BOSTON – In what was predicted to be an epic series among two evenly-matched teams, the Stanley Cup is about to be awarded to a victor. Chicago could win it as early as tonight, but might have to wait until Wednesday night if Boston has its way in game six. Both clubs face familiar surroundings relative to their most recent visit to the final round. The similarities are stunning.
In the 2010 Final, Chicago held home ice advantage against the Eastern Conference champion Philadelphia taking a 2-0 series lead before the Flyers tied it after four games. Chicago returned home to win game five before going back to Philadelphia and winning 4-3 on overtime. The Blackhawks find themselves in exactly the same position as in 2010.
When asked earlier today if teams act differently in close-out games with a chance to win the Cup and if he had any words with them, Quenneville replied, “Well, a lot of the guys have been through it. I think those guys’ experiences from Philly a few years back can help the rest of the group that haven’t been in this position before. Hossa has had a couple opportunities to be in this spot, as well.
I think it’s an exciting day. You want to make sure that you’re confident out there and play that way. You can’t get ahead of yourself going into this game, and you’ve just got to get excited about your first shift. Then from there get excited about your next shift. It’s something you dream about, so let’s make sure we prepare the right way.”
With the series winding down and finally getting to a point where one team can clinch the Cup with the next game, Quenneville was told about how the young guys talked about the veterans telling stories about 2010 last night and what it was like. Quenneville was asked if it was important to have an idea what it feels like to play with the Cup in the building.
“I think it’s very beneficial. We look back, back in 2010, we were in the same situation. Johnny Madden had been there and Hossa had been there and it was nice listening to those guys that had been in that situation.
I think it prepares the guys with the right frame of mind. And between yesterday and today’s game and today, and basically it’s about the approach. You want to make sure you have confidence going into today’s game, but let’s make sure the energy is going to be in the right place. Let’s make sure there’s a purpose with it. But at the end of the day, we all dream about this challenge and this opportunity, and let’s go take advantage of it.”
On the other bench for Boston in the 2011 Final, the Western Conference-challenging Canucks won both games to open the series at home. The series changed when a vicious, knock-out hit from Vancouver’s Kevin Bieksa on Boston’s Nathan Horton early in game three changed the momentum of the series.
The Bruins knotted the series up at 2-2 before Vancouver took game five setting up a critical game six at TD Garden. With their backs against the wall, Boston evened the series 3-3 before winning a decisive game seven in Vancouver.
And with the Bruins, it is an important point to remember this team is just two years from being against the wall and came up winning. Even more recent was game seven of their first round win in game seven this year against Toronto which came only after a comeback of three goals in the final ten minutes to tie the game and an overtime to goal to win it.
In his game-day press conference, Boston coach Claude Julien referred to winning battles out on the ice with tonight being the ultimate battle to survive. Julien was asked if there is any difference in preparing Game 6 and he responded, “Well, I don’t know if they’re different, but obviously there’s got to be a little bit more urgency, right? It’s a do or die. Again, you play on your toes, not on your heels. You’ve got to win races and win battles, and that doesn’t change. Probably need a little bit more determination at making those things happen tonight.”
There have been multiple references about the Bruins being in the right frame of mind for tonight, how Julien reminds the team to think and be positive. Still, it seems like in the situation the Bruins are in for game six, the club does well when their backs are against the wall.
Julien was asked what are some of the characteristics of his hockey club that he likes that makes them succeed on the ice in these big situations. He responded, “I guess they enjoy that challenge. Just when everybody thinks they’re down, they love that challenge of proving people wrong. I mean, we’ve been knocked down so many times for all different reasons, but we’re very capable of bouncing back. We know we can.
At the same time we’ve got a lot of confidence in each other in that dressing room, from the coaching staff down to the players. There’s a lot of trust and confidence, and that’s what makes a good team and a good group. I think, as I mentioned earlier, I like the excitement of our team right now. They’re excited to play tonight. They’re not afraid of it. They’re excited for the challenge.”
We could be headed to another game seven tonight. The electricity around TD Garden is what you would expect for a decisive game in one of the best sports towns in the world.
The Cup is in the house for the first time in the series waiting to be won by the Chicago Blackhawks for the second time in three years. But as was the case two years ago, the team playing from a series deficit, the Bruins, came back to force a final game for all the marbles. It should be a dandy, just like the entire series has been.
Game six is set for tonight at TD Garden in Boston. Face-off is set for 8:00 PM.
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