Most Bruins fans are torn right now in the aftermath of Boston’s six-game first-round win over Buffalo.
Do they root for the hated Habs in Game 7 of their first-round series with Washington Wednesday so that the Bruins get second-round home-ice advantage vs. Philadelphia. Or do they root for the Capitals, whose win would force Boston to the road to start a second-round series with defending Stanley Cup-champion Pittsburgh?
Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli was asked that question during a conference call today.
“Not really. I had more of a rooting interest when we were down the stretch trying to get into the playoffs in certain match-ups and certain games,” he said. “But no, not really. I just saw bits and pieces of that Montreal game last night. It looks like [Montreal goaltender Jaroslav Halak] was fantastic. Washington’s a tremendous team, tremendous skill, tremendous shooters, good back-end offense. I don’t have a rooting interest there and whoever we wind up playing, we’ll prepare very well for it and we’ll just proceed.”
While he doesn’t know yet which team his club will square off with, Chiarelli was kind enough to provide a thumbnail profile of his thoughts on a potential series with both clubs.
“Philly has some mojo going too,” said Chiarelli about the Flyers, who didn’t clinch a playoff spot until the last day of the season and then ousted New Jersey in five games. “So I suspect that if we play them, I think it’ll be a crash-and-bang series. They’ve got some big physical forwards, they like to play in your face, they’ve got [Chris] Pronger on the back end who plays a physical game and also can move the puck. So I think that’s the type of series you’ll see there.”
“Pittsburgh, my guess is, because they have the two elite forwards [Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin], I think you’re going to see more of a tactical match-up type of series. It’ll still be physical because they’ve got some big bodies up front, including [Alexei] Ponikarovsky and [Mike] Rupp and guys like that that are big bodies and full lanes and that type of stuff. But I would guess, I haven’t talked to Claude [Julien] about it, but a little bit more of a tactical series against Pittsburgh.”
Only Florida won fewer games on home ice during the regular season than the Bruins. However, the concern over Boston’s inability to utilize TD Garden to their advantage has dissipated recently for the Bruins. They won their last two regular-season home games and went 3-on at home against Buffalo.
“I really don’t have the answer to that,” said Chiarelli when asked about his team’s home-ice stuggles. “I’ve been trying to figure out all year why we played so poorly at home. We were two different teams. … I have to think it’s just mental. It’s just better concentration, better focus and I like the way we played in our three home games in the playoffs. We maybe had lapses here or there, but the overall effort each 60 minutes was very good. And it was framed well. At least at the ends, it was very good.”
A matchup with Pittsburgh would not only present the problems of Crosby and Malkin but give the Bruins another shot at winger Matt Cooke, whose blindside hit knocked center Marc Savard out of the lineup March 7. Savard has finally been cleared to play after suffering a concussion and will be available for Boston in the second round.
“I think if anything it’ll motivate us,” said the GM. “But I think our group is pretty focused right now. I don’t think – it’s be talked about in the media, and certainly it’ll be one of the major story lines – but I like our focus of our group right now and I don’t think it’ll be too much of a distraction.”
To me, there’s no doubt. Any match-up that involved home-ice advantage, a match-up with a team featuring Brian Boucher in goal and an opportunity to avoid Crosby and Malkin is the one you root for. You have to pull for Montreal.