|Canadiens defenseman P.K. Subban and Bruins winger Milan Lucic battle for position in front of Carey Price. (Getty)|
The opening-round series between the Boston Bruins and Montreal Canadiens is bound to capture the attention of the hockey universe, as the two will go to battle in Game 1 on Thursday night at TD Garden.
Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli is eagerly anticipating a hard-fought war between the two clubs.
"On the upcoming series, obviously there's a lot of emotion from both teams, based on the historic nature of the rivalry and the recent history of the rivalry," he said. "There's obviously been well-publicized stuff between the two teams. I know our team will be emotionally motivated for a number of reasons and we look forward to playing the Canadiens."
The GM is well-aware of the dramatically different strategies the two teams utilize on the ice, as Boston hopes their physical prowess wins out over the abundance of finesse the Canadiens possess in a seven-game series.
"They're a very quick team, they've got some good shooters and obviously they have a really good goaltender," Chiarelli said, alluding to netminder Carey Price. "I think it's going to be a really good stories. There's two really contrasting styles of play. We're straightforward, we forecheck and we're heavy on the puck. They're fast and have a quick transition.
"It'll be a really good series. I'm looking forward to it and I know the team is looking forward to it."
Upon reflecting on the team's play in recent weeks, Chiarelli noted how the team rebounded strongly after what many described as the low point of the season -- a 5-2 setback against the Leafs in March that gave the Black and Gold six losses in seven games.
"From back in the Toronto game that we lost, it was incumbent on us to really get the team in a proper frame of mind heading into the playoffs," the GM said. "Since that point we've been 7-3-1 and I'm really optimistic of the areas we've shored up since that time. When you're in a position where you really can't move up and down that much, it's difficult."
And while the results on paper haven't been overwhelming, as the Bruins have failed to climb up among the league's elite on special teams, Chiarelli has seen enough on the ice to know that significant progress has been made.
"Despite our statistical woes, like the power play, I thought the last few games we moved the puck a lot better and I liked what we're seeing there," he said. "We're going to have be good at it to have success in the playoffs. Overall I'm happy with where we're at right now. The experience we've had in the past with the playoffs should help and I'm looking forward to it."
While Boston's effort may have been lacking over their last string of contests, as they'd already locked up the Northeast Division and cemented their spot in the top three in the Easter Conference, Chiarelli doesn't see that being a cause for a concern. Instead, the Bruins GM is more focused on the progress the team made as a whole from last season.
"I don't want to judge our chances of success based on those last few games," said Chiarelli. "The overall improvement in a few areas this year leads me to believe that we're going to have some good success.
"This year, we increased our goal-scoring by 40 goals. We're obviously still very high (among other teams) in goals against. We're No. 1 in even-strength goals differential. We've got three solid candidates for significant trophies with Zdeno Chara for the Norris Trophy, Tim Thomas for the Vezina and Patrice Bergeron for the Selke."
As for what that all leads to in this upcoming, highly-anticipated playoff run, Chiarelli has yet to determine what exactly would constitute success or failure in the postseason, but his hopes remain high that the Bruins are capable of much more than ever before.
"That's a very broad question," he said. "We entered this year coming off of that disappointing end against Philadelphia, and it's been the underlying theme of the year to respond and build from that. The obvious answer is to get past the second round, but it's about how we play and how we compete. There's a lot of variables that go into a playoff run, and I think we'll have a successful one."