CHICAGO, IL - Finally, it's arrived. The morning of Game One came and went, and now only a few hours stand between the Bruins and Blackhawks as they await puck drop on the Stanley Cup Final.
Both teams have been here recently. The Bruins carrying over nearly their entire roster from the 2011 Cup, and Chicago has their core from their 2010 run still intact. They've been through Media Day, and remember the amount of reporters quadrupling from the regular season and round to round.
But, at the heart of it all, it's one more game that they get to play. And the importance of minimizing the "hoopla" - as Bruins' Head Coach Claude Julien has called it - becomes even more significant. Because preparation and focus is everything in this game, especially when faced with a shot at the Stanley Cup.
As such, the respective teams' pregame routines don't change. Equipment preparations are made, skating and stretching ensues, player speak with media (just 10 times the amount) and head off to get in a good meal and rest up for another hockey game.
CHICAGO, IL - The Bruins' lineup at pregame skate this morning at the United Center looked the same as Game Four against Pittsburgh and practices this week. As such, expect to see B's Head Coach Claude Julien mixing and matching with the "bottom six" forwards, depending on situations.
We'll often see defensemen Zdeno Chara and Dennis Seidenberg paired together throughout the game, the mixing and matching will most likely happen on the back end as well, especially in matching up against Chicago's offensive weapons.
The Blackhawks are re-inserting forward Brandon Bollig into their lineup on the fourth line, with Viktor Stalberg expected to be a scratch. It marks his first playoff game of this postseason, but his line with Marcus Kruger and Michael Frolik was a consistent trio for the Hawks during the regular season that, as their Head Coach Joel Quenneville put it, "seemed to be in their offensive zone at the end of shifts."
BostonBruins.com - The Boston Bruins and Chicago Blackhawks haven't faced each other since October 15, 2011.
With the Original Six franchises meeting for the first time in their storied histories in the Stanley Cup Final, what better way to see two of the top teams in their respective conference finally face off?
When the B's faced divisional opponent Toronto, along with the New York Rangers and Pittsburgh Penguins in the first three rounds, they knew exactly what they were matching up against from an experience standpoint, having faced each team at least three times in the regular season.
"The last thing you want to do is try and feel your way through this Final, because by the time you’re done doing that the damage will be done," said Julien, when asked if he'll get a better idea of the 'Hawks come Game One. "You’ve got to go out there and establish your game plan and just play with confidence."
BOSTON, MA - The Bruins held practice at TD Garden Monday morning, and will head to Chicago within the next 24 hours to take part in 'Media Day' at the United Center before kicking off the Final on Wednesday night.
The excitement was apparent. But there was also a calmness and focus about the group. They ran through 60-plus minutes of practice, working on breakouts, line changes, deflections, five-on-five scrimmaging, battling and all aspects of their game. In between practice segments, they would huddle for extended periods of time as Head Coach Claude Julien would draw up plays on the board and instruct his team.
"Yeah, there is," Coach said, acknowledging the composure of his team. "But there was a sense of calmness going into the other ones, too. It’s about understanding what you’re going to be facing."
"We don’t want to waste our energy getting overly excited here a few days before. You’ve got to get yourself mentally ready first and then you’ve got to have the energy that is needed to win a hockey game. So I think our guys are focused and focus is probably what you need right now."
BostonBruins.com - After the Bruins gathered for practice at TD Garden Sunday morning in preparation for the Stanley Cup Final against the Chicago Blackhawks, Bruins Head Coach Claude Julien addressed the media as usual.
Following a sweep of the Pittsburgh Penguins, his team had just given themselves at chance to go for their second Stanley Cup in three years.
But, with the brief break in between series, there was some reflection to be had, on how the Bruins had reached their current standpoint.
"Claude, if I could take you back to Game Seven against Toronto - " a reporter began his question.
"I don't want to go back there," the B's bench boss quipped.
Laughter from the gathered reporters, of course, ensued.
But the B's weren't laughing with 11 minutes to go in that third period of Game Seven. The team has come a long way from three goals shy of a Game Seven defeat at the hands of the Toronto Maple Leafs on May 13.
