WILMINGTON, Mass. – As a Bruins mainstay for the past seven years and a native of Quebec that rooted for the Nordiques growing up, center Patrice Bergeron has a double reason to hate the Montreal Canadiens.
That might change just a little bit tonight, when the Habs visit Washington for Game 7 of their Eastern Conference quarterfinal series. If Montreal wins, the Bruins would host Philadelphia in Game 1 of a second-round series starting this weekend.
“We can’t really decide who’s going to win. Either or, you’re going to have to be ready for a big matchup and good team. Obviously home-ice would be great, but it’s out of our control. So we can’t do anything,” he said after practice today at Ristuccia Arena.
“At the same time, if they do win, we will get home-ice, so it would be a good thing. But either way it’s going to be a tough team that we’re going to play. I don’t think we want to choose who we want to play against because it’s two great teams. It’s just the home-ice that would be an advantage I think.”
Head coach Claude Julien also didn’t want to tip his hand as far as favoring one club or the other. If Washington wins, the Bruins will have the unenviable task of taking on Sidney Crosby and the defending Stanley Cup-champion Pittsburgh Penguins.
“I’ve always taken the approach in playoffs that you don’t pick your opponents,” said the coach. “You play whoever you have to play. One way or another you’ll end up playing probably a good team. So it really doesn’t matter. I think we’ve just got to watch the game and whatever develops from that, get yourself ready to face that opponent.”
At least this year the Bruins won’t have to wait as long to find out which team they’re playing as they did last spring. After sweeping Montreal, it took 10 days before the Bruins got into game action. And they had to wait until Carolina and New Jersey, and Washington and the New York Rangers, completed their seven-game series to find out the identity of their next opponent.
With not much to do but battle each other, and the temperature outside rising, the Bruins went from a lunch-pail gang to out to lunch by the time they hosted the Hurricanes, and found themselves down 3-1 in the series before they knew it.
Boston is banking on this year’s shorter break being a benefit.
“You also hope that your team learned from that. What I mean by that is, we allowed ourselves to slip out of the playoff mode because we had so much time off and as hard as we might’ve tried, even the coaching staff to give some days off in practice, it’s almost the approach of everybody has to be there and the frame of mind has to be in the right place,” said Julien. “Ten days are a lot, no matter who you are. It took a while to get our game back. … Hopefully this short break here is just the right amount of time.”
Added Bergeron: “I think it’s better because we’re in a groove right now, we’re in a rhythm. We’ve played almost every other day and now we have a couple days just to regroup and get ready for the next team. But it’s not too much where we’re going to take the emotion of the playoff hockey out of our bodies.”
Part of Boston’s rest tonight will be at least catching a glimpse at the Montreal-Washington game. Then the Bruins can start to break down the Penguins or Flyers. The best news is, they won’t have too long to do it.