Pregame Notebook: Bruins "Calmly Excited"
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.
Bruins "Calmly Excited"
For the Bruins (and Hawks, for that matter), there's a balance between the excitement and staying calm. The nerves are healthy - it's okay to be excited, anxious, nervous to begin the last hurdle to hoisting the Stanley Cup. But it's equally as important to harness that energy and save it for game time.
It's something that the B's (really, since Game Seven against Toronto) have excelled at on and off the ice. A "controlled intensity," as Bruins' General Manager Peter Chiarelli has labeled it. Their composure and ability to "not get rattled" comes from the adversity they've faced this year (and in years past), and it also stems from their even-keeled coach.
"I saw our guys focused," said Coach Julien, as he spoke to media at the United Center Wednesday morning, prior the Game One. "I thought we had a good morning skate, a short one. At the same time, I think our guys were focused, but also loose in a way that you can tell most of them have been through this before."
"I know for a fact that a few years ago there was some nervousness in our group and everything else. I feel good about our morning skate. So hopefully it shows tonight."
"Obviously it's a new round, it's a fresh start. It doesn't matter what's happened before," said Tyler Seguin, speaking with media in the locker room following the team's morning skate.
"I think the boys in here are calmly confident," he perked up and gave a smirk, "calmly excited, I guess you would say."
Seguin has used that term before, back in Pittsburgh prior to Game One (you can draw whatever comparisons you wish).
Torey Krug may have never been to the Final before like Seguin, but the blueliner - who infamously has "ice in his veins" - is ready, and taking it all in.
"I am very focused right now, excited to get things going. At the same time, I understand how rare it is to get an opportunity like this," he said. "I look around and see all the media everywhere and playing in Chicago. It’s a unique experience and I’m looking forward to get things going."
So, what will Coach Julien's message to his team be prior to the Stanley Cup Final?
"Not much different than anything else. We've gotten here, which is great. But until you've accomplished the final stages of the playoffs, you haven't reached your ultimate goal," said Julien.
"So getting here is one thing, but finishing it is another. We know this could be a tough series. I think you guys all feel the same way as we do - it's pretty evenly matched. I think it will be fun to be part of, from my end of it. I think it will be fun for hockey fans to watch."
Second Time Around
The Bruins have gotten here - and it's the second time they have achieved that feat in three years.
"It’s a little nicer knowing kind of the routine and how things go on off the ice, which makes it a little bit easier," said winger Brad Marchand. "But its’ definitely not any easier on the ice."
"I think we know what to expect except more," said Seguin, on having been through it before. "I think for myself, at the time I didn't really know the taste of it or the complete worth of it, I guess you could say, when we won the Stanley Cup."
Seguin reached the pinnacle in his rookie NHL season, so prior to getting back here this year, his only lost playoff series was last season against the Capitals - and he didn't like the feeling.
"Now that we lost a playoff round in my career, it definitely makes you more motivated to get that back."
Tough Challenge Awaits
Blueliner Andrew Ference understands what's at stake. The B's are focusing on their own game, but know the challenges Chicago presents.
"I think every team is unique in their own way, but one thing that everybody has in common is that they're team's that made the playoffs and had enough consistency and enough hard work into their systems that they deserve to be in the playoffs," said Ference.
"The similarities [compared with Pittsburgh and] with how potent their offense is. But I think it's more about how dangerous everybody is on the ice because they're working their butts off. They care because they wouldn't be at this point in the playoffs if they didn't. So, it's similarities like that that you have to expect at any moment that you're going to get the best out of the other team. That's how you can prepare."
Establishing the Game Plan
With both teams having seen each other, but not played each other, it will be important to establish the game plan right from the drop of the puck. And the B's aren't deterred by having to begin the series in enemy territory.
"They’re going to come out extremely hard," said Brad Marchand. "Being at home with their crowd, it's very easy for them to get up so we’re going to have to make sure we weather the storm and come out hard as well and hope for the best."
"We know what they do," said Julien, on being prepared, despite not having faced the Hawks.
"It's just reacting to their strengths, hopefully exploiting some weaknesses and everything else. That's what you got to do. I think at the drop of the puck, both teams are going to try to do that, they're going to try to establish their game. I know they will and so will we. I think that's why everybody is excited to see this series start and see what happens here at the drop of the puck."
"I know we don't plan on being on our heels in the first 10 minutes, and I don't think they do as well. That's what's going to be exciting."