BOSTON, MA - Gameday is finaaaally here at TD Garden. Boston versus Detroit - an Original Six rivalry renewed, with both teams facing off in the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time since 1957.
As the Boston faithful awoke on Friday morning, it marked the start of a new journey, knowing that along the way, there would be ups and downs, oohs and ahhs, celebrations and head shakes - all in the name of heart-racing and bone-chilling playoff hockey.
And it all starts when the puck drops on Game 1, tonight at the Garden.
As always, there are many storylines heading into this one - the history and tradition of the franchises; Detroit's speed game countered against Boston's in-your-face, hard-nosed brand of hockey; a brotherly rivalry put on hold; a Wings' team that cannot be underestimated going up against the Presidents' Trophy-winning Bruins; the list goes on.
You can get caught up on all of those storylines here...
BOSTON, MA - The Bruins made their final preparations for Round 1 against the Red Wings on Thursday.
They also got another player back, with Kevan Miller returning to the ice for practice after missing the past two days. Patrice Bergeron, Loui Eriksson and Andrej Meszaros had all rejoined the group on Wednesday, making it a fuller skate for the team as they run through drills to address Detroit's tendencies and prep for Game 1 on Friday.
The flu bug hit the Bruins earlier in the week, and Bruins Head Coach Claude Julien had said they were managing the situation as best as they could. Having healthy bodies back appears to be a positive sign moving forward.
When asked about the availability of Paille and Kelly for Friday's Game 1, Julien said, "I don't know that it's official yet on any of that stuff. You know, again, today was another day where we added another player, so we'll see what tomorrow brings."
"It's hard for me to start giving you my lineup when I don't know what's going to happen day-to-day, so hopefully it continues to improve, as it has this week, and we'll go from there."
BostonBruins.com - Many view it as a crutch. Some view it as a bad omen. Others few view it as a foreshadowing of good things to come.
On April 12, the Bruins clinched the Presidents' Trophy as the best regular season team. They finished with 54 wins, tied for second most in franchise history. For the first time since 1939-40, they never went more than two games without a win.
Since the award's inception in 1985-86, eight teams who have claimed it went on to win the Cup.
This "trophy" could place added pressure on the Bruins, as they head into the Stanley Cup Playoffs, and face a first round series against the Detroit Red Wings who bring pedigree, Original Six tradition and resiliency to the matchup.
But the reality is, the Black & Gold have been faced with this pressure, and these high expectations, for a while. That escalated in 2011, and hit a pulse in 2013.
"It's the same type of pressure that we've had the last three years," said Milan Lucic. "I think there was pressure even to start this season, just making the Stanley Cup Final out of the East two out of the last three years."
Their consistency and ability to bounce back after any lapses throughout the season further proved that. Their 6-1 loss to Detroit on the eve of the Thanksgiving, and their bounce-back mentality in the aftermath, was one of those moments.
"It seems like obviously we were able to deal with that pressure real well and by going into these playoffs," Lucic said. "You just want to just remain focused and do what you need to do in order to help your team win."
WILMINGTON, MA - As the Bruins wrapped up practice at Ristuccia Arena on Wednesday, only two days remain before Game 1 kicks off against Detroit on Friday night at TD Garden.
The late Friday start gives both sides an opportunity to rest, stay sharp and study the opposing team - while the rest of the teams in the Stanley Cup Playoffs begin their series on Wednesday and Thursday.
"I think there's no control over it, so you just have to take it as a positive and just go along with it and try to get ready," Patrice Bergeron said following Wednesday's skate. "Obviously, the coaches have done a great job at getting us ready in the practices and also in the videos, to make sure we know the tendencies of the Red Wings, and just go with it, and be ready for Friday."
Tuukka Rask was also opting to view the extra days as a positive.
"I don't think it's going to hurt. You know, good to get a couple days of practices in, and then be ready to play," said the netminder. "It's important to get that good start, and then just keep the train rolling, so that's what we're looking forward to."
BOSTON, MA - The Bruins weren't born and bred in Boston. They come from different cities, and different countries, from far away, and from a few states over. But the second they put on the Spoked-B, they know what it stands for, and who they represent.
Captain Zdeno Chara didn't get to call Boston home until he first slipped on the Black & Gold. Now, he can't imagine being anywhere else.
On the morning of April 15, 2014, the Boston Globe published a front page that featured nearly 200 Bostonians representing the city, and its year of hurt and healing following the tragic events at the Boston Marathon - survivors, police, firefighters, EMTs, doctors, nurses, runners, political figures, store owners, and members of the Red Sox and Bruins.
"I'm not born and raised in Boston, but I feel like I'm part of the city. I've been here long enough to feel part of it," said Chara. "And I'm always going to call myself a Bostonian."
BOSTON, MA - With the regular season wrapped up, the Bruins have now shifted to preparing for their first round series against the Detroit Red Wings, which kicks off with Game 1 on Friday, April 18 at TD Garden.
The first step in that process, was a day off on Monday for the team.
