WILMINGTON, Mass. — Some Bruins have embraced the hype surrounding Saturday's showdown with the Canucks. Other have done their best to ignore the buildup heading into the rematch of last year's Stanley Cup Final.
But for all of them, the wait is almost over.
The Bruins went through their final practice before the big game on Friday, then survived a gauntlet of media eager for all their varying takes on the impending marquee matinee matchup.
"I think it's great that there is a buildup towards it," Bruins forward Milan Lucic said. "Obviously both teams I think are excited going into this game, as we should be. Both of us didn't have the starts that we wanted and both teams have picked up their game and are on the top of the league. So it makes it more interesting that there's a lot that we're playing for.
"It's definitely a big game for us, and we're looking forward to the challenge," added Lucic, a Vancouver native who's heard plenty of the hype for the game from his friends and family back home.
Teammate Shawn Thornton has no ties to British Columbia, and that's just as well. He's already had more than his fill of the hype for this game.
"They're a top team in the West and we're a top team in the East, so it's a good challenge for us," Thornton said. "As far as extra buildup and stuff, I guess [it's] since we played them in the Finals and it was a pretty emotional Final, and the Finals should be emotional. You're in the wrong place if you're not playing with emotion that time of year. But as for this one, it's Game 38 for us. It will be a good test. That's pretty much the end of it. I think there's more buildup to it than needs to be.
"We won, we're not sore winners," Thornton added. "We're just approaching this as any other game. It really isn't a big deal to us in here."
That's the message coach Claude Julien has tried to stress, as he downplayed the emotions involved in the rematch.
"I don't think it's as much as people think it is," Julien said. "The Finals were last year. We did what we had to do and we succeeded in that. They come back this year and I'm not going to say it means absolutely nothing. There was a rivalry that was built there and I'm sure both teams are going to go into [Saturday's] game knowing that. But I don't think it's any different than the rivalry that we have with Philadelphia or the other teams that we played [like] Montreal. It's just going to be one of those intense games, but I wouldn't read anything more into it than that. There's no Stanley Cup at the end of [Saturday's] game."
While the Canucks may hope to make a statement with a win after being humiliated in all three games in Boston in last year's Final, Julien doesn't see Saturday's game as likely to settle anything between the new rivals.
"I don't think at the end of the day one team will say we're better than the other," Julien said. "It's a one-game thing. It's not a seven-game series. I think it's exciting for our fans and for the fans that want to watch the game, and it should be. They look at it as a real exciting matchup, and I'm not saying that we're not. I'm just saying that we're not putting all our eggs in one basket as far as saying this is a must-win or a do-or-die situation. It's a league game and we'd like to get the two points for the right reasons and nothing more than that."
The game could mean more to Vancouver. The Canucks were humbled not only on the scoreboard when they were outscored 17-3 in the three games in Boston, but also manhandled physically throughout the series. Vancouver has been roundly criticized for their lack of response, and could be looking to send a different kind of message on Saturday.
"We're not too worried about all the extra stuff," defenseman Adam McQuaid said. "We know it's going to be a good game. It's going to be a challenge. We're certainly making sure we're focused and ready for this game because we're playing against a good team."
Julien was even more blunt when asked about the potential for the Canucks to get out of character with more physical play.
"Let's just put it this way, we're not a team that ever worries about that kind of stuff," Julien said. "We're built to handle that. And if that comes we'll deal with it then."
If the Canucks do try to engage the Bruins, that will likely only play into Boston's hands. But whether Vancouver tries to initiate anything or not, the Bruins don't expect to have any trouble getting emotionally involved in this one.
"It's an easy game to get up for," Lucic said. "I'm sure the emotions will be going early. It will make for a great matinee game."