LAKE PLACID, N.Y. – No one gets his gloves off faster than Bruins defenseman Andrew Ference when he thinks a teammate has been victimized by a hit that’s outside of the rule of the game.
But the veteran blueliner had to be a little more cautious than he would’ve been in the regular season when he decided to stand up for Johnny Boychuk after a hit from behind by Benoit Pouliot late in the first period of the Bruins’ Game 3 win Monday in their Eastern Conference quarterfinal series with Montreal.
An instigator penalty could’ve canceled out a Boston penalty, or worse put the Bruins shorthanded. In the postseason, those things can get magnified and aren’t worth the risk of flaunting one’s machismo.
“Well, I waited for him to drop the gloves and throw a punch before I did anything. I definitely didn’t want to take an extra penalty,” said Ference today when asked to recap the situation from the USA Rink at the Whiteface Lake Placid Olympic Center, where most of the Bruins had a day off the ice to rest up for Thursday’s Game 4.
“But from what I saw, it looked like a really dangerous hit. So a hit like that, especially on your partner or something like that, you want to at least have some answer for it. But I didn’t want to drop the gloves without being 100 percent [sure] that he was going to as well, so you have to be aware of that in the playoffs for sure.”
The fight sent a message to the Habs that if they were going to try to knock the Bruins off their game with some extra roughhousing, Boston wasn’t having any of it. It also continued to prove what type of team player Ference is. Three of Ference’s four fighting majors during the regular season were the result of him coming to a teammates’ defense after a questionable hit.
Bruins head coach Claude Julien is a long-time detractor of players attacking those that dole out big, but clean, hits. In the Pouliot situation, however, Julien thought Ference was in the right.
“You really appreciate your teammates coming to your player’s defense, and that was, again, a penalty [on Pouliot],” said Julien after the Game 3 win that pulled the Bruins to 2-1 down in the series. “I’m not a big fan of, to be honest with you, when there’s a clean check thrown and we feel the need to [jump in], and that’s kind of crept into our game now. … But tonight it was a penalty, obviously, and I thought it could’ve ended up worse than it did. [Pouliot] jumped in the air, and it was definitely a charging penalty, and for him to go to [Boychuk’s] defense, I respect him and support him on that decision.”
The ability to make important decisions under pressure is another reason Ference has become so valuable to the Bruins.