BROSSARD – After learning they’d be matching up against the Bruins in Round 2 of the playoffs, the consensus inside the Canadiens locker room is that a tough series awaits.
Taking to the ice for a third straight day of practice at the Bell Sports Complex on Sunday morning, Michel Therrien’s troops began preparing for a date with the 2013-14 Presidents’ Trophy winners, who secured their spot in the second round after downing the Red Wings in just five games.
On the verge of clashing with their archrivals for the 34th time in the postseason – a record in North American pro sports – the Habs know full well what type of hockey is on the horizon when they take to the ice against a Bruins team that is known as much for its offensive prowess as it is for its aggressive and often chippy style of play.
“You’re going to have to fight for everything. There’s no such thing as an easy game when you play against Boston. They’re very well structured. They play a great team game. They don’t give you much,” offered Josh Gorges, who will go up against the Bruins in the playoffs for the third time in his NHL career. “You’re going to have to fight for your real estate. You’re going to have to fight to get on the inside and to get second chances in front of the net. It’s going to be a battle. If we’re going to succeed, we’re going to have to do everything we can in the dirty areas.
“What the Bruins have done in the last few years in the playoffs has been as good as or better than any other team in the league. We know we have a great challenge ahead of us,” added Gorges, who was unable to take part in the Canadiens’ most recent playoff meeting with Boston in 2011 after undergoing season-ending knee surgery. “It’s going be hard. It’s going to be a long series. We’ve got to be prepared for that.”
While Thomas Vanek might not yet have experienced the inevitable hostility that quickly develops between both teams come springtime, the nine-year NHL veteran got a taste of what lies in store when he went up against the Bruins twice as a member of the CH in the span of less than two weeks in March. That being said, the father of three has a healthy respect for Claude Julien’s contingent heading into the much-anticipated series.
“They’re a good team. They know how to win. They’ve shown that by winning the Cup a few years back and making the Stanley Cup Finals last year. They’re a team that’s coached well, and they’re good in all areas,” explained the Austrian left-winger, who picked up two goals and three points in three games against Boston during a 2010 opening-round playoff series that saw the Bruins eliminate Vanek’s Sabres in six games.
“I’ve also watched Montreal and Boston in the playoffs in the past, and I’ve played against the Bruins, too,” added Vanek, who registered one goal and three points in the Canadiens’ sweep of the Lightning in Round 1. “I know TD Garden is a tough building to play in, but so is the Bell Centre. For us to have success or for anyone to have success, you’re going to have to beat some really good teams in order to win that ultimate prize. The Bruins are one of those teams.”
Like Vanek, defenseman Mike Weaver is chomping at the bit to engage with one of the league’s elite squads at some point in the coming week. The 35-year-old rearguard, who is taking part in the playoffs for the third time in his NHL career, believes going toe-to-toe with a high-octane club like the Bruins only enhances the playoff experience for everyone involved.
“The Bruins are the same team they were in the regular season. That’s what makes them so good. They play the same way every single shift. They didn’t change anything. They’re going to be an extremely tough team to play against and it will be a great challenge for us. That’s what playoffs are all about,” offered Weaver, who sits tied with Francis Bouillon for the team lead with a plus-5 differential through four playoff tilts in 2013-14. “You hear a lot of things about that rivalry, but playoffs take things to another level.”
That will likely be the case once again come Game 1 in Boston.
Matt Cudzinowski is a writer for canadiens.com.
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