Nazem Kadri

Kadri: Bruins series is ‘very, very winnable’


Nazem Kadri likes Toronto’s chances in its opening-round series against Boston.

Just ask him.

“This is a very, very winnable series,” Kadri said prior to Wednesday’s Game 1 at TD Garden.

Confident? Sure, though it’s not the first time the 22-year-old has let his feelings be known.

Yesterday, Kadri responded to those doubting the Leafs had a shot at beating the B’s.

“Any fan who’s remotely educated knows that we have more than a chance,” he said.

The Leafs aren’t being picked by many pundits (or fans) to emerge the victors in their first playoff appearance since 2004.

They only beat Boston once in four tries this season — a 3-2 win back on Mar. 23 — though they did also push the B’s to a shootout in their fourth and final matchup of the year.

The biggest issue, it seems, comes from playoff experience. According to Rob Longley of the Toronto Sun, the Leafs have a combined 206 games of playoff experience in the lineup.

That’s a far cry from the Bruins, who have a whopping 1,273.

Five Q’s: Bruins-Maple Leafs preview

Nazem Kadri #43 of the Toronto Maple Leafs handles the bouncing puck against the Boston Bruins during the game on March 7, 2013 at TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts.
(March 6, 2013 - Source: Jared Wickerham/Getty Images North America)

1) How will James Reimer handle the pressure of his first playoff series?

From Roberto Luongo to Miikka Kiprusoff, there have been rumors since last summer about the Toronto Maple Leafs’ interest in acquiring a goaltender that would likely take the number one gig away from 25-year-old netminder James Reimer. Those trade possibilities never materialized and Reimer ended up having a good season after dealing with concussion issues in his 2011-12 sophomore campaign. However, he has no playoff experience and is being asked to take center stage in front of an excited and hungry fanbase. Getting Reimer some postseason experience now should prove to be very beneficial for him in the long run, but that doesn’t change the fact that he’s a big question mark heading into this series.

2) Does Boston have anything left in the tank?

Due to postponed contests, the Boston Bruins were forced to play six games in the final nine days of the regular season. On top of that, they were 2-5-2 in their final nine games. Fatigue could be a big factor for the Bruins in the early part of this series and might aide in Toronto’s efforts to at least split the first two contests in Boston. The Bruins’ lack of momentum already cost them the Northeast Division. A quick playoff exit would be a shock — especially at the hands of the Leafs — but the B’s don’t want to give their opponents any extra confidence.

3) Will Zdeno Chara shut down Phil Kessel?

Forward Phil Kessel is the Toronto Maple Leafs’ greatest weapon…except against his old team, the Boston Bruins. Kessel had no points and a minus-four rating against Boston this season, and those numbers don’t get much prettier when you look at his career stats versus the Bruins. So can he put all that behind him and be the difference in this series? On the flip side, what should we expect from Zdeno Chara? Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli admitted to CSN New England that the towering defenseman has been slipping lately and needs “to get his game back.”

4) Will Milan Lucic regain his scoring touch?

Speaking of struggling Boston Bruins’ players, forward Milan Lucic hasn’t exactly had a memorable season. He found the back of the net just seven times in 46 games and even ending up spending some time in the press box as a healthy scratch. At the same time, Lucic has three points and a fight in his last two games, so maybe he’s turned a corner. The Bruins have other offensive weapons, but if Lucic doesn’t perform, that will seriously hurt the potency of their top two lines.

5) Will Jaromir Jagr be a difference-maker?

Jaromir Jagr might be 41 years old, but he’s still finding ways to produce. He had 16 goals and 35 points in 45 contests this season and, most importantly, has shined even while most of his teammates have struggled. Additionally, the fact that Martin Brodeur is the only active player who has been in more postseason contests than Jagr has to be a benefit, even on a team with as much playoff experience as the Bruins. Jagr can’t carry the team, but he could certainly be one of its leaders. All the same, it’s concerning that he’s now played in 34 Czech League games on top of the NHL’s condensed schedule. The fatigue factor that might haunt the Bruins could hit him particularly hard.

For all the first-round playoff previews, click here.

