BostonBruins.com - Every day in the lead-up to their second round series against the Montreal Canadiens, the Bruins have been asked about the storied rivalry between the two franchises.
It's been 90 years of hockey in Black & Gold. The teams will be facing each other in a postseason series for a much talked about 34th time - the most in all of North American professional sports.
For the core of current Bruins, they've seen the Habs during the playoffs three times since 2008. In 2011, the collision course took them through Montreal to the Cup. That barrier stands in their way yet again.
"Well there's definitely a lot of history and it's always very special to play the Canadiens," Patrice Bergeron said on the morning of Game 1 from the Bruins' locker room at TD Garden.
"It's always an intense game and hard to play against type of games to win, so it's about making sure we take it up to another notch."
Countless reporters had streamed into the locker room for the media availability time slot following the team's routine pregame skate, routinely crowding around the Bruins' stalls to catch their every word.
David Krejci was asked earlier in the week what he thinks of when he hears Boston-Montreal. His easy response?
"I think we've just got to stay focused on our job and not get distracted by what people say or what’s written about our team or their team," Krejci had followed up. "Just kind of stay focused on the thing you've got to do."
Easier said than done, but with their experience having been through plenty of Bruins-Habs matchups before, not letting the "white noise" get to them factors into their level of focus.
"It’s going to be a tough series. It’s going to be fun. I’m sure media and fans and people around us are going to put extra hate to it, but we've just got to stay focused on our jobs," said Krejci.
The alternate captain, along with other leaders in the room like Bergeron, know that's what it takes at this time of year.
"That's something that we've talked about, even during the year, worrying about us and what's going on in this room and trying to get better as a team," Bergeron told me earlier when the playoffs began.
"You know, we have high expectations of ourselves, so it's not about worrying or spending time worrying about what's happening outside and what people are saying or talking about. It's about us, it's about making sure we're ready when the game starts."
Bergeron and the Bruins have been asked, and will be asked about what's happening on the outside, though. That's the nature of the game.
So, with that said, let's take a final look at the facts, and storylines, and how the Bruins will tackle them once the puck drops on the series.
Speed and Depth
The Canadiens have speed. They roll four lines effectively.
"Well, they're a quick team, they have skilled guys, they like those in-tight plays and odd-man rushes, so I guess every team has their tendencies, but for me, it doesn't really matter. You still have to focus just on that puck and not on the opposite team too much," said Tuukka Rask.
The perception is often that Boston doesn't have the speed to keep up with teams like the Habs. Maybe if the Bruins didn't have boards to battle against down low.
"Well, first, we can’t really control what’s being said about us or maybe other teams, when they play us. It’s more how we’re going to play and how we do things on the ice," Chara said in the lead-up to the series. "I don’t think we are a slow team. Obviously we are built a certain way and we want to thrive on the way we’re built and excel in areas that we are good at, but I don’t think we are necessarily a slow team"
"A lot of times, you hear that we’re going to play this, and this team, and it’s not just in the playoffs — sometimes during the regular season, too. But I think we are able to skate and make quick transitions as well as any other team. I’m not tired of it [hearing it] - I know what we can do, and I believe that we can play with anybody."
"Despite the common belief that speed kills, I think we’ve shown that we have some speed and we have some size and we have experience," General Manager Peter Chiarelli said. "So it will be a challenge, but I think we’ll overcome that challenge."
And if the crafty Montreal forwards do get past the Bruins' defense, it's going to be up to Rask to show the same sharp, composed play he displayed in the first round.
"Tuuks is extremely competitive, very focused, and nothing seems to rattle [him]. [He likes] the big games, the competition and that's fun when you look back, and you know your goalie is, he's right in there, confident and having fun and competing along with the whole group," said Jarome Iginla. " You know, a lot of confidence comes from the net and Tuukks has been awesome."
Keeping Emotions in Check
Staying disciplined is an emphasis for every game, and every playoff series. It's also no secret - as much as the Bruins maybe would rather not hear it - that the Habs can get under their skin.
"That goes every time we play Montreal, so that’s not going to change," said Bruins Head Coach Claude Julien.
In the postseason, thought, the B's focus must be even more level-headed than usual.
"There's always a limit that you can push, and you just have to keep your emotions in check," said Johnny Boychuk. "You can be pumped up, but suck it up for the team when something happens. You have to make sure you play as a team, and not as an individual, trying to get back at guys."
"It's playoffs, and you have to keep your anger and personal vendettas at the door, and take it for the team."
Jarome Iginla hasn't experienced the full extent of the rivalry between the two teams yet, but he knows well the "heat of the moment" aspect of the game, or what gets termed as "after the whistles."
"I don't think you think about it. Our team, I think our focus is on playing hard, playing physical, skating, getting in on the forecheck, competing - I think those are big parts of our team and all of the other stuff, if it happens, it happens," said Iginla.
"That’s what’s given us the most success, is just by not crossing that line and by staying within ourselves and playing our game and being physical and playing that heavy type of game," said Milan Lucic. "You know, it’s worked for us in the past and it’s worked for us so far throughout the year, and I think that’s what our main focus is, is trying to just go out there and establish ourselves within the series."
One Team on the Way to the Ultimate Goal
The Bruins and Habs know each other well. There are no secrets, both on the ice and in the spoken word.
It started long before these Bruins were Bruins, and before these Habs were Habs.
"Well, the longstanding rivalry, it goes back so far and so many years. The fans love it, the media love it, and obviously we love being out against them," said Brad Marchand. "But we can't let that get in our way of the real goal and make sure we have a really good game every time we step on the ice."
Because, ultimately, once this Round 2 Eastern Conference series hits the history books, it's not about beating the Canadiens; it's about beating the Canadiens on the way to something greater.
"Well the playoffs, it's always a new season and you never know who you're going to face, but if you want to be the champion, you've got to beat everybody," said Rask. "So I think we're focused on a series at a time, and now it's Montreal and we're focused on them, and we'll try to get our game where it needs to be in order to advance."
It's not about looking ahead. It's about staying focused on reaching the goal, one "step" at a at a time, shift at a time, period at a time, game at a time, series at a time.
"It's one of those things you can't be thinking too much ahead or for sure, and you're not looking back - you're living in the moment," said Chara.
Step 1: Detroit. Step 2: Montreal.
"Just play smart," is David Krejci's key to advancing to Step 3. "It’s always going to be a little bit harder than another series because it’s Montreal and the emotions are high, so it’s pretty easy to get out of your element, you know?"
"But you've got to stick with it, play smart and have in the back of your head that you’re playing for the team and not for yourself, so when something happens, you've got to suck it up and try to do everything you can to help your team to win."
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