BOSTON, MA - Walking into the Bruins' locker room on Friday morning, there was a sense of calm confidence among the group, a composed intensity about their demeanor.
They knew what they had to do that morning, and this afternoon, and tonight, when the puck drops at 7:30 p.m. ET (NESN, NBCSN, 98.5 The Sports Hub). And it shouldn't be all that different from what they've done all season; the stakes are just much, much higher.
Captain Zdeno Chara sat in his locker stall, surrounding by reporters. On the other side, Patrice Bergeron soon answered questions, with other Bruins sprinkled throughout the room, all expressing excitement of getting the series going.
A few stalls down from 'Big Zee,' Johnny Boychuk had his usual, carefree nature on display, with a red #StrikeOutALS ball cap on backwards.
BOSTON, MA - In preparation for their Game 1 matchup with the Red Wings on Friday night, the Bruins held an optional pregame skate at TD Garden.
With a day off and four days of practice this week, filled with plenty of video and drills, the Bruins are more than ready for the puck to drop. So are the Red Wings.
"No updates on those guys," Bruins Head Coach Claude Julien said during Friday's pregame media availability, when asked about Paille and Kelly.
The Bruins' bench boss later added that Paille had hit the ice before the group for the first time this week. "He skated this morning on his own," said Julien.
BostonBruins.com - Torey Krug used to frequent "The Joe."
Growing up in Livonia, Michigan, about a half hour outside Detroit, the Red Wings were his childhood team.
When he was six, the Wings won the 1997 Stanley Cup. A year later, he witnessed another. In 2002, at just 11-years-old, he watched the Winged Wheel hoist the third Cup of his childhood, with a 23-year-old Pavel Datsyuk on the squad.
"I grew up when the Red Wings were winning a lot of Stanley Cups, and got to see a lot of great players," he has said, and highlights Nicklas Lidstrom as a player he naturally looked to growing up.
When the Bruins made a visit to Joe Louis Arena to face the Red Wings in September, during the preseason, and Krug looked on as the Zamboni made its rounds, it marked his first time on the opposing side.
He had played plenty of college hockey games there, as a member - and eventually, captain - of the Michigan State Spartans, and had suited up as a minor hockey player there. But this was different.
Since 2012, Krug's allegiances have only been in Black & Gold. When he became a Boston Bruin, he started on a swift journey that would eventually lead him to his second NHL postseason, and a first-round matchup against Detroit.
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.