Bruins: Dale Hunter
April, 18, 2012
By Joe McDonald | ESPNBoston.com
AP Photo/Elise AmendolaBruins 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."
April, 18, 2012
By Joe McDonald | ESPNBoston.com
ARLINGTON, Va. -- Bruins coach Claude Julien did not appreciate Capitals coach Dale Hunter's contention that the Bruins are headhunters.
Julien called Hunter's comments "ridiculous" and "ludicrous."
On Tuesday, Hunter said the Bruins were targeting the head of Nicklas Backstrom, who missed 40 games this season due to a concussion.
"There's no reaction, really," Julien said. "That doesn't make sense. We don't. I don't know any coach that would tell his team to go after somebody's head. That speaks for itself and that's all I'm going to say about that."
But Julien continued.
Barry Chin/The Boston Globe/Getty ImagesCaps center Nicklas Backstrom is suspended for Game 4 for inciting this post-Game 3 scrum by cross-checking Rich Peverley.
"It's ludicrous. It's ridiculous. There's always going to be emotions in games and there are things that are happening. There were three cross checks and they penalized one and suspended one, but we're not whining about the referees and what's going on here. We need to win a game and we need to win a series. That's where our focus is on and that's where it should be."
Backstrom was suspended for one game and will miss Game 4 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinal series against the Bruins on Thursday night at Verizon Center. After Boston's 4-3 win in Game 3, Backstrom cross-checked the Bruins' Rich Peverley in the face.
"We're definitely going to miss him," Hunter said. "We don't think he should be suspended.
"It's disappointing. He's suspended and it's in the history books and we have to concentrate on [Game 4]."
After the Capitals held practice Wednesday morning, Hunter said the Bruins are not only playing between the whistles.
"They were after the whistle and before the puck was dropped. They were doing stuff off the draw, like [Milan] Lucic going after Nicky's head," Hunter said. "We've got to play through it and let the refs do their job. We just have to play."
Julien believes his team is doing exactly that.
"The one thing you have to do is play between whistles," Julien said. "There are scrums that happen after whistles and you've got to be disciplined enough not to put your team short-handed. We're just one of many series that have all the same things happening. This is not unique. This is playoff hockey."
When it comes to concussions, the Bruins have recently dealt with their fair share of head injuries. Currently, forward Nathan Horton will not play again this season after suffering a concussion on Jan. 22. Marc Savard's career is likely over because of numerous concussions, and Patrice Bergeron nearly had his career ended in 2007.
"It's the first I'm hearing of it," Bergeron said of Hunter's comments. "We're just playing playoff hockey. We're not worrying about who's out there. I certainly would be the last guy to do something like that, having been through it. I don't really worry about that, to be honest, we just need to go out there and play our game."
Bergeron does not believe players head-hunt in the NHL.
"No. Obviously, games are played hard, especially at this time of the year," he said. "I hope not."
After the Bruins held practice at Capitals Iceplex Wednesday afternoon, Julien spoke at length about concussions, and mentioned a tweet by Octagon hockey agent Allan Walsh, who wrote: "This has spiraled from out of control to total chaos. Do we really need a player to die on the ice for this insanity to stop?"