BOSTON - When David Backes arrived in Boston during the fall of 2016, he wasn't quite sure what to expect. During his 10 years in St. Louis, he had heard stories about the Bruins' leadership group, that core cluster that had paced the Black & Gold for a nearly a decade.
And it didn't take long for the former Blues captain to realize for himself what a unique dressing room he was joining.
"I don't know what I was expecting," said Backes. "But the way that they continue to desire and outwork their opponents really impressed me. And with that fire still burning in them with all the success they've had, this is a special group and something we can build on.
"I could feel that in maybe my first 10 days here, [that] preseason after the World Cup [of Hockey]. Those guys showing up the next day [for training camp] when they weren't supposed to report for many days to come, you sort of see that work ethic right away."
Boston's veteran backbone came together in 2009 - the fab five of Patrice Bergeron, Zdeno Chara, David Krejci, Brad Marchand, and Tuukka Rask forming one of the strongest core groups in the National Hockey League.
Over the last decade, there have plenty of ups and downs, including a Stanley Cup championship in 2011 and another trip to the Final in 2013. And on Monday night, they will kick off their third appearance as they open up the Stanley Cup Final against the St. Louis Blues.
"We have been through a lot," said Krejci. who made his Bruins debut in 2007 as a 20-year-old and is in the midst of his 13th season in Boston. "Everyone in the room is on the same page and we don't take things like this for granted, that's for sure."
Video: Krejci hoping to win Cup for the city
Krejci has essentially grown up, both professionally and personally, with the fellow members of the team's championship core - all of whom are now married with children - as they have continued to build up their place in Bruins history.
"I think Zee is way older," Krejci, the B's leading scorer during both of the team's previous Cup runs, said with a smile. "Obviously on the ice we are becoming better players, more responsible, being more professional off the ice and our off-ice life as well. Obviously we are all married now, we've all got at least two kids each. That has changed a lot. Now our kids hang out together, so that's pretty cool."
"It's been special," added Bergeron. "Obviously we've been together for a while. First of all, winning with all those guys, you create even more memories with that. That being said, we have kids of our own now. It's been a long journey, it's been a lot of fun. And obviously we're more than just teammates, we're close friends."
It is that brotherhood that has helped bridge the gap from Boston's championship runs to a new blend of youth and experience - a combination that has come together swimmingly and has the B's four wins away from their seventh Stanley Cup.
"I don't think you appreciate things more because of your age," said the 42-year-old Chara. "I appreciate them the same as before. It's not just something that happens every year. For some players, it didn't happen yet. For some others, it happened more. But I think you've got to appreciate it because it's so hard - I've been saying that - it's so hard in these days just to make the playoffs."
Over the past two seasons, the Bruins have added homegrown youngsters Charlie McAvoy, Brandon Carlo, Matt Grzelcyk, Jake DeBrusk, and Danton Heinen - just to name a few - to the lineup, forming a developing core that could guide Boston through the next decade.
"We have a mix of pretty much everything and everything kind of fell right into pieces," said Krejci. "It started two years ago with bringing up those younger guys, JD, Chuck, Sean Kuraly, Noel [Acciari], Heino - there's a couple other guys too.
"This is kind of our second year being together…the leaders are having meetings with the younger guys and trying to make them understand how fortunate we are to be in this position."
Video: Chara focused on Game 1 on Monday
That appreciation has been formed throughout the last decade - during which that core group of five experienced the ultimate high, as well as the most devastating of lows.
"You can draw from both. It was so sweet to win, but it hurts to lose," Marchand said when asked which Cup Final appearance motivates him more. "That [loss to Chicago in 2013] was devastating. That still hurts to this day. Probably look back more on the loss and what I would do differently than the win.
"You lose something like this, you're that close, you work that hard, it never leaves you. Hopefully we don't feel that again."
Over the course of the Bruins' 11-day layoff following their Eastern Conference title, Boston's top dogs made sure to impart those memories on their teammates, advice that was critical with 13 players on the B's roster set to make their Stanley Cup Final debuts in Game 1.
"I would hope it would be an advantage for us…those guys have been great," said Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy. "I've said it more this week, right now, this downtime, I think a lot of young guys aren't sure how to approach it, even some guys that have been around.
"They've been great to deal with, with this particular business of trying to stay focused, being selfish with your team, but still getting kind of getting away from the rink and relaxing."
That willingness to embrace the Bruins' new wave of talent has made the likes of Carlo, McAvoy, and DeBrusk feel that much more comfortable as they've adjusted to the National Hockey League. Chara, for one, has always made sure to treat everyone the same, vowing never to use the work "rookie," instead referring to them only as younger players.
"Just the chemistry between the guys. Everybody loves one another," said Carlo. "I think that's a strong word, but overall it's true. This group is just all about playing for each other, hanging out off the ice, doing everything. From top to bottom, whether you're 42 years old, or whatever [Chara] is now, to 20 years old, just the chemistry between this group mixes really well. It correlates onto the ice well."
As it does with Bruins president Cam Neely's edict from earlier this week of everyone "pulling on the same rope."
"You don't just do it for yourself," said Krejci. "You do it for your teammates, for the coaching staff, the organization, for the city."
Video: Bergeron talks at 2019 Media Day