BostonBruins.com - After Tuukka Rask had gloved the final shot, the horn had sounded, the Bruins had swarmed, and the handshake line with the Pittsburgh Penguins had been complete, Captain Zdeno Chara skated over to accept the Prince of Wales Trophy, affirming their feat of becoming Eastern Conference Champions.
And just as in 2011, Zee brought his entire team over for the first picture. He would not be the only one standing next to the NHL's Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly for the official photo that will be filed somewhere in the archives. Considering his effort in the dying seconds to somehow get a behind-the-back glove save on Evgeni Malkin's shot on heading towards a wide open net, Chara deserved the moment.
But still, as the Boston faithful chanted "We want the Cup! We want the Cup!" he had his teammates gather 'round.
The back story, of course, is that in 2011, Chara had mentioned to Patrice Bergeron and Mark Recchi before Game Seven against Tampa Bay, that he wanted to do a team picture with the trophy after they won, as he didn't think it was appropriate for him to be the one posing on his own.
BOSTON, MA - On Sunday morning, the Bruins were back to work at TD Garden for practice with the knowledge that they would be now be facing the Chicago Blackhawks in the Stanley Cup Final.
The Hawks took down the defending champ LA Kings in double overtime, with Patrick Kane's capping off his hat trick.
Game One begins this Wednesday, June 12, in Chicago, with Game Two slated for Saturday. The series will then shift back to Boston for Games Three and Four on Monday, June 17, and Wednesday, June 19. All games are set for 8 p.m. ET.
Chicago may have been on the verge of clinching their second berth to the Final in the past four seasons, after reaching the pinnacle in 2010, but Captain Zdeno Chara was getting in his rest to prepare for the Final.
Following Sunday's practice, Big Zee was asked by a reporter if it was nice to see the Chicago-LA game end, and know that he'll be able to get started right away (instead of the week lay-off like both the B's and Pens had before the Conference Final).
BostonBruins.com - Tuukka Rask was near perfect against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
The Bruins' netminder saved 134 of the 136 shots directed on his goal through a four-game series sweep of Pittsurgh, sending his team to the Stanley Cup Final for the second time in three years. Though, it was his first time between the pipes for such a feat - and he proved what he and his teammates had known along, and have preached on countless occasions.
Rask is a game-changer. And in this series, he was the difference maker.
In Game One, he recorded his first career playoff shutout in the Bruins' 3-0 win that would set the tone for the series. In Game Four, he stoned Pittsburgh's top guns once again, letting his team finally put out to a 1-0 lead they would never surrender in the final 20 minutes. When the "We want the Cup!" chants fro the Garden faithful had subsided, the "Eastern Conference Champions" flashing around the arena dimmed down, the Bruins outscored their favored opponent 12-2.
BostonBruins.com - The Bruins have punched their ticket to the Stanley Cup Finals.
Now all they have to do is await their opponent, while Chicago and Los Angeles grind out their Western Conference series. The 'Hawks currently have the 3-1 series lead, with Game Five set for tonight.
It wasn't easy. But the the Bruins managed to sweep the Pittsburgh Penguins - the first time such a feat has happened since 1979, allowing them only two goals to their 12 in the process. The B's have now won nine of their past 10 games.
Under General Manager Peter Chiarelli, his club now has won nine playoff series since 2008. The only two teams above them are Pittsburgh and Detroit with 10 apiece.
With the Black & Gold taking a well-deserved off day Saturday following the 1-0 shutout of the Penguins, the B's GM held media availability at TD Garden to discuss his team's performance through the first three series, heading into the Finals.
BostonBruins.com - All it took was one goal for the Boston Bruins to be lifted into their Stanley Cup Finals appearance in the past three years.
In a game of inches, it took a full team effort. From the diving efforts, the blocked shots, the game-changing saves.
But, in Game Four against the Pittsburgh Penguins at TD Garden, with a sweep on the line, all it took was the rising shot of an unlikely candidate.
A 26-year-old from Cornwall, Prince Edward Island, and his blast of a shot from inside the blueline.
The Bruins have another chance at a Stanley Cup and the series-clincher in a tight-as-nails 1-0 game came off the stick of defenseman Adam McQuaid. His second career playoff goal, second this postseason.