BOSTON -- Most NHL players go their entire careers without coming within a single victory of hoisting the Stanley Cup.
But heading into Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final on Monday at TD Garden (8 p.m. ET, NBC, CBC, RDS), that's where the Chicago Blackhawks find themselves as they lead the Boston Bruins 3-2 in their best-of-7 series.
Eight players from the current Chicago team were in Philadelphia on June 9, 2010, when they held a 3-2 series lead on the Philadelphia Flyers in the Cup Final and wrapped up the series with forward Patrick Kane's overtime winner. The wisdom gained from that game and the calmness it inspires in the Blackhawks are huge asset three years later.
"It's a similar feeling, especially having the series tied 2-2 and taking Game 5 at home and coming on the road for Game 6. But, you have to be careful," Kane said Sunday. "Even a couple of years ago, Boston was down 3-2, they won at home and then won game 7 in Vancouver. This team is capable of coming back. For us, I know it's a big game, but you want to play like it's any other game."
With eight players left from that 2010 Cup team, that leaves a number of players experiencing this clinching-game atmosphere for the first time. That's why Chicago is collectively working to keep nerves calm and the pace even heading into Game 6.
"I think it's a fun time. The process of getting this far makes it all worthwhile along the way. There's some highs, there's some laws, there's excitement, great days, there's some tough days. The one thing is you don't want to get ahead of yourself in the process," Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said shortly after the team flew into Boston on Sunday. "We've got some guys that have been there, they know the experience. There are some guys that are so excited, you dream about this moment. But at the same time, we've got to keep everything in perspective and we want to make sure we're confident playing the game and putting yourself in the now position as opposed to ahead of yourself."
Keeping that perspective likely wasn't quite so easy the last time the Blackhawks found themselves in this very position. The 2010 team that hoisted the Cup in Philadelphia was made up of several players younger than 25 (including Kane, Jonathan Toews, Kris Versteeg, Troy Brouwer, Andrew Ladd, Dustin Byfuglien and Brent Seabrook) who were enjoying their first taste of the Final. This team has more polish, the kind of refined experience that could prove key if the Blackhawks want to keep the Bruins from sending the series back to Chicago for a Game 7 that would take place Wednesday night.
"I think looking back to 2010, we were just satisfied being in that position. I don't think we really cared if it was in any building in the League. It was something that was all new to us," Blackhawks winger Patrick Sharp said. "We were excited to be there. I can say the same about this year. It's a heck of an opportunity we have [Monday] night. You've got to look at the team we're playing against. They've been in much worse situations than this and they've been able to rally back and fight for their lives.
“To think we're looking ahead and planning on winning another Stanley Cup, that couldn't be further from the truth."