B's ready for rowdy crowd in playoff-starved Toronto

B's ready for rowdy crowd in playoff-starved Toronto
May 6, 2013, 2:00 pm
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TORONTO –- Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli jokingly answered “honored and privileged” when asked how he felt about being the first team to take on the Toronto Maple Leafs in the playoffs prior to the start of the series.

For the many Ontario-born Bruins players up and down the Boston roster, it is going to be something of a privilege and a little bit of fun to be a part of what’s expected to be a raucous crowd for Game 3 at the Air Canada Centre. It’ll be the first time the Maple Leafs have hosted a playoff game since their last Stanley Cup postseason appearance in 2004, and neither team is going to have to manufacture any rippling excitement or strong emotion for the contest.

“I always enjoy coming back. I was a Leafs fan growing up, and I sat up in those stands many times watching games. So I’ve been looking forward to this week, and it’s going to be a new experience,” said Tyler Seguin. “They haven’t been here in nine years, so it should be a pretty loud building. We’re going to be ready to go a lot harder tonight.”

The Bruins have seven Ontario natives on their roster for Game 3 including Seguin, Chris Kelly, Gregory Campbell, Rich Peverley, Shawn Thornton, Nathan Horton and Daniel Paille. Dougie Hamilton is also from the area, but he’s not expected to suit up for the Black and Gold Monday night at the ACC.

Just about every last one of those eight players grew up as a member of Leafs Nation, and this Boston-Toronto series is the first time these two Original Six teams have locked up for a playoff series in their lifetime.

“I remember the last time the Leafs were in the playoffs, and how exciting it was,” said Paille, a native of Welland, Ontario that’s a stone’s throw from Niagara Falls. “I was about an hour away, and it should be just as much [excitement] as that if not more.

“When you have an atmosphere like that where it’s going to be loud – and it doesn’t even matter if they’re cheering for Toronto – you get goose bumps and get right into it.”

The start could be very important for the Black and Gold. If they can score a goal or two early, then the ACC crowd could start to turn on their home team. Leafs fans have become conditioned to expect the worst from their hockey team, and for something bad to happen when things appear to be going well.

It’s the same defeatist attitude that saturated Red Sox nation in the World Series championship drought from 1918-2004, a familiar loser’s lament to any Boston sports fan over the age of 20. Guys like Kelly are well-versed in this kind of atmosphere around the downtrodden Maple Leafs, knowing that Toronto is trying to break out of that feeling in this playoff series.

“I think it’ll be loud. Toronto is a great place to play hockey. It’s the playoffs so it’ll be amped up just like any other building, but it should be exciting,” said Kelly. “We want to come in and have a good road game just like any other game. The start will be key for both sides.”

Monday has been dubbed “Blue and White” day by City of Toronto Mayor Rob Ford, and there are Maple Leafs flags flying proudly all around the city. The city is pumped for their first taste of Stanley Cup playoff hockey in nearly a decade, and they've whetted their appetite watching key players Joffrey Lupul, James van Riemsdyk, Phil Kessel and Nazem Kadri bring them a win on the road in Boston.

For the Bruins, tonight becomes a matter of harnessing that Toronto barn full of energy, and using it to the benefit of the Black and Gold in a game they absolutely have to get.