There was plenty of activity as workers throughout the building put the finishing touches on preparations for the night's climactic Game 7 showdown between the Bruins and Capitals, but it was done in an unusually subdued manner.
It was as if everyone on hand figured they might as well enjoy a few quiet moments while they could. After all, no one expects there to be anything calm about the night's activities once the throngs of Bruins fans descend upon the Garden looking to cheer on their club in another memorable postseason encounter.
"It's going to be unbelievable," Bruins defenseman Greg Zanon said of the Garden atmosphere. "I think that's what the excitement is for. It's not just for the game, it's for how crazy this place is going to be because they're going to be supporting us 100 percent."
Zanon is relatively new to Boston, having come over from Minnesota at this year's trade deadline. He was used to playing in front of full houses with the Wild, but not even that hockey hotbed prepared him for the experience of a playoff game at the Garden.
"It's definitely a different crowd," Zanon said. "They're very — rambunctious I guess is a good word. They're into the game. One thing can spark them, and if we're not playing well they'll let us know. A lot of things drive off a crowd. You can play in some barns that are sold out but you don't hear anything from the fans. This place is unbelievable how loud it gets. There's parts of Game 5 where I'm trying to talk to somebody on the bench and we can't even hear ourselves because it got so loud. But that's a great thing, great atmosphere. It's a great place to be playing."
The Bruins have grown accustomed to such support. Wednesday's Game 7 will be the club's 129th straight regular-season or playoff sellout, a streak dating back to Dec. 5, 2009. The players have learned how to adapt to the noise, but are always grateful for the passion and emotion the fans bring to the building.
"To be honest, you hear the noise, but I don't think I could ever point out a person in the crowd or point out a certain sign or things like that," Bruins center Chris Kelly said. "It's a collective noise, which I like. I think it's great."
That collective noise may never have been higher than in last year's two Game 7s on home ice, when the Bruins beat the hated Habs in overtime in the opening round and bolted past the Lightning with a 1-0 victory in the conference final. And Wednesday's finale to what has been a tight, hard-fought series with the upstart Capitals should be no different.
"It's always great to have that Game 7 at home," Kelly said. "We've worked hard all year to put ourselves in this position and there's no better place than playing in front of our fans in Boston here, so we're excited."
The visitors know what to expect as well. And the Capitals welcome the challenge of trying to quiet that raucous Garden crowd.
"You become numb to it a little bit," Washington forward Mike Knuble said. "You know they're going to be hostile toward you, but that's great. A Game 7 should feel that way. As a player, as long as you're expecting it and ready for it, I think it's not going to put you off guard."
Knuble knows a bit about Boston crowds. He played for the Bruins from 2000-2004 before signing with the Flyers just prior to the owners' lockout. Now in his third season with Washington, Knuble puts the Boston fans among the loudest in the league.
"You can throw Philly in there too," Knuble said. "[Boston] is a great sports town, the fans are passionate and they're fun buildings to play in."
It's even more enjoyable for the home team, and the Bruins don't take their support for granted.
"You embrace it," Zanon said. "When they get really loud it's hard not to notice. So you kind of take it in. Obviously they're behind their team and you want to do everything you can to get the win so they can keep on cheering, keep on partying."
It was quiet Wednesday afternoon, but that will soon change once the capacity crowd of 17,565 comes through the turnstiles. Then it will just be up to the Bruins to determine if that noise will echo through another round of playoffs or be silenced for a longer offseason than the reigning champs would like to contemplate.
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