From a certain point of view...
Tuesday, 03.20.2007 / 3:19 PM ET / News
There are a couple of ways to look at tonight’s game. One is from a Boston player’s perspective.
For Phil Kessel, a rookie trying to reconcile youthful exuberance with a downright intimidating NHL playoff race, tonight has to be just another game.
As a first year player you have to do what you always do -- survive.
"It’s obviously an important game," said Kessel, who is becoming more and more comfortable with his budding star status. "You’re playing Montreal and they are ahead of you in the standings. And we’re just trying to move up.
"With 11 games left the in season…that’s (22) points, so it’s crunch time now."
Kessel, who scored the deciding tally in last week’s barnburner with Washington, downplayed any extra emotional content. And he chose, wisely, to focus on what the team around him in the Bruins locker room can do to help themselves regain a measure of control over their destiny.
"There’s been times this year when we’ve gone on some runs," said Phil. "So you never know what (could) happen. We are going to go out there and play hard, good hockey. Smart hockey.
"And get some wins."
In terms of getting caught up in the rivalry, Kessel must choose instead to try and play every game the same way.
"You know, I just go out there and try to help the team win anyway (I) can," he said, necessarily lapsing into the comfort zone of clichÃ©s, and surely trying to keep his temperament even. "And hopefully we get it done."
For a rookie, and a young person, Kessel’s way of looking at this game and the next two contests, is a smart way to go into a crucial stretch. It would be easy to get overheated, over aggressive or even nauseated given the importance of the game.
With some experience and some knowledge of crunch time in the NHL, however, Kessel might sound a little different.
Take Aaron Ward for example.
The three-time Stanley Cup winner almost laughed when asked if he would intervene if any of his younger teammates had trouble finding energy before the rivalry game on Tuesday night.
He spoke of the recent disappointments as a departure place for his comments on this evening’s game.
"You don’t want to look for excuses," said Ward of the team’s 7-0 loss to his former team on Saturday. "We know it wasn’t our best performance in any regard.
"Those things happen during a season. I was with a team last year that won the Stanley Cup and we lost a number of games like that…it’s something to get past and the best (thing to do) right now is to forget that game."
And what better way to forget New York than to take a trip to Canada. And these Bruins, Ward’s new team, will have it in them to compete in the Bell Centre.
"Honestly, I don’t think I will have to say anything (to anyone) in Montreal," said Ward, now obviously resolute. "I think there is enough (energy).
"I witnessed what happened in Boston (last time they were there). Montreal possesses the same potential for excitement.
"So if you are a player and you can’t get yourself up for that game -- you don’t belong here," he said.
Ward got deadly serious with that last sentence.
Perhaps he was unable to rely on old clichÃ©s to hide his anger over the Bruins lack of fight in their last contest. Perhaps he was thinking about the playoffs and their importance to his own professional career. Most likely, like the other veterans in the room, tonight’s game can’t be just another game for him.
And Aaron was very clear on what the Bruins mission will be in Quebec, especially if he has anything to say about it.
"I think we should have no problem harnessing any level of energy or excitement up there," was what he said, summarizing his statements about Tuesday night.
It was well said, but paraphrasing their coach’s comments from last weekend, what Ward really meant was:
We have to go out there and do it!