After doing everything short of holding a pinochle tournament to occupy their time between playoff rounds, the Boston Bruins and Detroit Red Wings will presumably have to shake off the effects of rust when they open Round 2 of the post-season Friday night.
Is it just me, or do people make a lot more of this rust thing than is necessary? Come on people, we’re talking about the best players on the planet here. Players experience long layoffs all the time due to injuries and long summers and they don’t step on the ice looking like Bambi the first day of training camp.
When they open their second-round series Friday, the Bruins will have gone eight days between games and the Red Wings seven. That’s hardly an eternity, so don’t worry, they won’t have forgotten how to play hockey. The Vancouver Canucks went nine days between games before opening the second round against the Chicago Blackhawks Thursday night and it didn’t seem to hurt them one bit.
Personally, I’d rather have the time off to rest and recover than go from one pressure situation right to another. The Carolina Hurricanes will have had two off days, one of them occupied by travel, which gives them little time to put their previous series behind them and focus on the task that confronts them.
It’s more likely the Bruins’ biggest obstacle will be complacency. The Bruins didn’t face a shred of adversity in the first round and when they pushed the Montreal Canadiens, the Habs didn’t push back. The Canadiens were unable to come back when the Bruins got a lead and if there’s one thing we’ve learned so far in this spring’s playoffs, the Hurricanes won’t roll over the way the Canadiens did.
Much was made of the fact that the Bruins went 4-0-0 against the Hurricanes and outscored them 18-6 during the regular season, but it should be pointed out that three of those four games were played before the mid-point of the season when the Hurricanes were muddling their way through the campaign. A lot has changed in Raleigh since then.
Still, it will be imperative for the Hurricanes to keep up their level of intensity and high level of play right off the get-go if they want to have a chance to win this series. The longer the Hurricanes can keep it close and hang in there, the better portent it will be for them. But if the Bruins smell blood early, they could make short work of the Hurricanes.
We shouldn’t count on the Red Wings having to deal with rust, either. The players on this team have been involved in enough long playoff runs to know they have to be sharp from the beginning of the series, particularly this series, which will likely be the scene of a battle for every inch of the ice surface.
We all know this is not your typical No. 2 seed vs. No. 8 seed series, but the Red Wings should be eager to assert themselves by using their superior offensive talent to overcome Anaheim’s spectacular goaltending and world-class blueline corps. And if the Ducks choose to play on the wrong side of the rulebook the way they often do, the Red Wings will be intent on making them pay early and often.
The battles between Chris Pronger and Johan Franzen/Tomas Holmstrom in front of the net should be legendary. Will Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg continue to be able to push back against a team that will physically challenge them at every turn? Will the Ducks top line of Ryan Getzlaf between Bobby Ryan and Corey Perry be as effective against a team that will be far more intent on not letting them have the puck?
We’ll find out soon enough. Let’s get it on, already.
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Ken Campbell, author of the book Habs Heroes, is a senior writer for The Hockey News and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog appears Wednesday and Fridays and his column, Campbell’s Cuts, appears Mondays.
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