BOSTON (CBS) – Faith in the Bruins from outside sources has to be as low as it’s been entering the playoffs since Boston entered the postseason as the No. 8 seed and faced top-seeded Montreal in coach Claude Julien’s first season of 2007-08.
The lack of belief from those outside the Bruins’ dressing room won’t really matter once the puck drops between Boston and Toronto in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series that gets started Wednesday at TD Garden.
In many ways, the Bruins lucked out getting to face the Maple Leafs. Toronto is inexperienced when it comes to the postseason – having not qualified as a franchise since 2004 – and hasn’t been able to solve the Bruins much the last couple season. The Bruins have won nine out of 10 meetings with the Leafs this season and last.
The Bruins know the Leafs team that will take the ice Wednesday is different from the one from last season, and even different from the one they played earlier this season. This series won’t be won by just going through the motions.
Here are the three things I think the Bruins must do in order to prevail against Toronto:
1. Score on the power play
It’s almost a tradition now that the Bruins go into the playoffs with a power play that wouldn’t scare a Pee Wee team. Beating the Leafs’ second-ranked penalty kill won’t be easy, and I’m not asking the Bruins to score at a 20-percent clip. Even a 10-percent success rate might take enough heat off the team 5-on-5 and provide enough support for Tuukka Rask in goal to earn four wins. With the talents of Jaromir Jagr and Wade Redden added to this year’s power play, it has to be better than it’s been the last couple seasons.
2. Don’t forget guys not named Phil Kessel
We know that Kessel’s track record against the Bruins is miserable and we know that he’s a talented enough player that he won’t go point-less much longer. He also won’t run roughshod on the Bruins. However, if Boston doesn’t clamp down on the likes of Nazem Kadri, Joffrey Lupul and James van Riemsdyk, Kessel’s numbers won’t matter. The Bruins need all their defensemen not named Zdeno Chara and Dennis Seidenberg – especially Andrew Ference and Johnny Boychuk – to play near-perfect hockey in their own and end and trust the system to break the puck out of the defensive zone.
3. Keep calm and play on
The team Brian Burke built before he was fired as general manager was modeled both on his 2007 Anaheim Ducks and the 2011 Bruins – teams that used physicality as much as skill to win the Stanley Cup. Players like Mark Fraser, Jay McClement and Leo Komarov are going to throw their weight around. The Bruins have the experience to know to turn the other cheek – or at least we think they do. Considering how “un-Bruins” they’ve played of late, it wouldn’t be shocking to see them take some dumb penalties. That can’t happen against a Leafs team that boasts several high-end offensive talents as part of its man-advantage. It will also behoove Rask to continue to maintain his wits about him because the Leafs will undoubtedly try to get in his face as often as possible.
Matt Kalman covers the Bruins for CBSBoston.com and also contributes coverage to NHL.com and several other media outlets. Follow him on Twitter @TheBruinsBlog.