When the Chicago Blackhawks and Boston Bruins met last June, it was for all the marbles and a big, shiny trophy that’s been around for more than a century.
When they meet tomorrow, there will be the obvious references back to last summer, when the two tussled in a tremendous Stanley Cup Final that ended dramatically. But for the Blackhawks, especially, Sunday is more about moving forward than looking in the past.
The Blackhawks are looking at Sunday’s game against Boston much like they did Friday’s against the Anaheim Ducks: it’s about playing their style, about dictating the pace and about getting two points to keep pace in the Western Conference.
“It’s a good measuring stick. Even (Friday) night is a good measuring stick,” Patrick Kane said. “I feel like when we play these teams we get up for them a little bit, tend to want to prove ourselves. I kind of expect the same tomorrow.”
Obviously some memories are still here. The Bruins talked Saturday of the “heartbreaking” feeling immediately after Game 6, and thoughts they still have of the series. For the Blackhawks the thoughts are more euphoric, although some don’t think about it much anymore.
“I hadn’t really thought about it until you all started asking me. I guess the more you think about it, it’s going to be fun to play,” Duncan Keith said. “We all know what happened last year and they’ve got a great team. At the end of the day, it’s a new year and slightly different teams. But we both wants the two points, and that’s what it all comes down to.”
There’s no doubt the Blackhawks will welcome the test the Bruins bring. If there’s any Eastern Conference team that would fit in just fine in the West, it’s the Bruins. They’re tough and they’re strong defensively and in goaltending. And while the Bruins are struggling lately – 5-5-0 in their last 10 – they’re still a tough opponent. Mix in some lingering feelings about last season, and the Bruins will be especially motivated.
Coach Joel Quenneville said this game’s a big one in his eyes, mainly because we’re getting to that time of the season when all points are crucial.
“No matter your opponent, they’re important from now to the end of the season,” he said. “We’re pretty familiar with them. They play a smart game, a good game. We have to play like we did the first 54 minutes we played (on Friday).”
There will still be lingering thoughts on last year’s Stanley Cup Final between the Bruins and Blackhawks. You can’t play at that level, on that stage, and there not be. But for the most part, the focus is on now and not then.
“It’s a new year and what happened last year is last year. At the same time you’re playing the Boston Bruins and you remember that jersey you were playing against last June,” Keith said. “It’s going to be exciting to play these guys again.”