Bruins set for a fresh start
By HOWARD ULMAN
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS | April 18,2014
BOSTON — The Boston Bruins won the Presidents’ Trophy by leading the NHL with 117 points.
Another number shows just how much, or little, that means.
“I heard about 40 percent of the series are upsets in the first round,” Boston coach Claude Julien said.
“You have teams that have high expectations. You have teams that have nothing to lose and everything to gain. So that certainly makes that first round a challenge.”
That begins for top-seeded Boston on Friday night against eighth-seeded Detroit.
The Red Wings had 24 fewer points in the regular season but went 3-1 against the Bruins, a sign that Detroit’s speedy, puck-possession style can overcome Boston’s physical approach.
“I think we’re complete,” Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “I think we’re way better than people think.”
A glance at the past three seasons should convince the Bruins not to take a first-round opponent lightly.
They had the better seed in each of those series, but played the full seven games in all of them including a loss to Washington in 2012.
“We certainly learned from all those Game 7s that we’ve had to go through in the first round that it is important to be on top of your game at the end of the year and not limp in to the playoffs,” Julien said, “which I thought we did at times after we solidified our playoff spot.”
Another lesson could keep the Bruins from losing focus. They scored the third-most goals in the NHL this season, but Pittsburgh led the league a year earlier then got just two goals in a four-game sweep at the hands of Boston in the Eastern Conference final.
“I feel comfortable with the fact that we have some depth at scoring this year, a little bit more than we did last year,” Julien said. “We really limited Pittsburgh to very few goals with a lot of goal scorers there.
“So, again, nothing is guaranteed in the playoffs. You’ve got to work for your goals. Just because you got them during the season doesn’t mean you’re necessarily going to get them automatically in the playoffs.”
The Bruins lost to the Chicago Blackhawks in six games in last year’s Stanley Cup final. Expectations are for Boston, the 2011 Cup winners, to make another solid run at the title.
“All of the pressure is going to be on them,” Detroit goalie Jimmy Howard said. “They’ve got to win, we’re not supposed to. We’ve got to make it as hard as possible on them.”
Five other things to look for when two members of the Original Six meet in the first round:
INJURY LIST: Center Henrik Zetterberg (back surgery) and defenseman Jonathan Ericsson (broken finger) are expected to miss the series for Detroit. “We were always shooting for Round 2,” Zetterberg said. “If it’s just before that I will be happy.” Bruins forward Chris Kelly (back) and Daniel Paille (head) missed practice Thursday. “Hopefully, it continues to improve, which it has this week,” Julien said.
GOALIE MATCHUP: Boston has the edge in goal with Tuukka Rask, who led the NHL with seven shutouts and was second with a 9.30 save percentage. Howard was 36th with a 9.10 save percentage while posting two shutouts. But Boston had a better defense in front of Rask, despite the loss of Dennis Seidenberg and Adam McQuaid for much of the season. Seidenberg is expected to miss the playoffs, while McQuaid’s return is uncertain.
POWER PLAY: Boston improved its power play this season and finished third by scoring on 21.7 percent of its chances. Detroit was 18th at 17.7 percent. “They have two different looks,” Babcock said. “They have a spread power play in the one group and an overload with (Patrice) Bergeron high in the other. ... They can’t run, go crazy on the power play for us to have success.”
HUNGRY IGINLA: Still an outstanding scorer at age 36, Boston right wing Jarome Iginla has never won a Stanley Cup in 15 seasons with Calgary and last year when he was traded from the Flames to Pittsburgh. Detroit, in the playoffs for the 23rd straight time, will have its hands full trying to stop him, left wing Milan Lucic and center David Krejci on Boston’s top line. “This is as good a chance as I believe I’ve had” to win the Stanley Cup, said Iginla, whose 30 goals tied Bergeron for the team lead.
OLYMPIC REUNION: Bruins forward Loui Eriksson played with Red Wings defensemen Niklas Kronwall and Eriksson and forwards Zetterberg and Daniel Alfredsson on Sweden’s team that won the silver medal at the Olympics. Babcock was head coach and Julien was an assistant for Canada’s team that won the gold medal. “What Claude does is he’s well prepared, he’s a good man, treats people well, he’s a high-end coach,” Babcock said, “and you know they’ve built something special that they’re good year after year after year.”