Letter: Don Cherry, Bruins had first female reporter dressing room policy


Robin Herman, a former hockey writer for the New York Times, wrote an online letter for ESPN to Don Cherry, containing an interesting tidbit about allowing female reporters into NHL locker rooms during the 1970s.

Here is a small part of what Herman wrote to and about Cherry. The letter was published online early Tuesday morning.

I’d gotten a lot of publicity for breaking “the locker room barrier” at the 1975 All-Star Game in Montreal, but that was a one-off. You were the first coach in the NHL to allow me, a female, accredited sports reporter and member of the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association, into your locker room as a matter of policy. You were coaching the “Big Bad Bruins,” and it was ironic that a team with that reputation should be the most forward-thinking in the NHL.

Click here for the full version of the letter.

This comes after Cherry, the star of Hockey Night in Canada’s Coach’s Corner, said during his Saturday segment: “I don’t believe — and I really believe this — that women should be in a male dressing room.

“I remember the first time it happened to me, guys are walking around naked, and I hear this woman’s voice, I turn around and there’s a woman and she’s asking me about the power play. I said ‘let’s go outside,’ she said ‘I’m not embarrassed.’ I said ‘I am.’”

Cherry said this five days after Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Duncan Keith made a comment to a female reporter in Vancouver.

Herman, in her letter for ESPN, expressed disbelief when she heard about what Cherry said on television this weekend.

“You were all out of sorts about women reporters in the locker room. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. Don’t you remember? I guess you don’t,” she wrote.

Bruins go into playoffs lacking momentum

Johnny Boychuck

Even if you still consider the Boston Bruins legitimate Stanley Cup contenders — and, yes, you probably should — you can’t deny the fact they had the worst record of each of the 16 playoff teams in their last 10 games of the regular season (3-5-2).

And as CSN New England’s Joe Haggerty points out, the last Boston victory over a playoff team came all the way back on April 2, when the B’s beat the Ottawa Senators at TD Garden.

The last time they beat a playoff team on the road was March 21, also against the Senators.

Not that the Bruins didn’t have excuses. The Boston Marathon bombing and manhunt forced two game postponements, not to mention all the anxiety.

And the B’s already had a busy last half of the shortened season on the schedule; they ended up playing 31 games in 59 days in March and April.

There were also injuries to key players, plus a handful of games where they outshot their opponents but just couldn’t finish on their chances.

“The last couple of games we’ve done some good things, and we’ve been more physical,” said B’s defenseman Johnny Boychuck. “We’ve had not as many turnovers at the blue line, which was a key. We had a lot of scoring chances. In playoffs we will make sure to put them in the net…and that’s the goal.”

Ready or not, Boston opens the playoffs Wednesday against the Maple Leafs at TD Garden.

Toronto, by the way, wasn’t exactly red-hot down the stretch either. The Leafs finished with four regulation losses in their last six and only managed to outshoot one of their final 13 opponents.

Senators take seventh seed, give Habs Northeast title with win vs. Bruins


For at least one round, the Ottawa Senators will avoid the East’s juggernaut in the Pittsburgh Penguins. Not all of Canada might be happy, though, as Sunday’s 4-2 Senators win against the Boston Bruins takes a fascinating Montreal Canadiens-Toronto Maple Leafs series off the table.*

Robin Lehner was the star of the show, stopping 34 out of 36 shots for his fifth win of the season (avoiding a Bruins season sweep of the Sens in the process). Little-known forward Jean-Gabriel Pageau scored the game-winner and also collected an assist.

This regulation loss hands the Northeast Division title to the Canadiens. They probably won’t pat the Senators on the back for too long, however, as they’ll host Ottawa in the second vs. seventh seed series.

Meanwhile, the Bruins stay seated in the fourth seed, drawing the Maple Leafs in the process. It might not have the pizzazz of Habs-Leafs, yet the Bruins and Leafs have a robust rivalry in their own right.

Then again, Canada still gets a clash to delight in, as that Habs-Sens series should provide plenty of venom in its own right.

More on the playoff matchups soon. In the meantime, enjoy highlights:

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* – For now?