During the off day, General Manager Peter Chiarelli addressed reporters Monday during a press conference at TD Garden.
Boston finished the season 54-19-9 with their 54 wins tied for the second most in franchise history. In doing so, they earned 117 points to take home the Presidents' Trophy as the top team in the League after the regular season.
The Bruins enter the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs with their seventh straight postseason appearance, having reached the Final in two of their past three seasons. This core group, in short, has been through a lot.
"Well, it’s all about experience and these guys - I don’t know what our average age is - but there is a group of five, six, maybe eight players that are all in that kind of 26 to 29 range that are really key core players, maybe even 25 to 29," said Chiarelli.
BostonBruins.com - On April 13, 2006, Patrice Bergeron became the youngest Bruin in franchise history to record a 30-goal season.
He was 20 years and 262 days old. He potted his 30th and 31st goals that day against the Montreal Canadiens in the final home game at TD Garden, and the second to last game of the season.
But, of course, the magnitude of the milestone was unbeknownst to Bergeron at the time, until someone informed him.
"I didn't know about that," Bergeron had said, after becoming the youngest to reach the milestone in his second full NHL season. "It's flattering because of all the great players that have played in Boston."
"At the same time, I'm not thinking about that. It's about the team, not about me. Obviously, it's flattering, but I am looking forward for next season now."
Boston missed the postseason that year. After having suited up in a seven-game series against Montreal in 2003-04, Bergeron wouldn't find himself back in the Stanley Cup Playoffs until 2009 under Head Coach Claude Julien.
Much has changed around the organization since then. Bergeron is the only Bruin from the 2005-06 team who remains in Black & Gold. The 2013-14 version just finished atop the League before heading into the postseason.
BOSTON, MA - The Bruins earned a 4-1 win over the Buffalo Sabres in their final home of the regular season at TD Garden on Saturday. The two points also earned them the Presidents' Trophy for the best record in the NHL this season, no matter the outcome of game No. 82 on Sunday against the New Jersey Devils.
As Boston hit the road for New Jersey, though, they could be without Daniel Paille.
At the 7:17 mark of the third period, Paille was leveled at the blueline, and fell hard to the ice. He was assisted off the ice and down the tunnel.
"With Piesy, I haven’t had a chance to talk yet to my trainers or to the doctors, so I’ll probably see later on here," Bruins Head Coach Claude Julien said postgame.
The Bruins also finished the game without Patrice Bergeron, who did not return for the third period. "It's very minor," Julien said of Bergeron's status.
There will likely be more clarity on Paille's status come Sunday.
WINNIPEG - Just two games remain now for the Black & Gold, before they hit reset for the 2014 postseason.
Their latest game, a 2-1 shootout loss to the Winnipeg Jets at the MTS Centre on Thursday night, marked their second straight loss in such fashion, after falling to the Minnesota Wild 4-3 in the shootout on Tuesday.
"If we were getting ready for the playoffs, we’d play a lot better than that. We looked like a disinterested team tonight, and [the Jets] were determined to have a good strong finish here and they did," Bruins Head Coach Claude Julien said postgame.
"They were the better team tonight from start to finish and I thought our goaltender was the reason we were able to come out of here with at least a point."
Brad Marchand put the Bruins up 1-0 off their second shot of the game, at 10:12 into the first period, for his 24th on the season. Winnipeg led shots 12-6 after the first period, but Boston held the 1-0 lead.
That score stuck until 1:05 left in regulation, when Evander Kane broke through Chad Johnson on the Jets' 35th shot of the night, amidst a third period trending in the their favor.
Johnson had made 14 previous stops in the final frame, in which the Jets outshot Boston 15-10. At the other end, former Bruins prospect Michael Hutchinson stood strong for Winnipeg. Bryan Little eventually scored the winner in the shootout.
WINNIPEG - The Bruins held an optional pregame skate at the MTS Centre on Thursday, as they prepared to face the Jets with just three games left in the regular season.
Chris Kelly was not on the ice for the skate, and remains day-to-day.
"He’s obviously a little stiff there - it’s a back injury - and like I said, it’s day to day because a lot of those things are muscle spasms," said Bruins Head Coach Claude Julien. "So we’re just taking it easy there with him. He definitely wouldn’t be able to play today and that can change quickly there if things go the way they should."
"From what I’ve been told, very optimistic about him being ready for the playoffs."
Patrice Bergeron also did not participate in the optional skate. When asked if Thursday night was Bergeron's chance to rest, after David Krejci got the night off on Tuesday in Minnesota, Julien responded, "That’s a good question eh?"
"I haven’t decided that one yet," he went on. "We’ll see - we’re going to make some lineup changes tonight obviously, so right now, I’m going to keep that to myself."
On Wednesday, Julien had deemed Jarome Iginla and Kevan Miller gameday decisions, after they both practiced with the team for the first time since sitting out the Bruins' past two games against Philadelphia and Minnesota with minor, day-to-day, maintenance situations. They also took part in the optional skate on Thursday.