TAMPA Just 60 minutes of solid hockey stands between the Boston Bruins and the Stanley Cup Finals.
The Bruins havent been there since a 1990 matchup against the Edmonton Oilers. But now its so close to a reality that the Bruins can touch it, and it seems even more attainable when Tim Thomas is pulling his Superman act between the pipes.
Mark Recchi is the only member of the Bruins who was actually in the NHL that year. Though he wasn't with the B's then, he knows what it's like to make it to the Cup finals and win. The 43-year-old certainly knows that these Black and Golden opportunities dont come around very often. And he knows that, for many of his teammates, it will never come again.
Recchi won his first Stanley Cup with the Pittsburgh Penguins in 1991 on a team loaded with talent, and he relives the moments of that first Cup experience each time he moves ahead with these Bruins as their elder statesmen and on-ice leader.
Im still great friends with a lot of those guys on the 1991 Penguins," said Recchi. "Thats the nicest thing. You have a bond thats never broken when you win a championship together. Its something you hold for the rest of your life. The great thing about 2006 when he won again as a member of the Carolina Hurricanes is that I was able to watch and enjoy it a little more because Id already won a Cup in 1991.
You really take it all in more. You watch how guys react to things and you enjoy it. You see how guys are handling things, and maybe not handling things. Its fun to be around it. This is the time of year that guys love to be involved in.
Its the time of year where its up to the Bruins to come out hitting, scoring and flying just like they did against the Flyers in the final game of the last round. The Bruins piled it on early with strength, skill, speed and anything else they could think to throw at the flagging Flyers.
Thats the same game plan they should have Wednesday night against faltering goaltender Dwayne Roloson and a sagging Lightning defense corps.
Its amazing that the Bs have encountered fluctuating goaltender situations in each of the last two rounds against Philadelphia and Tampa Bay, because Boston has enjoyed an overwhelming advantage in that category.
Even so, and even with a series lead, they don't want to sit back and wait.
Theres nothing to worry about it. Theres no pressure. You just go out there, play your game and lay it on the line, said Recchi. You put everything you have into Wednesday night and if it doesnt happen then theres a Game 7. Were going to go out, enjoy it, have fun out there and focus on what we do well as a hockey club.
The guys are excited. This is a great opportunity to end things right now, and were ready to give it a go.
The Bruins have been in these spots before, of course.
They need only look at their last game against the Lightning at the St. Pete Times Forum as a cold shot reminder what happens when things get a little too quick and easy.
The Bs continue to gather a little too much giddiness in certain situations, and constantly battle the balancing act of complacency and lost confidence once things suddenly take a turn. Its a toxic cocktail once it takes effect on the ice as it did in the second period of Game 4.
The Bruins hope to avoid that at all costs, as well as avoid a gray-hair-inducing Game 7. Claude Julien doesn't even want the possibility of a Game 7 to enter into the teams consciousness.
You want to have a mindset of winning Game 6. We talked about it. Don't think ahead and don't think of the past, said Julien. We need to think of the present. Tomorrow is an opportunity to come out and play the best game we can. It's as simple as that.
The Bruins are resilient, and they have fought back from both epic losses and overwhelming odds this season.
The 0-2 series comeback against the Montreal Canadiens was storybook stuff, and there were multiple regular-season losses that registered in the gut punch variety. Perhaps none were a bigger kick to the stomach than Chapter 1 and 2 of the Max Pacioretty saga with the Bruins a pair of regular-season losses to the Canadiens that left plenty of hard feelings and soul searching in their wake once the scrapping Montreal forward got involved. Zdeno Chara went through his own personal trials in the final month of the season and through the first round of the playoffs, but both the player and the team are ready for anything now.
The Bruins are different this season, and theyve proven it time and time again. They did it again in Game 5 against the Lighting at the Garden, and much of it comes from an even-keeled philosophy thats the opposite of last seasons celebrating when the team went up 3-0 in the series against the Flyers.
There are no longer many questions about elite Bs players like Chara and Thomas after beating down the Game 7 ghosts against Montreal and then vanquishing the Flyers but they cant start building their own Bruins legends until they have a Cup of their own to share with the high standard City of Champions in Boston.