It is what it is…
Ah, yes, the much-anticipated Stanley Cup Finals rematch is less than 24 hours away between the Vancouver Canucks and the Boston Bruins.
You know, that much-anticipated matchup circled on many hockey fans’ calendars? You know, that much-anticipated matchup that could be described as a “revenge game” for Vancouver after being embarassed in seven games last year?
Those questions are all part of the hype surrounding Saturday’s matinee at TD Garden. But in reality, it is another regular season game that is worth two points midway through the 2011-12 campaign.
While Canucks coach Alain Vigneault is looking forward to the matchup, he also notes that there is far less significance to this midseason showdown nearly seven months after falling to the Bruins in Game 7 back on June 15.
“Unless they have changed the rules and we we win and give us the Cup, it’s another two points in an 82-game schedule,” Vigneault said when meeting with reporters upon the Canucks’ arrival at Logan Airport on Thursday.
“Obviously, we’ve got two really strong teams that went to the Cup Finals last year, but in an 82-game schedule we’re fighting tooth and nail to get into the playoffs and it’s two points that are up for grabs.”
For that matter, the Bruins aren’t trying to buy into the hype either.
Several questions were asked about the rematch just moments after the Bruins’ dismantled the Calgary Flames at the TD Garden by the final of 9-0 Thursday night. Those questions were met with the same response by many of the players.
Don’t believe me? Just ask Nathan Horton, who missed the last four games of the Cup Finals after sustaining a concussion from Aaron Rome’s blindside hit (one that suspended him for the remainder of the Stanley Cup Finals).
“I think everyone’s just thinking that it’s another game,” he said. “We did play them last year in the finals. They’re still a good team and we’re still a good team.
“It’s going to be a good game. I’m not really thinking too much about what happened but I’m just getting excited for the game.”
For Horton, personally, being receptive to Rome — shall the two exchange hello’s — isn’t on the top of his list come Saturday.
While there is still some animosity between the two, Horton’s response was more about being focused on the game — from warmups to the final whistle — and less about his personal issues with the Canucks defenseman, who is expected to be out of the lineup due to a broken thumb.
“I don’t think anyone talks to each other during the game or pregame skate or anything, so I’m not even thinking about something like that,” Horton admitted. “I’m just getting ready for the game.”
Saturday’s game has all the storylines a fan can dream of for a Cup rematch. The Bruins are arguably playing the best hockey out of anyone after their 3-7 start to the season and jumped up to second place in the Eastern Conference standings — one point behind the first place Rangers with a game in hand — while the Canucks have also cured their hangover from losing in June and are now atop the Western Conference — a point ahead of second place Chicago.
The Bruins and Canucks come in with 53 points each through 37 and 41 games, respectively. Many people are already pegging Boston to at least reach the Finals again after going 23-3-1 since Nov. 1, while Vancouver is regaining supremacy in the West.
Yes, there could be some boiling points in this contest and the teams might drop the gloves on a few occasions. But don’t expect Brad Marchand — questionable with flu-like symptoms — to punch Daniel Sedin several times in the face without a response. Don’t expect Alex Burrows to bite Patrice Bergeron. Don’t expect Milan Lucic to taunt Burrows. And don’t expect Roberto Luongo to make any reference to pumping Tim Thomas’ tires.
Just expect another highly contested regular season game worth two points in the standings.
“It’s going to be a huge game,” Bergeron said. “Obviously, it’s a tough team. We’ve seen it last year; it’s a team that’s very physical, a lot of talent, great power play and now we know them more than we used to last year. And it’s going to be a tough battle and I know it’s going to be an exciting game and we’re all looking forward to it.”
To quote a famous saying by Patriots coach Bill Belichick: “It is what it is.”
These two teams could very well meet again in June, but that speculation can be put aside for now.