The celebration from the Boston Bruins was muted.
Sure there were head butts from Patrice Bergeron, captain Zdeno Chara and others for goalie Tuukka Rask after their impressive 3-0 victory at home over the Chicago Blackhawks. But there were no high fives, no fist pumps and few smiles. They were all business on Thursday evening.
It was the game against the Blackhawks at TD Garden nine months ago that the Bruins wanted. The one they should have won.
If you don't remember what happened, the Bruins sure do. They were 76 seconds away from forcing a seventh and deciding game back in Chicago when Blackhawks' Bryan Bickell and David Bolland scored 17 seconds apart to give their team an unlikely 3-2 win and their second Stanley Cup championship in four seasons.
The Blackhawks left the Bruins and their faithful stunned. They just watched the best defensive team in the land succumb to league's most explosive offence.
But nine months later Boston has regrouped. This bunch appears destined for their third visit to the Stanley Cup final in four years. The Bruins have done nothing but demonstrate they are a serious contender this season. Not just in the East, but in the entire league.
The Bruins have serious depth up front and still house one of the most effective fourth lines in the league with Gregory Campbell between Daniel Paille and Shawn Thornton. They have a blue line that hasn't missed a beat despite long-term injuries to veterans Dennis Seidenberg and Adam McQuaid thanks to youngsters Torey Krug, Dougie Hamilton, Matt Bartkowski and Kevan Miller. Then there is Rask, one of the best in the goalie business.
Boston has gone 13-0-1 in their past 14 outings. They have beaten up on the West, the conference with more elite teams, with an 18-4-4 record. They are neck-in-neck with the St. Louis Blues for the Presidents' Trophy as the Blues have 107 points, one better than Boston.
The Bruins have surrendered a league-low 2.04 goals a game.
"We're in right position right now as far as where our game is at," Boston head coach Claude Julien said. "But satisfied is a word that doesn't exist in our room."
The defenders are no pretenders, too. The Blackhawks have hit a rough patch, having gone 7-6-1 in their past 14 games. They only got Marian Hossa back from injury several games ago and now they're without Patrick Kane (knee) and Bickell (upper-body). But they still have one of the league's best offences and leaders in Jonathan Toews.
There has been some roster tinkering for both sides. Chicago traded Bolland, but reacquired speedy and versatile Kris Versteeg. The Bruins allowed Jaromir Jagr and Nathan Horton to skate via free agency and they traded Tyler Seguin away, but Jarome Iginla, Loui Eriksson and Reilly Smith have fit into the Bruins system nicely. 28-year-old rookie Carl Soderberg has developed and found a home on the third line.
On a roll
And do we need to talk about Bergeron? The defensive specialist, face-off man extraordinaire has turned into a goal-scoring machine since his return from helping Canada win Olympic gold. He has scored nine times in 16 games since Sochi, including goals in five straight games after a two-goal outing against Chicago.
Soderberg and Bergeron, who now also has a six-game point streak, scored 13 seconds apart in the third period to break open a close game that was kept tight because of Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford.
This was an emotional night at TD Garden. On Wednesday, Boston lost firemen Michael R. Kennedy and Edward J. Walsh in the line of duty because of an out-of-control fire in the Back Bay area of downtown.
The Bruins wore BFD hats in the pre-game warmup and the firemen were honoured with a moment of silence before the game. Then Bergeron and Co. went out gave the deceased heroes a send off with a win, the Bruins 50th of the season for a team that looks like it will be playing deep into June.
Do you have improvements to suggest for this page?