Bruins draw Wings; P-Bruins vs. Brodeur, Devils
Well, it’s official. The Boston Bruins, fresh off winning the 2013-14 Presidents’ Trophy by way of yesterday’s win 4-1 over the league-worst Buffalo Sabres, will take on the Detroit Red Wings in the 2014 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals. This is, to say the least, not what most in the Hub wanted.
But there’s something that’s always seemed incredibly silly about rooting for a certain opponent in the postseason, all things considered. It’s the playoffs-- Everybody’s pretty good.
During Claude Julien’s tenure as the head coach of the Boston Bruins, though, the fans in Boston have been on both ends of this situation. While most didn’t want a first round matchup with the Montreal Canadiens in 2008, they welcomed that same match in 2009, and even rooted for a series with the Buffalo Sabres in 2010. Those series ultimately worked out as their excitement or worry told them it would.
However, there’s always the ever elusive curveball that’s thrown in there.
In 2009, a second round series against the Carolina Hurricanes seemed like an easy four-game set into the Eastern Conference Finals; The Bruins beat the ‘Canes with easy throughout the regular season, and undoubtedly had a matchup advantage in just about every category. The same could be said about the club’s first round series against the Washington Capitals in the 2012 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals. Those series, mainly due to a hot goaltender in the crease opposite Boston’s, didn’t work out as originally thought out. And in both cases, the B’s season ended with a Game 7 overtime goal put in the back of the Black-and-Gold’s net. That’s cruel. That’s playoff hockey.
So, just where do your hopes/fears put you when it comes to a round battle with the Wings? It’s a valid question, really. The Red Wings took three of four matchups against the Bruins in 2013-14, goaltender Tuukka Rask’s struggled against them in his career, and they’ve seemingly always given the B’s fits during Mike Babcock’s tenure behind the Detroit bench.
Obviously the Wings seem like a tougher challenge for the Bruins than a hobbled Columbus Blue Jackets squad or Philadelphia squad you took three of three from in the regular season, but it really should not be all doom and gloom in Boston. Yes, the Wings were just absolutely ravaged by injuries this season, but this is a team that squeaked into the playoffs due in large part to 15 overtime losses (nine of which came via the shootout) going against the most consistent team in the conference.
It’s easy to fall in love with the aura of the Red Wings and playoff hockey, I know, but again, this is the playoffs. Every team thrown your way is going to present a new set of challenges, and the Bruins know that. Detroit’s no different from Columbus, Philadelphia, or anybody else in that regard.
In New Jersey for the regular season finale this afternoon, the B’s, with absolutely nothing to play for, decided to leave most of their squad behind. Leaving the entire top line of Milan Lucic, David Krejci, and Jarome Iginla in Boston along with Patrice Bergeron, Chris Kelly, Danny Paille, and Zdeno Chara back in Boston, the Bruins will in essence roll with a who’s who of prospects against Marty Brodeur and the Devils.
To replace the vets, the Bruins made four emergency recalls from the Providence Bruins earlier this morning. Bringing forwards Craig Cunningham, Alexander Khokhlachev, Justin Florek, and Matt Lindblad up from the American Hockey League, they’ll all dress and play in this afternoon’s affair. In the case of Khokhlachev, it will be the first NHL game of his career, and will make him the eighth player to make his NHL debut in a Bruins uniform this season.
The 20-year-old Khokhlachev was drafted by the Black-and-Gold with the 40th overall pick in 2011, and has tallied 21 goals and 57 points (14th among AHL skaters this season) in 63 games for the P-Bruins this season, his first full season of pro hockey in North America. At 5-foot-10, Khokhlachev isn't the biggest skater out there at any point, but he came into the organization with a ton of hype given his raw potential (most say he only fell to Boston with the 40th overall pick because of his age), and has recorded 11 goals and 31 points in his last 27 games for Providence.
And finally, fans get to see what he brings to an NHL rink.
Among the other callups, the 23-year-old Florek is a talent to watch. Recording one goal and two points in three games with Boston this year, the Michigan-born winger plays the three-zone game that B’s coach Claude Julien loves and could be a darkhorse candidate for a spot on the 2014-15 Bruins’ bottom six forward core. The 6-foot-4 forward, drafted by the club in the fifth round (135th overall) in 2010, has tallied 19 goals and 38 points in 69 games for Providence this year.
In net, I’d be shocked if it’s anybody but Chad Johnson.
For New Jersey, and for the 1,244th time, the start goes to Martin Brodeur.
Many expect this to be the final start for the 41-year-old Brodeur, and in a weird way, it almost seems fitting. On Mar. 26, 1992, Brodeur made his NHL debut. Against whom, you might ask? The Boston Bruins. Stopping 24 of 26 shots thrown his way, the start was enough for Brodeur’s first career victory, as only Joe Juneau and Stephen Leach beat the Devils’ netminder for goals.
(For perspective: While Brodeur was stopping pucks that night, the episode of the Cosby Show when Dr. Huxtable is all about the salsa band that Clair represented was airing for the first time, and it went up against the Simpsons' episode "Colonel Homer", the one where Homer becomes the manager of a country singer.)
Now, Brodeur’s done just about everything one goaltender can do since then and now, but after 22 years, this should be it. First of all, it’d look strange to see him in any other team’s sweater. We’re talking like Sundin-in-a-Canucks jersey strange. But more importantly, the game has really seemed to pass Brodeur by, evident by four straight seasons of a sub-.910 save percentage (and two back-to-back years of a .901 save percentage). Brodeur’s been loyal to the Devils, and the Devils have been loyal to him (almost too loyal this year, all things considered), and it’s finally time.
But not before he goes against the team that it all started against some 22 years ago.