BOSTON — Peter Chiarelli isn't going to pretend he can ignore the giant Orange and Black elephant in the room.
His Bruins are matched up with the Flyers in the second round of the NHL playoffs for the second straight year, and the previous encounter didn't exactly go well. The Bruins blew a 3-0 series lead and a 3-0 lead in Game 7 on home ice as the Flyers became just the third team in league history to rally from a three-game deficit in a seven-game series.
On Thursday, Chiarelli met with the media at the TD Garden to discuss his club's dramatic first-round victory over Montreal and the upcoming rematch with the Flyers — a rematch Chiarelli relishes.
"I do, I think the players do, I think Claude [Julien] at one point said here's a chance, another chance to redeem yourselves," Chiarelli said. "I believe in Game 7 last year, there were nine players in that game that are on our roster now. Over half the team has turned over, but there are core players also that have lived through that. It's been a consistent theme this year and it's fitting that we're playing them."
Much of the roster has been made over since that debacle, and several of the newcomers played key roles in the win over Montreal. Nathan Horton, acquired from Florida last summer, scored a pair of overtime winners, including the series clincher in Game 7. Chris Kelly, a late-season pickup from Ottawa, was tied with Horton for the team lead with three goals in the opening round and second on the team with six points. Brad Marchand, who was with the team but did not play in the playoffs last year, and Rich Peverley, who came over from Atlanta in February, were each just a point back with 1-4-5 totals.
Chiarelli stated that the team's collapse against Philadelphia wasn't the sole reason for the roster makeover, but bringing in players he felt could thrive in playoff pressure was a factor.
"It wasn't the sole driving force of the player moves that we did," Chiarelli said. "You look at the season, you look at the playoffs, you look at where you want to be and what you need. But certainly you look at some performances in that series and you place a certain amount of weight on those performances and then you make your decisions. Maybe subconsciously it was driving us, but as I said there were nine players so it was over half [that are gone]. Part of that is just normal turnover, too. So we'll see how the new 11 perform in this next series."
Chiarelli knows his future, and that of Julien behind the bench, could rest with how the Bruins perform this time around, but the general manager insists he isn't wasting energy worrying about the speculation about his job security.
"I don't feel that," Chiarelli said. "I can't speak for Claude. I mean I'm certainly supportive of Claude. I think he's a terrific coach. I read everything and what everyone says, or I try to, just to keep abreast of things. I'm comfortable where I am. We want to win, we went out and got pieces to win, and I will try to do things to continue to win. So wherever the chips fall, they fall, but it hasn't really gotten to me. I read it, but you just get used to reading that stuff."
After surviving the speed of the Canadiens in the first round, the Bruins will get a different kind of test against the Flyers. Philadelphia's style more closely resembles Boston's more direct approach to the game, with a bigger lineup playing a more physical game.
"They're bigger, first and foremost, and that's a huge difference," Chiarelli said. "You saw with Montreal that they stretched the ice and they were always coming at you and they were fast. These guys don't stretch the ice a much, but they tend to go to the weak side a lot in the neutral zone. They're more north-south. They're like us. They've got some skilled players. They've got some heavy players. Obviously there's more similarities between us [and Philadelphia] than there are between us and Montreal."
There will also be a similar level of hype. It will be difficult to match the hysteria of an opening-round series against a hated rival like the Habs after a season in which the clubs combined for 182 penalty minutes in one game and Bruins captain Zdeno Chara faced a criminal investigation for a hit on Canadiens forward Max Pacioretty in another. But the storyline of last year's collapse could come close.
"I wouldn't think it would be too much harder than this past series," Chiarelli said. "This past series had a terrific amount of hype for a number of reasons. The common denominator for me in this past series was the players more or less were calm in their own way for all of the series. You'd see some frenzies here and there but they were able to respond after those frenzies and settle things down. I like the way they handled that frenzy and I anticipate the typical playoff environment for this next series. Of course there is some history there from last year, but if that frenzy matches last series, you guys [reporters] will be busy."