The word "respect" was used liberally at Johnny's IceHouse West on Saturday after back-to-back practices for the Chicago Blackhawks and Boston Bruins.
There were times it felt like Aretha Franklin might walk through the door wagging her finger and singing the famed song of the same name. That song, though, wouldn't have really fit the mood of the Blackhawks and Bruins, who will face each other Sunday at United Center (12:30 p.m. ET, NBC) for the first time since Game 6 of the 2013 Stanley Cup Final.
The song "Respect" is about not getting enough of it. These former Stanley Cup Final foes have plenty of it for each other after engaging in a hard-fought, entertaining series last June.
"I think there's always going to be intensity the first time teams play each other [after a Cup Final], but intensity ... it depends what you mean by that," Bruins coach Claude Julien said. "If you're talking about a lot of cheap shots and all that, I don't think that's the case here."
Last season's Final between the Blackhawks and Bruins featured a number of big hits going each way, but they were clean and the hockey played was memorable. The series had physicality, emotion, three overtime decisions (including a triple OT thriller in Game 1) and, of course, those stunning back-to-back goals by Bryan Bickell and Dave Bolland late in the third period of Game 6 in Boston.
Scored 17 seconds apart, those goals ended the game and series in Chicago's favor, becoming the final ebb in a series full of ups and downs. A few things have changed for both sides nearly seven months later, but the respect factor remains.
Chicago forward Patrick Kane discovered that late Friday night in Chicago, when he grabbed a bite to eat after helping the Blackhawks win a big game against the Anaheim Ducks.
"There's going to be respect," Kane said. "I saw some of those guys after the game [against the Ducks]. I went out to dinner and they were there too. A lot of them are respectful and come up and just say, 'Hi,' to you and different stuff. Once you get on the ice, it's totally different. The rivalry kind of renews and reignites itself."
That means the on-ice chatter from the Final will probably return, with each side eager to participate. Kane said the series against the Bruins probably had more "chirping" than Chicago's 2010 Cup victory against the Philadelphia Flyers, but that shouldn't be mistaken for disrespect.
"It's good," he said. "Sometimes that gets you into the game and you have fun with it. It was a fun series to be a part of."
Told of Kane's assessment, Bruins center Patrice Bergeron nodded his head.
"I think he's right," said Bergeron, who played through a number of painful injuries in that sixth game against Chicago. "I've also talked to a couple guys who played on their team, as well, and that's what we basically said. It was a great series, a hard-fought series but still lots of respect on both sides."
It's different to what played out between the Bruins and Vancouver Canucks in 2011, when Boston won the Cup in a very physical series that lasted seven games. Hard feelings developed that still linger now.
Neither the Blackhawks nor the Bruins expect anything like that Sunday.
"There isn't as much talk of that coming into this game, but we both know what's on the line," Boston forward Milan Lucic said. "I wouldn't say there was any other series where there was that mutual respect. I'm sure once the puck drops and we get going, that emotion level will get back pretty quick."
Will it dredge up any lingering issues from last June?
"Well, I guess we'll find out," Blackhawks defenseman Duncan Keith quipped, while coyly flashing a smile. "I think at the end of the day it's a new year and what happened last year was last year. At the same time, you know you're playing the Boston Bruins and you remember that jersey that you were playing against last June. It's going to be exciting to play these guys again."
It's also a big game for each team in terms of the standings.
The Blackhawks, who trail the Ducks for the lead in the Western Conference and NHL standings, are trying to get back into top gear after going 4-1-5 in their past 10 games.
Boston, sitting atop the Atlantic Division with 62 points, is learning to play without defenseman Dennis Seidenberg. The Bruins are 4-5-0 in the nine games they've played since Seidenberg tore the ACL and MCL in his right knee, ending his season.
Otherwise, from a sheer hockey standpoint, the game Sunday will be a chance for each side to pick up where it left off last June. As Julien put it Saturday, "I think it [was] one of those Final [series] where both teams respected each other right to the end and it was decided on the game of hockey, nothing else."
Expect more of the same Sunday. While some might look at this as just another game in a long regular season, at least one significant player doesn't think so.
"There's going to be that history there," Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews said. "I think it's fresh in their memory and it's definitely fresh in ours, that we still want to prove we're the defending Stanley Cup champions. I think there's a lot of respect between both teams, considering the way that series was played, but [this] is a game that we want to win ... probably more than any other game throughout the season."
Author: Brian Hedger | NHL.com Correspondent
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