While the Boston Bruins would have rather prevented it, a Staal brother battle now looms in the Eastern Conference finals, as Carolina’s Eric and Pittsburgh’s Jordan get to go head to head after the Hurricanes downed Boston and the Penguins took out Washington in seven-game conference semifinal series.
This will be the first time the two standout forwards have met on such a big stage on opposing teams.
“We’re both competitors. We’re both looking forward to it. We both don’t want to lose,” said Eric today in a conference call, less than 24 hours after his Hurricanes beat the Bruins in overtime. “You know, one of us is going to be moving on to the Stanley Cup finals and hopefully win that trophy, and that’s the biggest thing.
“You know, two good teams going at it. This is the best time of year to play hockey. When you’re brothers playing against each other at this time of year in the conference finals, it’s exciting not only for yourself but for the rest of your family, for sure.”
The best-of-seven series between Carolina and Pittsburgh starts Monday (yes, the Bruins would’ve had a couple days to rest before meeting the Penguins). Even though his team is just the sixth seed and was an underdog in each of its first-round series, Eric Staal — who has put up 9-4-13 totals in 14 playoff games — isn’t surprised to still be playing.
“I really, really like the way our team has been playing the last two, three months of the year. I just thought that we got on a roll and we started to play our system, play the way that (head coach Paul Maurice) wanted us to play,” Eric said. “Then we started feeling comfortable in the close games. We fought extremely hard to push hard for that six seed. Once we got into the playoffs, once you get there, you can beat anybody.
“We started gaining confidence. We’ve got a good group of guys. When you have that feeling in the locker room, you have to take advantage of it. We’re halfway there. We got to keep her going.”
The Bruins did their best to get Zdeno Chara and Patrice Bergeron’s line on the ice against Eric Staal throughout the series with Carolina. Pittsburgh might try to match up the Staal brothers because Jordan, who has 2-3-5 totals in the postseason, is one of its best defensive forwards. That could turn into a juicy subplot.
“Yeah, it’s obviously an exciting challenge if it does happen,” said Jordan, who has put up 2-3-5 totals in 13 playoff games. “You know, I’ve been playing against a lot of the top lines the last two series, so I’m sure Eric is right up there, so I might be matched up against him. Who knows? Again, it’s just another big challenge, you know, for myself and for my line and for my team. You know, it will make it that much more interesting.”
The Carolina-Pittsburgh series won’t come with the hype the Washington-Pittsburgh series brought, with the Alexander Ovechkin-Sidney Crosby subplot dominating the headlines. But there’s hope from both Staal brothers that it can live up to the excitement level.
“Hopefully some big games on my side so it’s a story about the big brother, not the younger one. We’ll see what happens,” said Eric. “But for our team, we’ve got to be aware of especially their three lines with Crosby, (Evgeni) Malkin and then Jordy. They’re all dynamic, offensive players that can play both ends of the rink. Hopefully it will be No. 12 on the Canes that will try to take over and have some good offensive games and play well. It’s going to be a good series.”