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BOSTON -- It's evident Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli has a lot of confidence in his team's chances in the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs against the Montreal Canadiens.
The Bruins should be confident. They've reached the Stanley Cup finals twice in a three-year span, winning the championship in 2011 before losing in 2013. Boston is the odds-on favorite to win it all in 2014, and Chiarelli has built this team to succeed well into the future.
|Peter Chiarelli acknowledged that adding Thomas Vanek makes the Canadiens better, but the Bruins GM welcomes the challenge.|
So, yes, the Bruins should be confident in their chances against the Canadiens. Boston recently dismissed the Detroit Red Wings in the first round in five games, while Montreal swept the Tampa Bay Lightning in four.
The Bruins aren't overconfident or cocky. They're a mature and experienced group that knows what it takes to excel in the Stanley Cup playoffs. The Canadiens are far from pushovers. This series will be a challenging and exciting one, but Chiarelli believes his team can be successful despite Montreal's winning three of four games during the regular season.
"It's obviously another difficult one," Chiarelli said of the series. "We were mediocre against them during the year. They're a team that has given us trouble historically, so it'll be a challenge that way. Much is said about their size and their speed, and allegedly that's what gives us problems and I think that's part of it. You have some teams you just don't have success against sometimes. Having said that, that applied to Detroit, too, and you see what happened with that."
Boston shut down Detroit's speed and kept the Red Wings to the perimeter for the majority of the series. Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask stopped 146 of 152 shots against Detroit.
Montreal has speed and size, too. But Chiarelli is not worried.
"It'll be a real interesting series," he said. "Despite the common belief that speed kills, we've shown that we have some speed, we have some size and we have experience. It will be a challenge, but I think we'll overcome that challenge."
Montreal's line of Thomas Vanek, David Desharnais and Max Pacioretty should present some challenges, but Bruins coach Claude Julien can respond with the shutdown line of Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and Reilly Smith.
The notion of the Bruins not being able to match opponents' speed is starting to bother Chiarelli and Julien.
"It's too stereotype, and we've improved our speed," Chiarelli said. "I just hear about it all year, so it gets a little tiring. Obviously, Claude and I talk, and we get tired of it. But we have speed and we have heaviness and we have a little bit of a chip on our shoulder because of that, because of this label that we have."
Another aspect of the Bruins' success is motivation. The team always finds incentives, and Chiarelli is at the forefront of it.
Case in point: When the Canadiens acquired Vanek at the trade deadline, even before Chiarelli was asked a question about it, the GM admitted Montreal improved with the addition of the veteran forward who is considered a Bruins killer. Vanek has 62 career points in 55 games against Boston. On deadline day, Chiarelli said the Canadiens are a better team with Vanek and that the Bruins welcome that challenge.
Well, that challenge has arrived.
During Monday's news conference at TD Garden, Chiarelli said he's pleased with every aspect of his team's game as it prepares for the Canadiens. The GM described Boston's special teams as "outstanding."
In the first round against Detroit, Boston went 6-for-16 on the power play and 18-for-20 on the penalty kill. Since the matchup with the Canadiens figures to be an emotional series, special teams will play a major role for both teams.
"We maintain that and we're going to have success," Chiarelli said of special teams.
During Chiarelli's eight seasons as GM, the Bruins have missed the playoffs only once, which was his first season (2006-07), when Dave Lewis was the coach. Boston has earned a postseason berth in all seven seasons with Chiarelli and Julien working together. In fact, Julien is 54-36 in 90 playoff games with the Bruins.
"We take a lot of pride in that," said Chiarelli, who credited ownership and the entire hockey staff for the team's success. "We all have one thing on our mind. It's to win, and to win and to be consistent in winning, and to be able to roll over each year and compete for the Cup. As hokey as that sounds, it's what we do and it's something that we take a lot of pride in."
Boston can take another step toward adding to its legacy with a win over the Canadiens in the second round. It has the makings of another classic series between the Original Six teams, and Chiarelli is confident the Bruins can pull it off.