WILMINGTON, Mass. Claude Julien pointed out after Wednesdays practice that guys like Gregory Campbell, Brad Marchand, Tyler Seguin and Nathan Horton arent necessarily devoid of playoff experience.
Theyve all participated in playoff games during junior hockey, and have an inkling of what its all about.
There are some guys for us that dont have that NHL playoff experience, but they did in junior and its not like its something theyve never done before, said Julien. We just hope theyre on top of their game, and that they play well for us.
But with all apologies to the Bruins coach attempting to remove a modicum of pressure away from some of his key players, potting 9 goals in 15 playoff games for the Oshawa Generals -- as Horton did during his final year in the Ontario Hockey League -- isnt exactly the same thing as getting that first taste of Bruins-Canadiens in the postseason.
Its also the first time many of these guys will be taking a stab at the traditional playoff beard preferred by hockey players everywhere.
Im looking forward to letting it grow, said Horton. Hopefully it gets really big.
All beards aside, it perhaps bodes well for the Black and Gold that Horton at least rose to the postseason occasion in juniors before spending six years in puck purgatory with the Florida Panthers. But things will be different when Horton takes the ice with his teammates.
Horton, 25, scored 6 goals in the last 10 regular-season games while getting into his playoff mode.
You can really feel it, said Horton. Its hard to explain how you feel, but Im excited to get going and play in my first playoff game. I dont talk a lot about it, but when I do talk to the guys about it they say that its just a big step up from the regular season.
Every game means something and youre playing in the moment. Thats what they say. This is what we play for as a hockey player. To be in this situation and a be a part of this is pretty special and everybody enjoys it.
The big right winger isnt the only one to get his feet wet this particular postseason, however. Campbell was his fellow compatriot in Florida, and hes also dreamed long and hard of fulfilling all those Stanley Cup dreams he had as the young son of a larger-than-life NHL personality in Colin Campbell.
You look at Steve Yzerman, who played 15-some odd years and finally got a chance to win it, and you look at guys like Ray Bourque and Rob BrindAmour and how happy they were to win it. Its something that just brings so much joy, said Campbell. You can have a Hall of Fame unbelievable career like those guys, but unless you win a Cup you always feel like something is missing.
Seguin and Marchand are the true rookies in the Bs mix, and Marchand is perhaps the biggest wild card among any players on the Black and Gold roster given the edge hell have to play with in the postseason. But Marchand knows he needs to be mindful of the line as a first-year player still earning his stripes as a playoff performer.
I know where the line is, and its about keeping control out there, said Marchand. You want to get guys angry and hang in there if you have to. Guys get angry and come after you, and thats a part of it. Im more emotionally involved and into the game if Im playing that way, and it makes me more effective. I have to know where the line is when each game is so important and every little mistake is magnified.
At the end of the day, however, its all about maintaining and elevating the way youve played in the regular season. Horton has done that over the last month of the season, and hes showing the way for Campbell, Seguin and Marchand to similarly shine know that the postseason has arrived. It starts with treating the playoffs in the proper level of importance after working so diligently to arrive as the No. 3 seed in the Eastern Conference.
Its a different world here than playing in Florida, said Horton. Its a different atmosphere and its in the past. Im happy to be a part of this. Its pretty special and I think everybody enjoys it. For me its really been about bearing down and really staying in the moment. Youve got to treat each game like its your last game, and never look too far ahead.
The enjoyment starts for Horton and Co. on Thursday night against the Canadiens, and itll be pretty easy to see who has nerves and whos enjoy the bright lights and big moments of the postseason.