BOSTON -- Even in the midst of an intense Stanley Cup Final series, there are moments for reflection.
For Andrew Shaw, those came in the downtime between practice and games, wandering the streets of Boston.
“It’s a nice city,” said Shaw, who has 10 points through his last 10 games entering Thursday night’s action against the Bruins. “We walked around a few times during the playoffs last year and there are a lot of hockey fans here, which is nice. It’s a hockey town.”
As Shaw stood in the visitor’s locker room at TD Garden for the first time since the Blackhawks’ Game 6 postgame celebration in June, he reflected on the change in scenery.
“It’s a lot drier now,” he said, with the hint of a smile crossing his face.
Memories aside, the business at hand is more pressing.
As the Hawks try to chase down St. Louis atop the Central division standings, they are reacquainted with last year’s Cup foe -- one which just saw a 12-game winning streak come to an end on Monday.
And, given the teams’ first meeting this season (a 3-2 shootout win by the Hawks on Jan. 19), both sides are expecting more of the riveting brand of hockey they’ve exhibited each time out.
“It certainly is a great memory, a great night, with an unpredictable, amazing ending, and good memories for sure,” Hawks head coach Joel Quenneville said of last spring’s triumph. “But I expect a dangerous team on the other side and I know that they’re playing extremely well.”
Goaltender Corey Crawford silenced all of his doubters through the Hawks’ most recent Cup win. But his Boston return reminded him more of the level of play the Hawks will have to maintain to make yet another deep postseason run.
Crawford admitted there will be no problem finding motivation for tonight’s Cup matchup redux, but that the atmosphere surrounding last year’s series will be present.
“I think being back here brings back memories,” Crawford said, “it makes you remember playoff time and it’s going to be a fun time of year again.”
Quenneville likened the second meeting with the Bruins to that of last Wednesday’s 4-0 blanking of the Blues.
“It’s a good test for us,” he said. “When we saw St. Louis last week, they were on a roll and that arguably was one of our best games all year. And [the Bruins] are on an amazing stretch. It’s an important game to see how we stack up.”
Shaw cited the teams’ similar makeup and character as a contributing factor to the their razon-thin margin of competition.
“We’ve both got a well-balanced team with a lot of skill and a lot of hard-working players,” Shaw said. “When you have that in a team, it’s hard to beat those teams. That’s why we’ve had such great games together.
“They work you as a five-man unit every time you’re on the ice. The special teams are great as well, so they’re tough team to beat and we have to come in tonight expecting that.”
That sentiment was not lost on Thursday’s opponent either.
“It seems to be really good games every time we play each other,” Bruins head coach Claude Julien said during his Thursday morning remarks. “The one thing I look at as far as this game is concerned is that we’re lucky in a lot of ways right now. We’ve clinched a playoff spot already, but where we’re lucky is that we have an opportunity to still play some games that have meanings, and for reasons.”