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Pregame Notebook: Game 1 at Vancouver

by Hannah Becker / Boston Bruins – It’s finally here.

For the Bruins organization: management, coaches, and players, the media and the fans, it’s the day everyone has been waiting for over two decades. Tonight, the Boston Bruins will embark upon their first Stanley Cup Final series since 1990.

In taking on the Western Conference Champion Vancouver Canucks lies a challenge the Bruins have embraced and intend to overcome. Largely regarded as the best team in the NHL, the Canucks are the favorites entering the series, but that isn’t affecting the Bruins confidence in themselves and belief that it’s their year.

Yesterday, the Bruins were thrown into the mayhem that is the Stanley Cup Final, participating in media day following an afternoon practice at Rogers Arena.

While the Final brings much added attention and fan fare, the Bruins are focused on one thing: hockey.

Neely, Lucic with Vancouver connections

It’s often been documented that Bruins forward Milan Lucic has strong ties to his native Vancouver. Not only was the winger born and raised in the city, he played his junior career with the Vancouver Giants, winning a Memorial Cup, and he was drafted by the Canucks.

But Lucic isn’t the only member of the Bruins organization, President Cam Neely was also originally drafted by the Canucks after growing up in nearby Comex, BC.

“Obviously to be in the finals is pretty special to begin with. Coming back to Vancouver, obviously have some family and friends that are excited about it as well,” Neely said.

“Fortieth anniversary for the Canucks, being a former player, growing up here, its an interesting match-up, but its exciting for sure.”

The bond between Neely and Vancouver goes much deeper than his family ties. Before he came to the Bruins and became an integral part of the organization as a player, and now in a management position, Nelly was actually a Canucks fan.

“Unfortunately it didn’t work out for me here and things worked out really well in Boston but I always certainly kept tabs on what happened to the Canucks over the years, except of course when they played us,” Neely said.

“But it’s home.”

The Vancouver connection is just one of the many things that links Neely to Lucic. Lucic is often compared to a young Neely, with the scoring touch and physical nature of his game bringing fans to their feet every night in TD Garden. The pair also have back-to-back birthday’s June 6 for Neely and June 7 for Lucic, which happen to fall in the middle of the series.

June 6 is also the anniversary of Neely being traded from Vancouver to Boston—and Game 3 in TD Garden.

While Neely will enjoy being “home” for a few days during the season, he’s still focused on hockey and how his team performs in the opening games of the series.

As for all his free tickets to the games:

“I’m sending them all to Luch.”

Bruins experience media mayhem
While the B’s are used to the reporters and camera’s swarming their stalls post-game, nothing quite compared to the hype that ensued during yesterday’s media day.

Mark Recchi
“I’m enjoying it. It’s pretty cool, it doesn’t happen a lot,” Bruins center David Krejci said.

“We knew that it was going to be crazy like this with the media and fans and stuff but you have to enjoy it, you have to.”

While the increased media attention is a result of being in the Stanley Cup Final, the reason the Bruins are here is because they have battled and outworked three other teams throughout the postseason to be one of two squads left standing.

“This is the biggest stage in hockey you know, and right now there’s only two teams left playing and we like to think of ourselves as one of the two best teams left playing,” forward Gregory Campbell said.

“So this is what comes along with it but I think you have to enjoy the attention, you know, and be able to thrive under the microscope but also have the ability to focus on playing hockey.”

Playing hockey will be key for the Bruins come puck drop tonight. They will have to put the media, fans and increased attention out of mind and purely focus on what is happening on the ice.

The media attention has increased throughout the postseason, and the Bruins, who play in a hockey, sports and media heavy city, have adjusted well to keeping their minds on what matters most.

“It’s part of the process and you want to take it all in,” Rich Peverley said.

“But at the same time you know you’ve got to keep your focus and that focus is game one.”

Chara, Thomas look to stifle Sedin twins
The only time they have ever played in a hockey game against each other was in this year’s All-Star game, when they were drafted by different teams.

Henrik Sedin of the Vancouver Canucks skates with the puck against Zdeno Chara of the Boston Bruins
For twin brothers Henrik and Daniel Sedin, that chemistry, combined with their pure talent, has brought them and their teammates to the NHL finals.

One of the biggest offensive threats for the Canucks, the Sedin twins will have to get past Zdeno Chara and his defensive partner Dennis Seidenberg, and then come face-to-face with Tim Thomas if they want to have the same offensive impact in the Finals as they have had throughout the postseason.

Chara knows the Sedins present a tough challenge and he will be charged with defending them as much as possible. With Games 1 and 2 in Vancouver, the Bruins don’t have the last change to guarantee Chara will be on the ice with the twins.

“Being together for so long, since growing up together, they know each other extremely well, they know where they are, even without looking at each other,” Chara said.

“So it makes it obviously a challenge and hard to play against them, but we just have to try to take as much away from them.”

Chara is a Norris Trophy finalist, recognized as one of the best defensemen in the league, but he’ll have to be at the top of his game in order to minimize the brothers’ production on the ice.

“You just play the way you are used to playing, and just be aware of what they like to do, their tendencies, and try to be ahead of them in that part of the game,” said Chara.

Chara isn’t the only Bruin who has to be intensely aware of the Sedins’ presence on the ice. Thomas must be ready for anything from the duo who skate together on the same line.

“They’re great players so with those type of guys you have to be ready for the pass and shot at all times,” said Thomas.  “There’s certain guys that you know are shooters and certain guys you know as passers and I don’t think you can put either of them exactly in either category.”

For Thomas, it’s not just being able to pick pass from shot, he also has to pick Daniel from Henrik.

“One brother has more tendency to shoot, the other has more tendency to pass. But they look so alike, they’re numbers are so alike, there’s no use trying to figure out which is which,” Thomas said.

“I’m just going to play them both honestly and just try to be ready for everything.”
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