Bruins coach Claude Julien was a member of the Team Canada staff headed by Red Wings coach Mike Babcock for the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.
Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli grew friendly with Ken Holland, his counterpart in the Motor City, as part of Team Canada’s management group, and everyone cheered together when Canada won the gold medal.
Fast forward to mid-April as the NHL playoffs begin and the first round pits Boston and Detroit against one another beginning Friday night at TD Garden.
“You become really good friends in a short period of time,” said Chiarelli, who met with the media at TD Garden Monday. “I was thinking about that this morning because I had to put in a call to Kenny Holland on a couple of things. Where we were kind of partners in crime last time, now we’re competitors.’’
The Red Wings won three of four meetings with the Bruins this season.
“I think they’re a classic puck-possession team,’’ said Chiarelli. “You can tell they’re very well-coached. For a team that skates, a team that moves the puck well, they’re strong on the puck.
“I think that’s a trickle-down from [Henrik] Zetterberg and [Pavel] Datsyuk, who are among the best puck-strippers in the league. I think their defense are good, they’re a little young, we’re young too on D, they’ve got a good goalie [Jimmy Howard].
“They won the season series against us. We played really poorly a couple of games. I watched them quite a bit down the stretch and they’re a good team.
“They’ve got injuries, they’ve got young guys who are performing well. It’s a different ballgame in the playoffs, but certainly they’ve got speed, and they’ve got some youth.’’
One of the keys to the Bruins’ success, as always, will be the play of captain Zdeno Chara, who logs yeoman minutes.
“I think he’s had a terrific year,’’ said Chiarelli. “His play in the context of the young [defensemen] should put the spotlight on him a little bit more. The compressed schedule, coming off a long year last year, the Olympics, he’s a smart player who has a terrific defensive impact and he’s able to make the younger [defensemen] accountable and, at the same time, make them feel wanted.
“He should be in consideration for the Norris Trophy, no question. While I’m talking about that, awards, I really believe Patrice [Bergeron] has had a terrific year. It’s the best I’ve seen him, period. The impact that he’s had defensively and offensively has been outstanding. I think he should be in line for awards, too.
“And our goalie [Tuukka Rask] should, too.’’
Chiarelli said the Olympics helped the Bruins on a few different fronts.
“[Loui Eriksson’s] pace and his game really took off [as part of Team Sweden],’’ he said. “Bergie started maybe as the 13th forward over there in Sochi and everyone saw what he can do. He was basically on the top line at the end of the day. It helped his pace and helped his tempo.
‘We were kind of partners in crime last time, now we’re competitors.’’
“You see him shoot the puck better this year. He’s had a terrific year and, of course, the whole two-way component of his game has been so good. It’s always good. It’s not by accident that you hear his name in the Hart Trophy conversation. That doesn’t surprise me at all.’’
Although there is hope with the progress being made by injured defensemen Dennis Seidenberg (right knee surgery) and Adam McQuaid (quadriceps strain), Chiarelli is not counting on them to be back for the postseason.
The GM said the Bruins are going to be very careful with both.
“We’ve been doing OK with the [defensemen] we have, so we’re going to be cautious with it,’’ he said.
“I like the fact that we have eight [defensemen] who can play. We’ve spent the last little bit experimenting on pairs and that. We’ve had that luxury because of where we were in the standings, so that’s been very helpful.
“Hopefully it will be two months [before the season ends] and we’ll be using everybody.’’
Chiarelli declined to discuss the status of other players, such as Daniel Paille, who was knocked out of the lineup Saturday against Buffalo after a collision with Jake McCabe.
“We’re going to have the normal annual playoff lockdown on injury and injury disclosure,’’ said Chiarelli. “I’ll defer to that policy.’’Nancy Marrapese-Burrell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @Elle1027.