Wednesday, April 18, 2012
Bruins still undefeated vs. mind games
By Joe McDonald
Bruins winger Milan Lucic has been in the middle of the rough stuff with the Caps.
ARLINGTON, Va. -- In the past, opposing teams, players, coaches and even fans have tried to rattle the Boston Bruins during the Stanley Cup playoffs.
Buffalo coach Lindy Ruff. Philadelphia bench boss Peter Laviolette. Canucks goaltender Roberto Luongo. Washington Capitals fans (see Obama faces). And many more have been guilty of trying to play mind games with the Bruins.
It doesn't work.
As Bruins tough guy Shawn Thornton put it, the team's preferred flavor in the playoffs is capital-V Vanilla.
Capitals coach Dale Hunter called the Bruins head-hunters on Tuesday, claiming they were targeting the head of Washington forward Nicklas Backstrom, who missed 40 games this season with a concussion and has been suspended for Game 4 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinal series on Thursday because of a cross check to the face of the Bruins' Rich Peverley after Game 3.
The defending Stanley Cup champions responded in their typical understated way Wednesday.
"We're not falling into that," said Bruins coach Claude Julien said. "As I told our players, we just gotta focus on what we have to do to win a series, and win a game. They're still a very, very good team with or without [Backstrom] in the lineup, so there's no ifs or buts about it that we're going to feel confident tomorrow because he's not in. Dale even mentioned, they've won some games without him, and they've even beaten us without him. That's not going to be an issue. Our issue is about us trying to get better as the series moves on."
If Hunter thinks some bulletin board material is going to fire up his Capitals, the Bruins aren't about to get into a public debate.
"We've been a pretty good group over the years not stepping outside and I assume we'll continue to be the same way," Thornton said. "I worry about what's going on in this room. We're a physical team and they are, too. It's been a good series. I don't think anyone has crossed the line."
He's right -- vanilla.
Speaking of bland, Bruins assistant captain Patrice Bergeron turned the focused away from Hunter's comments and praised the Capitals for being a great team.
"It's about us," Bergeron said. "I said that last year and it's the same thing this year. It's about making sure we stay in our own bubble and not listen to what's happening outside our room. It's about us playing well and bringing our A effort. We know it's not going to be easy. They're a great team and every game is a huge battle."
Hulking Bruins forward Milan Lucic has been Washington's main focus off the ice, but he'll only smile when asked about the Capitals gamesmanship.
"It's things we've learned in the past," Lucic said. "We don't really pay too much attention to what being said in the newspapers, we're just focusing on ourselves and what we need to do to win hockey games. The only stat that matters this time of year is wins and losses and that's what our main focus is on."
The Bruins did not play with an edge in the first two games of this series as Washington controlled the play. In Game 3, Boston found its game and started pushing back, which obviously woke up the players on both teams.
Now Hunter is attempting the mental games by calling the Bruins head-hunters. It's not going to work.
"We're not listening to anything they're saying," said Bruins forward Brad Marchand. "They can say what they want. We have to worry about how we play on the ice. What they say isn't going to change that."