Pierre McGuire of NBC Sports joined Mut & Merloni on Friday to discuss the Bruins’ 4-3 double-overtime loss to the Canadiens in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semifinals. To hear the interview, go to the Mut & Merloni audio on demand page .
“I was really surprised at the caliber of play, and that speaks well to a fantastic seven-game series, hopefully, because the caliber of play was good as any I’ve seen in this playoff season,” said McGuire, who noted that Friday night he will work his 18th game in 18 nights in 18 cities when he covers the Rangers-Penguins game in Pittsburgh.
The Bruins had 51 shots on goal but missed the net on a number of other opportunities and appeared to overplay the puck on others, leading to turnovers. From his perch between the benches, McGuire heard the Bruins coaches telling the players to be more aggressive in getting the puck to the net.
“I kept hearing them say, ‘Just shoot the puck. Shoot the puck. Don’t be too cute. Shoot the puck,’ ” McGuire said, adding: “One of the big agendas I think for the Bruins going into Game 2 tomorrow afternoon is to shoot the puck from anywhere and just get to the net.”
Meanwhile, the Canadiens pounced on some Bruins turnovers to create chances on the Boston goal.
“The closing speed of the Canadiens is vastly underrated. People that don’t see them a lot don’t understand,” McGuire said. “Everybody knows about Carey Price . Two things people don’t know about the Canadiens that are really important: One, they’re extremely quick. Two, they have a huge amount of character. Much greater than ever before. You saw it with Dale Weise, you saw it with Brandon Prust, you saw it with Travis Moen last night. Their character quotient is a lot higher than people give them credit for. And that’s why I think this will be a long series. And I know the Bruins know it’s going to be a long series and a hard series. They’re aware of it as a team.”
“I think Tuukka said it best. I don’t have to jump on and pile on. I’m sure people are piling on,” McGuire said. “But then again, I remember after Game 1in the Detroit series, everyone was ripping him for the [Pavel] Datsyuk goal, which was a thing of beauty. And he said, ‘Well, maybe I should have had it.’ Tuukka’s harder on himself than any fan could ever be or any newspaper reporter could ever be. He knows he needs to be better. He wasn’t good enough last night. And I think he’ll have a huge bounceback. I’m not surprised that he’s as honest and open as he is, because he doesn’t doubt his abilities at all. And when you don’t doubt your ability, you’re not afraid to say when you make a mistake or you’re not on top of your game. He wasn’t on top of his game last night.”
McGuire said he would rank the overall animosity level at a 7 out of 10 in Game 1, but he expects the Bruins to come out with more fire in Game 2.
“I think the Bruins will get mad, just like they did against Detroit in their second game,” McGuire said. “I think the Bruins will get mad and they’ll go out and they’ll push back, which is fine, that’s the way they’re supposed to play. And I think Montreal will try to do what Detroit did and not respond. And Detroit did in Game 2, if you remember, and that really helped swing the series.”
Following are more highlights from the conversation. For more Bruins news, go to the team page at weei.com/bruins .
On the struggles of Matt Bartkowski: “It’s a hard loss, it’s an emotional loss, it’s against a dreaded rival. I wouldn’t overreact. But the one thing with Matt, and I think this is something that’s always been there for him, when he’s the last guy back with the puck, he’s got to make better decisions. I think he knows that. The coaches, I hear them tell him all the time — Dougie Houda‘s done a good job with that entire defense corps. But he’s got to be better. He’s got to just be a little bit more responsible with the puck.
“If you’ve got to put [Andrej] Meszaros in, I wouldn’t worry about his speed or lack thereof. Andre’s a pro. He knows how to play. And he’s played against the Canadiens a ton over time, just because of his days in Ottawa in particular.”
On Canadiens forward Tomas Vanek, who was moved from the first line to the fourth line: “He wasn’t bringing it last night. Now, he could explode at any time. But I think Boston did a good job taking away his space early on, I really do. But the one thing is with him, it doesn’t take a lot. He just needs one or two quality chances and he can make a difference in a series. So that’s something that you have to pay attention to when you’re playing against him.
“The biggest thing to me is, Michel Therrien‘s not going to mess around. He does have guys that are capable of playing. And if guys aren’t going to pull the rope in the right direction, he’ll just sit them down. He’s not afraid to do that. That’s the biggest difference with the Canadiens from maybe two or three years ago compared to now. They have more depth, they have more character. The coach isn’t afraid to sit guys down. He’s not going to play you based on what your name is or what your number is or what your contract size is. He’s going to play you on whether you’re good enough to play or not.”
On the Game 1 officiating: “I thought it was fair. I thought it was good. People don’t like the penalty at the end on Bartkowski. … I said if another scoring chance is taken away, they’re going to call that, whether it’s against the Canadiens or whether it’s against the Bruins. If it’s anything else but that, I don’t think they would call it, that’s what I said. That’s the biggest thing, is scoring chance denied. Now, was it a glorious scoring chance? No. But what it a scoring chance denied and did he wrap him up? Yeah, he did. So the referee interpreted it that way. I didn’t think the refs were an issue last night. I really didn’t.”