WILMINGTON — When the Boston Bruins step to the ice of the TD Garden tomorrow night in their 2010-11 home-opener, expect them to bring their same “A” game that has gotten them off to such a hot start this year.
Despite a poor 40 minutes in Game 1 of the season against the Phoenix Coyotes, and having capitalizing on just one power play opportunity in 15 chances through four games this season, the Bruins have dominated the competition en route to a nice 3-1-0 start.
“The one thing we do have to do as a team is understand that our game shouldn’t change tomorrow because we’re at home. And if it does, then we’re going to get ourselves into trouble.” said head coach Claude Julien today at Ristuccia Arena after the Bruins’ afternoon practice. “What’s gotten us success has been the way we’ve worked hard together as a group, we stuck with the things that we believe in, and if we decide tomorrow that we’re going to go out and be cute for our home fans, we’re going to get away from what we call ‘our identity’ and what we’ve accomplished so far.”
With their 3-1 victory last night, the B’s not only gained two all-important points in the standings, but they also snapped the Caps’ four-game winning-streak and handed Washington their first loss on home ice of the year at the Verizon Center — a team that went 30-5-6 at home last season.
“They’re going to come out hard and try to even up this series – this two-game home-and-home series.” said Milan Lucic, who has 3-2-5 totals in four games for the Bruins. “For us obviously it’s an important game with the home opener, and I think the biggest thing for us right now is not to change a thing, just keep playing the way we’ve been playing.”
One of the most interesting battles between these two clubs is the continued chess match between 6-foot-9 defenseman Zdeno Chara and Washington’s sniper Alex Ovechkin — a classic display of two of the top players in the NHL at their respective positions trying to ‘one-up’ each other. Last night, Chara logged a monster 29:05 of ice time (including two blocked shots and a plus-1 rating) and helped limit No. 8 to five shots on goal — with his first one not coming until the end of the second period.
The two Captain’s are just getting warmed-up against each other, too, as both will be donning their respective colors for a few more seasons (Chara 2018 UFA; Ovechkin 2021 UFA).
Another heated rivalry that has stemmed from the clubs’ first preseason contest in Washington on Sept. 28, has been between fourth-line centers Gregory Campbell and Matt Hendricks. Campbell, who was called for a two-minute boarding call on Ovechkin late in the third period of that preseason game, had a bullseye etched on his chest instead of a Spoked “B” in Game 2. Replay showed that No. 11 didn’t even touch Ovechkin with that phantom “hit from behind”, but that didn’t stop Hendricks from dropping the mitts with Campbell at center ice…just 0:02 after the opening face-off the following night.
Both centers threw down once again for the second time in as many games, early on in the first period (their first shifts) of last night’s contest.
“It’s just part of the game. Sometimes you got to do that to fire up your team. He’s a competitive guy as well.” Campbell said after practice this afternoon. “There’s nothing personal on either side I don’t think, it’s just part of the game.”
With the new era of hockey schedules, the good ‘ol days of frequent home-and-home rivaled series’ are now far and few between. Last season, with the crammed NHL schedule due to the 2010 Winter Olympics, the Bruins weren’t scheduled for a single home-and-home series. (Although they did play the Toronto Maple Leafs in back-to-back games in Toronto where the Bruins won 5-2 and 7-2, respectively.)
The Bruins are currently in the midst of one of just three home-and-home series this 2010-11 season (the other two on Jan. 17 & 18 vs. Carolina; and Feb. 11 & 13 vs. Detroit). So embarking on such a series — especially between two of the top teams in the East — is sure to spark some intensity and continue on with this heated rivalry.
“It kind of creates a bit of a rivalry. There’s something that carries over from the last game and to the next one. When you’re a team like the Washington Capitals — who won a President’s Trophy – there’s some pride there.” said Julien. “So tomorrow’s going to be a tough game because you’ve got one of the better teams in the league coming in with revenge on their mind.
“It’s going to make for a real exciting game. It’s up to us to make sure that we’re up to the task and we’re ready to play our game and hopefully win that one as well.”
The Bruins turn around and head back to Washington to in just two weeks to face the Capitals once again; and then for the fourth-and-final time of the season in mid-December back in Boston. So even though their four regular season contests end within the 2010 calendar year, these two kingpin teams of the Eastern Conference could very well take this rivalry deep into the playoffs in 2011 and beyond.
Photo (above) by: Bridget Samuels/Ikeastan Hockey