Kelly: Bruins should beware of the Senators

Kelly: Bruins should beware of the Senators
April 5, 2012, 11:11 am
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WILMINGTON, Mass. Who better to understand the domination of the Ottawa Senators over the last four years at the hands of the Boston Bruins than Chris Kelly?
Kelly was a member of the Senators for 6 12 years prior to his acquisition by the Bruins at the trade deadline in 2011, so he's seen life from both sides. The B's are 18-5 over Ottawa in the last four years, and Kelly will tell you it's better being the hammer than the nail.
But he'll also tell you that assuming the B's will roll over the Sens in the playoffs -- the two are likely first-round foes -- just because they've beaten them consistently in the regular season these last few years is pure folly.
If we take the approach to the playoffs that teams will roll over then wed be in some big trouble," said Kelly. "The regular season is the regular season, and the playoffs are a whole different beast. Youve seen it in the past where a team has done extremely well against a team during the regular season, and then it goes the other way during the playoffs. The regular season gets thrown out the window after Saturday.
Its all but assured the Bruins and Senators will open up as first-round opponents when Bostons playoff Cup defense begins, probably on April 12 at TD Garden, and those teams meet for the final time this season Thursday night at Scotiabank Place. It wont have the feel of a potential playoff preview, of course, as Patrice Bergeron, Zdeno Chara and Tim Thomas were all left back in Boston to get some rest with the playoffs around the corner.
But that didnt stop Kelly from remembering the ill-at-ease feeling he had when he knew Thomas was going to start against them during his Ottawa days.
Thomas has lost only 5 of the 16 games hes played at Scotiabank Place over his highly decorated career, and he has a current nine-game winning streak in Ottawas home building. Kelly joked that whenever Boston was coming to town it got to the point where the Senators hoped Thomas would get the night off for any reason under the sun.
I was always hoping hed get the flu and miss the game, said a laughing Kelly. But once you saw that gold on the mask, you knew you were in for it.
In his career at Scotiabank Place, Thomas has 1.99 goals-against average and a .940 save percentage in 16 games. He even wins exhibition games in Ottawas building, as he took the victory in Team Charas win at the NHL All-Star game in January.
But none of that matters much to the young Senators, who are readying for a surprise playoff bid. They're a group of largely young, unproven players hungry for a taste of the postseason. Only a handful remain from Kelly's days with the team.
While most NHL prognosticators picked the Senators to finish last in the Northeast Division and out of the playoffs Chara said hes not surprised Ottawa could be Bostons first-round foe. Both he and Kelly give credit to Sens head coach Paul MacLean bringing a new attitude after Cory Clouston couldnt provide the answers Ottawa was looking for.
The biggest difference we see from last year with Ottawa is that theyre really committed to the system and the structure this season, said Chara. They seem to really be paying attention to details, and the new coaching staff seems to have a lot to do with that.
Whats a little more relevant to this seasons potential playoff matchup?
The Bruins are 4-1 against the Sens this season, with the lone Ottawa victory coming in their last game in Boston, and all the Sens defensemen aside from Filip Kuba and Erik Karlsson were minus players against the Bs this year. But Jason Spezza and Daniel Alfredsson also combined for 11 points in nine games against the Bruins this season, and give the Senators their biggest wealth of postseason experience heading into the first-round match.
Alfredsson and Spezza led the playoffs in scoring the year we went to the Cup Finals (2006-07), along with Dany Heatley, so its kind of rare that all three guys would have 26 or 27 points each, said Kelly. Youve got to know where they are on the ice. Theyve been in the postseason before, but there are also a lot of new faces with postseason experience because they all won the Calder Cup with Binghamton last year. There is no shortage of playoff experience on that team.
The AHL playoff experience is obviously much different than the Stanley Cup playoffs, but Kellys point is well-taken.
The bottom line with the Ottawa Senators: Theyre a young, talented team that did well to force themselves back into the playoff picture this season, but the Bruins should have little problem picking them off in an ideal first-round challenge.
Hockey history has shown that the Bruins have been the superior hockey club for a long, long time, and hockey history doesnt lie.