BRIGHTON, Mass – Don't call it a Stanley Cup Final rematch, and don't make it out to be more than a two point game in an NHL regular season where there will be 82 of ‘em.
Okay, so maybe it is a little important than a Tuesday night game against the Ottawa Senators, but the Bruins, to their credit, are trying to keep things in perspective with the St. Louis Blues headed to Boston for Saturday night's showdown at TD Garden. It will be the first time the two hockey clubs have met since last June's Stanley Cup Final, and the first time each of them have been on the Garden ice since the Blues crushed their dreams in Game 7 on the very same Garden frozen sheet.
Both teams have jumped out to solid starts this season with the Bruins (6-1-2) near the top of the Atlantic Division and the Blues (5-2-3) finally hitting their stride on the heels of a two-game winning streak. The Bruins seemingly haven't missed a beat from last season while Hockey Night in Canada's Don Cherry had to advise St. Louis to start playing "sweetheart hockey" during the regular season during last weekend's Coach's Corner.
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That's a far cry from last postseason when Craig Berube had guys like Ivan Barbashev, Oskar Sundqvist and Sammy Blais taking runs at opponents, and playing the kind of bruising, bullying hockey that the Bruins once made their trademark.
Don't expect much "sweetheart hockey" on Saturday night, though, with the Bruins still stinging from their Stanley Cup Final loss, and some B's players perhaps feeling like they have a score or two to settle with a St. Louis team that pushed them around the ice.
"I think it will be a little more intense, to be honest with you, than just another regular season game. It was probably the most intense series I've ever been a part of and it didn't go our way, so we're obviously not happy about that. But they're playing pretty well, so it will be a good test for us," said Jake DeBrusk. "I don't really know how it's going to go though. I'm kind of up in the air about it. But if I were to guess I think it's probably going to be more intense because there's a lot of emotion coming out with this offseason and everything like that.
"There's definitely [hard feelings]. I'd be lying if I said there wasn't. Everybody has different things going on, but just emotional roller coaster of that series and the fact that it didn't go our way is hard to ignore. But it's also one game out of 82, and I think that's why it will be a little more intense."
More than likely, though, it will be about the Bruins playing their modern-day game, and looking to turn superior special teams play, elite goaltending and the stellar play of the Perfection line into revenge offense on the scoreboard. If anybody needs to be looking for revenge against the Blues it would be Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak, who were effectively shut down for most of the seven game series and outplayed by Ryan O'Reilly's line for long stretches of the Stanley Cup Final.
Just don't expect the Black and Gold to come out and say that revenge is on their minds.
"It's just another game," said Brad Marchand. "It's a team that we lost to last year. The memories are obviously there, but it's not going to change anything that happened. At the end of the day it's two points, so that's how we're going to focus and prepare. If we win tomorrow it doesn't change anything from last year. That's over and done with.
"I think a lot of people look more into the playoff series the rivalries than we do. I don't think anybody prepared last game [against] Toronto than any other game we've played. We went into Toronto [last weekend] and lost, and it was a big statement game for them. It's points for us. We don't care that we're playing Toronto. We're onto this year and we're onto preparing for each and every game and trying to build for the playoffs, and the Cup this year. What happened in the past doesn't change that and doesn't change how we prepare."
So how should the Bruins feel about facing down the Blues again in a game where the stakes are much lower, and even a landslide, feel-good victory isn't going to make them feel any better about losing last June's winner-take-all Game 7? Bruce Cassidy said the Bruins should do a little bit of both, and allow the emotion to push them into engaged, energetic hockey while realizing that there won't ever be a do-over for the Stanley Cup Final disappointment.
"Yes and no, right? We've talked about turning the page and just focusing on this year. We have very similar teams, but it's a new year and a new season and we're both going through our stuff. I think once we get out there on the ice there will be some memories of playing that team, and playing them at a very important time of the year.
"But then it's on to New York after that and we want to put our best foot forward. We'll probably have a little extra motivation, but this won't be a "be all, end all" type of game. We had our opportunity in Game 7 and it didn't go our way, so now we're focused on this year. That ship has sailed."
The Bruins are under no illusions that beating the Blues on Saturday night is going to change what happened last June, and that's clear in the way they've bounced back this season. But give the Bruins some truth serum and maybe there is a score or two to be settled from a Stanley Cup Final that became such a bitter pill for the Black and Gold.
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