While the rest of the hockey world already got started on the playoffs – which began on Wednesday – the Bruins and Red Wings have gotten a couple of extra days to wait. But, game day is finally here, and the Bruins are about to get started on a run that could end with the Stanley Cup.
Detroit, of course, will not be an easy opponent for the Bruins. Though they ended up with the second wild card, this is a talented, challenging team to face – witness the Bruins’ 1-3 record against the Red Wings in the regular season.
“Playoffs is a whole new ballgame,” coach Claude Julien said on Friday morning. “Same for us – it doesn’t matter that we finished atop the league. That doesn’t matter anymore. All that gave us is home-ice advantage. Now we start from scratch.”
It was the same message in the Red Wings’ dressing room.
“It’s a clean slate,” Gustav Nyquist said. “For us we’ve shown that we can play with this team before. I think we match up well. But again it’s a clean slate. Anything can happen.”
The series kicks off at 7:30 p.m. Friday at the TD Garden, with the two Atlantic Division teams facing each other for the second time in two weeks. The Bruins are ready. The Red Wings are ready.
“They’re a team that doesn’t quit and they’ve been in a playoff mode now for a long, long time,” Bruins wing Milan Lucic said.
There is not yet any clarity on which Bruins will take the ice tonight. Daniel Paille skated this morning with Adam McQuaid before the team’s optional skate, and seems unlikely to play. Chris Kelly was not on the ice at all – of course neither were a host of Bruins, including Matt Bartkowski, David Krejci, Jarome Iginla, and Tuukka Rask.
The Red Wings, meanwhile, will be without Henrik Zetterberg for the first round.
Detroit defenseman Brendan Smith, the brother of Bruin Reilly Smith, said the two have only spoken briefly.
‘’We have a little communication, but a little less than normal. He tries to get under my skin,’’ Brendan said.
The two brothers planned to have dinner Thursday night, but Wings coach Mike Babcock called a team meeting here in Boston, preventing them from breaking bread.
‘’We’ll probably do that [Saturday],’’ said Brendan Smith, who pairs with veteran Niklas Kronwall on Detroit’s No. 1 unit.
Jimmy Howard will be in the Red Wings’ net, likely for the entire series, leading a member of the Detroit media to ask Babcock how the goalie is doing.
‘’He’s dialed in,’’ noted Babcock, reaching for the Confidence 101 Coach’s Guidebook. ‘’He’s going to be unbelievable ... that’s kind of a softball, isn’t it?’’