Photo credit: AP
Peter Chiarelli met with the media at TD Garden Monday morning to shed light on the Boston Bruins first round match up against the Detroit Red Wings that is set to kick off Friday night.
Make no mistake about it, Chiarelli knows how dangerous the eighth seeded Red Wings are especially as they nurse back to health, notably Pavel Datsyuk.
If there was one team that stands out that gave the Bruins fits over the course of the year, it was the Red Wings. They beat the B’s three times this regular season, twice without Datsyuk.
“They won the season series versus us,” Chiarelli said about the Red Wings. “We played very poorly for a couple of those games and I’ve watched them a bit down the stretch-they’re a good team. They have injuries while guys are performing well, but it’s a different ball game in the playoffs, but they certainly have speed and some youth.”
Chiarelli praised their system as well as their head coach Mike Babcock who was alongside Claude Julien during this year’s Olympics in Sochi. Babcock and Julien are now the two longest tenured coaches in the NHL after the news of the Nashville Predators parting ways with Barry Trotz.
“They are a classic puck possession team and you can tell they are very well coached,” Chiarelli said. “For a team that skates and moves the puck well, they are strong on the puck. Their D is young (so are we), but they are good and they have a good goalie.”
If there was one aspect of the press conference that was evident, it was how comfortable Chiarelli is with his “core group” and eight defensemen who will be called upon if asked.
“It’s all about experience and these guys that are-we’re still like, I don’t know what our average age is, but there is a group of five, six maybe eight players that are all in that kind of 26 to 29 range that are really key core players, maybe even 25 to 29,” Chiarelli added.
“These players know what they have to do, they know kind of that you have to have a good practice tomorrow, a good practice the next day, have some rest, and eat properly. All that stuff is in place so it’s all about experience and knowing what to expect and knowing that there are going to be ups and downs throughout the way to get through it on a level even keel.”
Like Julien did during the Olympics, Chiarelli also worked closely with the Red Wings’ coaching staff and General Manager Ken Holland, and admitted it is a weird dynamic, but it is all about execution come Friday.
“In that environment, it’s like you kind of bare all because you want to win, but there’s not a lot of secrets, it’s how you execute from the GM side to the coaching side,” Chiarelli noted.
“Everyone scouted, over scouted, scrutinized, but you’re right, you become really good friends in a short period of time, but if we end up playing Tampa at some point or St. Louis, it is going to be the same. Or there are other coaches, Dallas I guess, but yes, I was thinking about that this morning because I had to put a call into Kenny Holland this morning on a couple of things and it was where were kind of partners in crime last time and now we’re competitors.”
Arguably, the two best Bruins this season are Patrice Bergeron and Zdeno Chara. Both Bergeron (a favorite to win the Selke Trophy, and a potential finalist for the Hart) and Chara (one of the favorites for the Norris) expect to earn some individual hardware for their fine performances this season.
“It’s the best I’ve seen him, period,” Chiarelli said regarding Bergeron. “Bergy, he started out as the 13th forward over there in Sochi and everyone saw what he can do and he was basically on the top line at the end of the day. It helped his pace, it helped his tempo, and you know, you see him shoot the puck better this year. He’s had a terrific year and of course, the whole two-way component of his game is so good, it’s always good. It’s not by accident you hear his name in the Hart Trophy conversation, that doesn’t surprise me at all. But, this is the best I’ve seen him play.”
“I think he’s had a terrific year and his play in the context of the young D you’re referring to should put the spot light on him a little bit more,” Chiarelli said about Chara. “Compressed schedule coming off a long year last year, Olympics, you know, he’s a smart player who has a terrific defensive impact. I think he’s had a terrific year and should be in consideration for the Norris Trophy.”
We could go up and down the Bruins’ roster praising each and every individual who dons the Black and Gold. Julien has done a remarkable job guiding his team to their first Presidents’ Trophy triumph since the 1989-90 season.
Chiarelli and the Bruins will try to keep the ball rolling as they host the Red Wings for Game 1 at TD Garden Friday night at 7:30 p.m.