BRIGHTON -- After scoring just six goals and going 0-3-1 in four games against the Ottawa Senators this season, the Boston Bruins definitely know what they’re in for in a first round playoff series against their Atlantic Division rivals. It’s going to be frustrating bumping up against the 1-3-1 trap employed by Sens head coach Guy Boucher and it might even be boring at times given how much Ottawa wants to really clog up the neutral zone, but it’s also a challenge that the B’s are determined to meet head on after two years out of the playoffs.
“We’re all really excited. After missing out for the last couple of years this makes it all the more special,” said Brad Marchand. “Everybody realizes how hard you have to work there, and that it’s not a given. [Ottawa] is very defensive and they don’t give up a whole lot. They’ve always got five guys back and they give up very few odd-man rushes. So anything that you get you are really going to have to work for, so special teams are going to be huge in this series.
“They’re going to play that way the whole series and it’s a very tough system to play against. We just have to stick with it and not get frustrated because that’s where you can get into trouble. You lose your mind a bit and you try to skate through the neutral zone, and that’s where you get caught up and they get their opportunities. So we have stick with our system and stay calm and confident, and hopefully things work out for us.”
By head coach Bruce Cassidy’s estimation the Bruins had a bit more success navigating the 1-3-1 Ottawa trap in the final two games against the Senators under his tutelage, and they can draw on that for proof it’s possible to pierce that 10th ranked Senators defense. It would also help if the B’s could finish off some of their chances early in the games, build some leads and force the Senators away from locking in their offensive sleeper hold.
“We didn’t score enough goals to win,” said Cassidy, of the four losses to Ottawa this season. “We want to get a lead and extend that lead. That’s been a good formula for us this season. It’s easier said than done, obviously. Between the two blue lines, we can’t let that become a major obstacle for us. I think we handled it well enough in the last couple of games, but we just didn’t keep enough pucks in their zone after we got it behind their ‘D’.
“So it’s not only getting it through there, but it’s where you place pucks. If we’re going to give it up which you generally might have to do against five guys [clogging the ice], it’s about where you put it in a place where they’re going to have a difficult time with their breakouts.”
So one should expect a lot of neutral zone talk, a lot of low-scoring chess match gamesmanship and an entertainment value that hovers somewhere below the normal standard for Stanley Cup playoff hockey games. It’s not perhaps the sexy postseason return that Bruins fans were hoping for in the first time back in three years, but if they hang in there well enough against the neutral zone slop then that drama might be waiting for them in a possible second round match-up against Claude Julien and the Montreal Canadiens.
But first things first it’s about breaking through the Guy Boucher trap in the postseason just as they did back in 2011 during the Eastern Conference Final on their way to Stanley Cup glory, so the older B’s players absolutely know that it can be done.