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The Boys Are Scrappin’

Sunrise, FL - May 8: Boston Bruins RW David Pastrnak fighting with Florida Panthers RW Matthew Tkachuk in the third period. (Photo by Matthew J. Lee/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
Matthew J. Lee/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

Paul Maurice has been doing this for long enough to perfect that postgame look of the HR director on layoff day, so it's not entirely normal for him to become enraptured even when his Florida Panthers put a whoopin' on Jim Montgomery's Bruins in the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, as they did Wednesday night.

But watch him at the 5:08 mark of his postgame presser after Florida's 6-1 victory when he is asked about the team-bonding exercise between his guy Matthew Tkachuk and Boston's David Pastrnak, and suddenly Maurice’s brain adjusts from another tedious press conference after a long evening to a birthday night with the grandkids. He was unapologetic about his old-school view of "boys, boys being boys" as he explained the two "scrums" that energized a series in which the teams exchanged routs and then tempers and look forward to more of the same Friday night in Boston. He almost looked wistful about what Bruins fans will experience before Game 3, and he definitely felt envious about it while knowing that his duty is to prepare them all for further miseries.

It is the rekindling of a rivalry in the venerated and occasionally off-putting tradition of message-sending, not because hockey players at this level need to be given such messages but because they feel compelled to deliver them. So once the Panthers had overcome a silly start and taken a 4-1 lead in the third period, the sides engaged in the Canadian minuet in three separate movements, the last of which was the Tkachuk-Pastrnak fight, which was done with all the requisite permissions. Pastrnak, not known as a fighter, was challenged by Tkachuk while both were on the bench with the traditional "you wanna go?" Pastrnak walked over to his coach to get clearance, Tkachuk checked with Maurice to get his permission slip signed, and at the next shift change, both dropped their gloves, skated toward each other, and well, "boys, boys being boys."

Fights don't hold nearly the currency they once did; using as our database, there was only one every four games this season and four in the playoffs so far. Fighting is largely an inefficient exercise of pique amid a greater goal, and that's being polite. But Montgomery was as enraptured by Pastrnak's eagerness to engage in a fight against someone much more skilled at the art as Maurice was with Tkachuk's honoring of protocol, because they are all hockey lifers and hold the old ways in some level of reverence, and they all found the mutually hostile engagements to be statements of policy in the five (we hope) games to come.

The postseason has been largely a tale of large leads blown (see Canucks 5, Oilers 4 as the latest example) and goalies exchanged, but of the four highly anticipated matchups remaining (Canucks-Oilers is only the fifth second-round or later series between Canadian teams in 30 years), Panthers-Bruins was the one most folks expected to be played on the heavy side, and it has. Players get sick of their opponents faster at this time of year and are willing to express their irritation with greater willingness as well as facility.

But it is a rarity when coaches break out of their shells to express how much they enjoyed the experience of "B,BBB," and Maurice may be the least susceptible of all. Yet there he was with a lipless smile playing across his mouth as he acknowledged that yes, it is a guilty pleasure but it is his guilty pleasure. And Paul Maurice smiling is a guilty pleasure in and of itself.

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