The Boston Bruins may have fore-checked the Toronto Maple Leafs into oblivion in the first game of their NHL playoff series but they claim – with straight faces all round – to be expecting a much tougher group of Leafs in Game 2 on Saturday.
“Absolutely,” said Bruins winger Daniel Paille, who set up a big goal in Wednesday night’s 4-1 win when he out-skated Leafs defenceman John-Michael Liles and knocked him off the puck. “I think maybe they were a little bit nervous and we kind of capitalized on the pressure.
“But they’re going to be a hungry team and they’re not going to want to kind of fall short like they did yesterday. It’s important for us to match the effort because we know they’re going to come hard.”
If there is anything for the Bruins to be nervous about it is Thursday afternoon’s hearing for defenceman Andrew Ference. NHL vice-president and director of player safety Brendan Shanahan will be grilling him about the elbow Ference threw at Leafs centre Mikhail Grabovski’s head. Grabovski went down hard and the referees did not make a penalty call, although video replays showed it was the sort of deliberate hit to the head that usually draws at least a one-game suspension in the playoffs.
Bruins head coach Claude Julien took a laissez-faire approach to the possibility of losing Ference for Game 2.
“The league looks after those things,” Julien said. “That job doesn’t belong to me so I’ll leave it at that. I have my view on it but certainly not one I should be sharing now.”
If Ference is suspended, Julien has lots of options for a replacement. He could go with the veteran Aaron Johnson, who has some experience, although none of it in the playoffs, or with the more talented Dougie Hamilton, 19, who is a rookie. There is also the chance Matt Bartkowski, 24, could be recalled from the Bruins’ American Hockey League farm team. He played well in a brief late-season stint with the team before being sent down to get more playing time.
Julien gave the Bruins Thursday off, although it was not a reward for their dominating win over the Leafs but a chance to give them some rest. Thanks in part to the postponed game with the Ottawa Senators because of the Boston Marathon bombing, the Bruins finished the regular season with six games in nine nights.
In any event, the coach said, the Bruins will not be thinking about rewards of any kind despite the fact they played a nearly perfect fore-checking game. The Leafs defence was pounded into the boards steadily and as a result were coughing up the puck regularly.
It’s about doing your job on a daily basis,” Julien said. “It’s a pretty simple concept and that’s the way we approach it every year.
“We know we played the better game but it’s a seven-game series, it’s not one-game, winner-takes-all. So I don’t think there’s any reason to get excited or overconfident.”