Cup Playoffs with the Carolina Hurricanes, a series Carolina won in overtime of Game 7.
When the series shifted to Carolina for Game 3, Hurricanes coach Paul Maurice took advantage of the last change to the fullest.
McCarthy remembers that Julien wanted to get Bruins captain Zdeno Chara out against Hurricanes captain Eric Staal whenever possible, something he could do easily when playing in Boston. But once on home ice, Maurice would start sending Staal out whenever Chara wasn't on the ice, and then once Chara would change on the fly to come on, Maurice would pull Staal off.
"Claude wants certain players to be out against certain players, probably more than most coaches out there," McCarthy told NHL.com. "I know from experience that if you can force Chara to change on the fly, it can get frustrating."
McCarthy admits that the Canadiens are a bit different than the 2009 Hurricanes in that they don't have one obvious line that the Bruins need to shut down. But Julien did use Chara often against the line of Max Pacioretty, David Desharnais and Thomas Vanek in the first two games in Boston, so it could be something Therrien might want to try in Montreal.
"As a coach there are only a certain number of things you can do to impact a game," McCarthy said. "But having the last change gives you one more thing."
The Canadiens will need to take any advantage they can get in the best-of-7 series, because even though it's tied 1-,1 it hasn't really been that close as far as McCarthy is concerned. Montreal has had the clear special-teams advantage, but it's been a different story at even strength, he said.
"If you just take the 5-on-5 play, take everything else out, I think Boston has dominated," McCarthy said. "The [Grade-A] chances they've created at 5-on-5 compared to Montreal is not even in the same hemisphere."
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