BOSTON -- As the tunnel leading to the end of the Stanley Cup finals narrows, fewer words are spoken and those carefully chosen words become more and more predictable.
It is a rite of passage at this stage of the finals, the reliance on the cliché to deal with the media while players approach what are the final games of the final series, a championship in the offing.
The words may sound familiar because we've heard them all before, but each carries a special, often hidden meaning. Over the years we have developed a sophisticated tool called the Cliché-O-Matic that helps decipher what a player is really saying in the days before the Stanley Cup is awarded.
With the Chicago Blackhawks on the verge of their second Stanley Cup in four years should they win Game 6 Monday night, here's what the Cliché-O-Matic came up with:
What was said: "I'm not really listening to it. I have a job to do. Whatever is being said doesn't really affect what I'm going to do on the ice." -- Chicago netminder Corey Crawford on the repeated questions about his supposedly weak glove hand after stopping 24 of 25 shots in Chicago's 3-1 victory in Game 5.
What was meant: "You know what I say about my glove hand? I laugh in the face of my glove hand. Ha. Wait, that doesn't make any sense. I laugh in the face of a dangerous shot to my glove side. Anyone have Steve Yzerman's address? I need to send him a tape of that one."
What was said: "You can't replace him. But we have some different guys who can step up and play their game. So you adapt, and play a different game out there." -- Boston netminder Tuukka Rask on the loss of center Patrice Bergeron, who had to visit a Chicago hospital after being injured in the first period of Game 5 and whose status for Game 6 is uncertain.
What was meant: "There's an old Finnish saying; 'We're cooked without Bergy.'"
What was said: "There's certainly respect there, no question we respect Chara and the way that he plays the game and the quality of player that he is." -- Chicago forward Patrick Sharp on comments made by teammates Jonathan Toews and Brent Seabrook that they weren't going to be intimidated by Zdeno Chara, the Bruins' gargantuan captain.
What was meant: "I kept trying to point at Toews every time I went into the corner with the big fella. And easy for Seabrook to talk, he never goes down there into the valley of fear in the Bruins' zone."
What was said: "No. I'm pretty sure it was clean." -- Boston defenseman Johnny Boychuk on his hard hit on Toews in the slot in the second period of Game 5. Toews did not play in the third period but is expected to play in Game 6 Monday night after telling reporters on Monday that he feels "fine."
What was meant: "OK, hands up, anyone who really knows what constitutes a good, clean hit anymore? Anyone? Bueller? Bueller? No wonder Brendan Shanahan wants a job in Calgary."
What was said: "We have to focus on our game and know they're going to come out as hard as they can. Their backs are against the wall; they're a great team." -- Chicago Blackhawks forward Andrew Shaw on how it feels to be one win from the Stanley Cup.
What was meant: "I almost said, 'The fourth game is the hardest one to win.' But I'm saving that for Monday morning. I don't want to peak too soon. I just hope no one else uses that line before I do. Better check on the transcript from Patrick Kane's press briefing from Sunday."
What was said: "Big picture is just win two games. You know we concentrate on them one at a time. It's obviously a must-win and we all know the fourth game is the hardest to get and we're going to make it as hard as we can. We're not done yet." -- Boston winger Nathan Horton on the challenges facing the Bruins starting with Game 6 Monday night.
What was meant: "Actually, I seem to recall that fourth win in Vancouver wasn't all that difficult back in '11. In fact I seem to recall the Canucks pretty much just lying down. I wonder if it's all a load of bunk about the fourth-game thing. I'm going to check on that. Anyone have Mark Recchi's phone number?"
What was said: "He kept things positive. It was nice to have him on the bench." -- Chicago forward Bryan Bickell on having Toews on the bench in the third period of Game 5 even though the captain did not play a single shift.
What was meant: "I like it when Pierre LeBrun calls me the human cash register. Ha. Ha. So does my agent. I hope Stan Bowman and the other GMs get it. Because I'm going to be a free agent and I've had a good playoff and, well, you know, I could get paid a lot of money. I don't like it so much when LeBrun calls me the maxed-out credit card when I don't score, though. Makes me want to give him a face-wash."
What was said: "You dream about this moment, but at the same time you've got to keep everything in perspective." -- Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville on being one win from a Cup.
What was meant: "Paul MacLean may have won coach of the year, but he's got nothing on me in the lip cover department. This 'stache is as good as it gets. Not all droopy down the sides like MacLean's. I wouldn't be surprised if it gets a call from the Hall of Fame one day. This 'stache needs its own agent."
What was said: "He's a guy that's day-to-day, and day-to-day is really good news to me anyways. Should be to you guys." -- Boston head coach Claude Julien on Patrice Bergeron and his potential status for Game 6 on Monday.
What was meant: "Why are reporters so obsessed with asking things they know I won't answer? Every day I tell them, no, I'm not going to tell you about injuries and line combinations, and every day they ask the same stinking questions. In both French and English. I think maybe Torts had the right idea."
What was said: "It's very exciting, I think, but at the same time you've got to try to play like it's not on your mind, play one game and play to win it as hard as you can. I'm sure we'll come out with a good effort." -- Blackhawks forward Patrick Kane, who scored the Stanley Cup game winner against Philadelphia in 2010, on what it's like to be one win from another championship for the second time in four years.
What was meant: "I remember when I had the Cup at home in Buffalo that summer and I got stuck in the bucket of a fire truck in downtown. Boy was it hot. I'm not going to do that again."
What was said: "The stars would have to be aligned right for that to happen." -- Kane on whether he felt he could top his Cup-winning goal effort from Game 6 in 2010.
What was meant: "Remember when I scored that goal in Game 6 against the Flyers? How did Michael Leighton not stop that? I'm pretty sure that's not going to work against Rask. I'm going to try high glove. Oh, no, wait, that's the book on our goalie."
What was said: "I think for us the main thing is keep focus on playing our team game and move forward with that. Then, like we said a bunch of times, whoever is on the other side or playing or not playing for us, that's something that we don't want to worry too much about." -- Chicago defenseman Johnny Oduya on what it would mean to have Toews in the lineup even if he's not 100%.
What was meant: "I didn't know you could take the Cup up in a fire truck. Count me in."
What was said: "You're just focusing on your own game. We saw he was injured, but we don't know what happened to him, and you focus on your own game; that's what you do." -- Rookie Carl Soderberg, who played in his first NHL playoff game in Game 5, on what it was like to see Bergeron go down.
What was meant: "Whew. Glad that's over. What? I have to talk to those reporters again tomorrow? And the next day? Holy smoked mackerel. That seems a bit tedious, no?"
What was said: "It's the game of our lives tomorrow. We're fighting for everything. We've got to make sure that we lay it all on the line, so looking forward to tomorrow." -- Boston winger Brad Marchand on the challenge of a do-or-die situation Monday night.
What was meant: "Gee, zero points for me in the finals. Looks like I might have to reprise my speed-bagging of Daniel Sedin from the '11 finals. Those were good times. Maybe I'll try that on Seabrook. No, wait, that would be stupid. Kane? Yeah, that's more like it."