WILMINGTON, Mass. — There was nothing but praise for the defending Stanley Cup champions at Boston Bruins practice Wednesday.
The Chicago Blackhawks will visit TD Garden on Thursday for the first time since stunning the Bruins on that very ice in Game 6 of the 2013 Stanley Cup Final. There’s no hatred between the hockey clubs from Boston and Chicago, though — just good, hard hockey.
“I guess there’s been a respect between the two teams,” Bruins head coach Claude Julien said. “(The Blackhawks are) a great team. They play the game the right way. We like to think that we do as well, and it makes for exciting hockey. It goes to show you that you don’t need all the extracurricular stuff to make it a good game.”
When the Bruins and the Blackhawks met in January for the first time since the Cup Final — a thrilling, 3-2 shootout win for Chicago that packed in all the drama of that fantastic series — there were no scores to settle. In fact, the teams combined for a mere five penalties, including one by Blackhawks defenseman Johnny Oduya for shooting the puck over the glass. By comparison, the Bruins’ first meeting with the Vancouver Canucks after besting them for the 2011 Cup featured 30 total penalties, four fighting majors and a game misconduct for Bruins winger Brad Marchand.
Marchand is more subtle in his role as an agitator when playing against Chicago, though.
“(The Blackhawks) just don’t play that kind of a game,” Marchand said after Wednesday’s practice. “They’re a more skilled, finesse-type team. They don’t as much get into the grinding and the contact and all that. It’s just a little different style. But they’re a great team, and they’ve been playing great this year. They’re very dangerous, so we have to be sure to play our best game.”
While a second straight Presidents’ Trophy likely is out the question, the Blackhawks have been far from a disappointment this season. They enter Wednesday tied with the Anaheim Ducks for the NHL’s fourth-highest point total with 99 and are one of just three teams to boast five 50-point scorers (the Pittsburgh Penguins and Colorado Avalanche are the others).
It’s a well-known fact that the Blackhawks and Bruins match up very well against one another, as evidenced by the razor-thin margins of victory in last season’s Cup Final. Four of the six games were decided by one goal and three required overtime — as did their lone meeting this season. Julien said he expects more of the same this time around.
“I think both teams — ours and then Chicago’s — have been a real good matchup,” Julien said. “I think in the playoffs last year, it was really fun hockey to watch. Even as a coach, it was a great series to coach. Hopefully, we don’t disappoint anybody (Thursday night) in regards to that.”