The talk is over. The long hours of video preparation are done and both the Chicago Blackhawks and Boston Bruins skated for the final time on Wednesday morning as they get ready to butt heads in the Stanley Cup finals. One team will win the Cup for the second time in less than a half-decade while the other will wonder ‘what if?'
"The last thing you want to have in life is regret," veteran winger Jamal Mayers told his team recently. "One day they'll be me, at the end of their rope and you wonder what could have been."
Mayers actually said those words before Game 5 against the Detroit Red Wings, when the Hawks were down 3-1 in the series. Since then, they've won seven of eight games and now need four more to hoist the Cup again.
"For the guys that won (in 2010), it should be more than one," Mayers said. "I told them how (bad)it is to play on a (bad) team. I played five years on a good team then they blew the team up, so before they do that, let's win."
Boston will have something to say about that. Both teams have the skill and grit to play different styles, but it's the Bruins who will run you over as much as go around you. It's part of their DNA. The Hawks can do it too but it's not their norm. They need to get to that level -- and they usually do.
"I have to find that physical presence, obviously, provide that safety to allow out superstars to play their game," winger Brandon Bollig said. "Boston is a big tough team so hopefully they feel safer doing that with me."
Joel Quenneville practically announced how he feels this series could go by inserting Bollig into the lineup for the first time since Round 1 against Minnesota. Viktor's Stalberg's speed might be missed but Bollig's braun won't be.
"We want him to play hard, smart, within the whistles, bring that element," Quenneville said.
For the veterans like Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews, they can rely on the feelings they had heading into the 2010 Cup finals. Each spoke recently about being very young at the time but now they have a better understanding of what it takes.
"I remember the first few games of the finals last time I really didn't play that well because I probably was thinking or worried too much," Kane said. "You can use that to your advantage."
Toews isn't nervous or necessarily relaxed. He's just ready.
"Probably about the same (as last time)," Toews said. "You get this far, you want to win. It's good to have that experience but at the same time I don't think it ever gets old or you get used to it."
Nothing is lost on either team. Young or old, all want to seize the opportunity. And each team winning the Cup recently doesn't change the desire.
"Once you get a taste of it you want to feel it again and again," Quenneville has said in the past.
"It's tough to make it here, for sure, you have to take advantage of it when you can," Brandon Saad said. "You see guys like (Jaromir) Jagr play (in the finals) at the start (of his career) then he's not back for 20 years."
The Bruins will come hard, as they did against Pittsburgh but the Hawks are underestimated in the grit and braun department. Dave Bolland and Andrew Shaw will eventually get to David Krejci's line while the Hawks will score just enough to eke out a seven game series win. Shaw summed it up the best.
"I can't wait," he said on Tuesday. "It's going to be a war."