There were plenty of Bruins players hoping to simply shrug off Wednesday night’s matchup in Pittsburgh as just one of 82 games on the regular-season schedule.
David Krejci is one of them, so he didn’t answer definitively when asked if he anticipated anything extra from the Penguins, whom the Bruins swept in last year's Eastern Conference finals.
“It doesn’t really matter to us," said Krejci, who made the famous "we don't have any superstars" quote in Pittsburgh last spring before the B's vanquished the Pens. "It’s just another game. Everybody knows what happened during the playoffs, but that’s behind us now. This is a new season, and everybody has the same chance to win the Cup now. Nobody really cares about what happened last year.
“If we play the way we can play, then we can beat anybody. They’ve got a good lineup, but I think our lineup is pretty good, as well. I feel comfortable about our matchups, and only time will tell.”
That’s fine as a tactic to hold the hype to a minimum as the Black and Gold embark on a return trip to the CONSOL Energy Center, home of the Penguins, but there’s little reason to deny the cold, hard hockey truth.
Boston humbled the mighty Pens last spring, and Zdeno Chara pushed Sidney Crosby around the ice like a bully kicking sand on the 98-pound weakling. Key offensive players like Crosby, Jarome Iginla, Kris Letang and Evgeni Malkin were all bottled up by the Bruins defense, and Pittsburgh had no answer to Boston’s physicality once the puck dropped for Game 1.
So it’s safe to say the Penguins will have a little vengeance on their mind in tonight's highly anticipated “Rivalry Night” on NBCSN. (You'll be able to watch a livestream of the game right here on CSNNE.com.) There’s no Matt Cooke to rattle the Bruins' cages, but they’d better brace for whatever storm the Penguins are capable of creating.
“It always enters your mind, but it’s not up to us,” said Bruins coach Claude Julien. “It’s up to them in how they approach that game. . . . We lost our last game and we need to be better, so we need to bounce back. I have a feeling it’s going to be an interesting game to watch.”
Iginla is perhaps in the most interesting position as a member of last year’s Penguins joined the Bruins this season.
“We both want to be the top teams in the Eastern Conference,” said Iginla. “There will be other teams, too, but this is a good challenge. Whenever you fall to another team in the playoffs, it adds a little more fuel to the fire.
“It adds to the reasons why you don’t like another team, and I’m sure that kind of rivalry will be there.”
Clearly the Penguins don’t like the Bruins very much, considering what Boston did to stifle Pittsburgh’s top forward group last May and how ineffectual the Pens looked trying to stand up to the B's intimidation level. Pride is a hallmark of their organization, dating back to the Mario Lemieux days, and it should be in full bloom against a B’s team that has their number.
The Bruins, on the other hand, don’t have anything to prove to Sidney Crosby or the Penguins. They’ll simply be looking to win a game with a healthy amount of hype surrounding Wednesday night’s confidence.