April 12, 2012

B's blocking out big picture, focused on Game 1 vs. Caps

By Jesse Connolly

BOSTON – For the Boston Bruins, the quest to repeat as Stanley Cup champions begins Thursday night at TD Garden. While there’s no denying their ultimate goal is to defend their title, the B’s know full well they can’t get ahead of themselves. 

Bruins d-man Zdeno Chara gets locked up with Capitals forward Nicklas Backstrom. (Getty)

It’ll take 16 wins for hockey’s Holy Grail to remain in possession of the Black and Gold. First up on their agenda is securing win No. 1 against the Washington Capitals. Any chatter revolving around winning back-to-back Cups can wait.

“No, we just don’t even talk about [it],” Chara said. “We’re focusing on Game 1 and taking it one game at a time.”

Coming in as the No. 2 seed against the seventh-seeded Caps has led most to conclude Washington is the underdog in this series. Chara doesn’t look at it that way.

“I don’t know if they can certainly call themselves underdogs but to me, it’s just everybody at this time of year starts at the same level,” the B’s captain said. “It’s something that we have to approach it that way – play hard every game and take care of business.”

Coach Claude Julien liked what he saw at morning skate and feels his troops are prepared for the battle that lies ahead.

“I think it was a focused morning skate more than a quiet one,” said Julien. “I thought our (players) seemed prepared for the tilt. You hope that our experience through the past years have served us well and that we will be ready to go once that puck is dropped.”

The B’s, as most recall, got off to the roughest of starts in last year’s playoffs, dropping two games on home ice to fall behind 0-2 in their quarterfinal series with the Canadiens. For Chara, it was a trying experience, as an illness slowed the 6-foot-9 defenseman in the series opener and kept him out of the second tilt.

Boston’s anchor on the blue line is happy to be healthy heading into the postseason this time around.

“I feel fine. You’re always kind of banged up a little bit but it’s just a part of the whole regular season – 82 games,” Chara said. “But for the most part it’s been a good year for that, so it’s good to go into the playoffs feeling good and healthy.”

 Chara knows he and the B’s will have to remain on their game for the entirety of the contest, especially after watching Pittsburgh blow a 3-0 lead in a 4-3, overtime loss against the Flyers in their first-round clash on Wednesday night.

“Well, I watched a little bit,” Chara said. “I didn’t watch the whole thing but I saw that Pittsburgh was up, Philly came back and tied the game and then won it at the end, so, it just tells you [that] you have to play for 60 and it’s never over until it’s over.”

In the grand scheme of things, No. 33 and Co. will remain focused on the smaller picture, as their series with Washington is the first of many steps toward where they ultimately want to be.

“Yeah, I think so,” Chara said. “I think you can’t be looking at something [when] you’re not even there yet.”

The “there” Chara mentions, of course, is being within reach of bringing the Cup home for a second-straight spring, but the Bruins will tackle that topic when the time comes. For now, they’re solely focused on getting their playoff journey started off on the right foot.

Jesse Connolly can be reached at jconnolly@hockeyjournal.com. Follow him on Twitter at @JesseNEHJ.