BOSTON -- The Bruins held their first optional skate after clinching the Eastern Conference title and earning the first Stanley Cup finals berth for the organization since 1990. Following the skate, winger Milan Lucic -- who will be returning home to his native Vancouver for the Cup finals -- had a media scrum in stitches describing how he and Johnny Boychuk received a standing ovation at Pizzeria Regina in the North End on Saturday night.
As Lucic spun his tale, defenseman Adam McQuaid said that he and his teammates are ready to move on to the next step in their quest for the Cup.
“We’re very excited and this opportunity doesn’t come around too often,” the rookie said. “There’s guys that play for years and years that don’t get this opportunity, so you certainly want to enjoy it. But you want to make the most of it.”
To that end, McQuaid says the Bruins realize they must keep the "game-by-game" mantra that has gotten them to this point and not get too high or too low as the series approaches.
“The intensity will increase but you have to harness your emotions,” McQuaid said. “We’re still playing hockey. You have to make the same plays and try to play with poise and confidence.”
Nathan Horton has become “Mr. Clutch” for the Bruins, scoring three game-winners -- including two series-clinching goals -- and eight goals overall in the first 18 postseason games of his career. But even Horton admitted that it was difficult initially to contain the excitement that comes with the Stanley Cup playoffs, and now that he's past that, it will help when the excitement level is at its peak in the finals.
“First couple of games, I was a little bit nervous trying to do too much,” Horton acknowledged. “But I think after playing in the first round in Game 7 and going through it with my teammates and really understanding how the playoffs work, I think I’ve learned to calm down. Everyone says that when you’re a veteran in the playoffs, you learn how to deal with the situations. So far so good. We’ve had opportunities that have been tough, but we stuck with it and in the end that’s all that matters.”
Coach Claude Julien has been impressed with the way the players have handled the spotlight and excitement.
“I think they’re obviously handling it very well,” Julien said. “We’re obviously excited to be here. This is a position that we’ve wanted to be in since the beginning of the year.
"Having said that, I think we’re also aware of what has to be done to make it even better, and we’re really doing a good job of staying focused and doing the things that we have to do here to prepare.
“It was important for us to enjoy the moment. If you’re going to remember those kind of things, you have to enjoy the moment. And for me, it took me a long time to get to sleep that night, certainly for the right reason, not the wrong one. But the next day was back to work thinking about what you had to do here. We had already started doing our preparation for the Vancouver team and today was just one step in that direction.”