Bruins defenseman Johnny Boychuk has been keeping a diary for ESPNBoston.com throughout the season and playoffs. After winning the Eastern Conference Championship, he reflected on the series with the Lightning, how fans motivated them in Game 7, what to expect from Vancouver and why this particular Stanley Cup finals match-up might mean more to a couple of Bruins. -- As told to Louise K. Cornetta)
The series with Tampa certainly had a lot of emotional ups and downs to it. Frustrating at times but then happiness when we were winning and doing good things. I can tell you this, we gave everything we had in this series. I'm exhausted right now, but will be rested and ready for Vancouver.
Let's go over some keys to the series win over the Lightning. First, I have to say goaltending. Timmy [Thomas] played so well. He is amazing. The stick save he had in Game 5 was unbelievable. Next, I'd say working past their system and timely goals. I know our power play wasn't clicking on all cylinders but we were able to battle through that by sticking to our system by scoring when we had our chances and making sure to bear down when we did have those chances.
Another key was getting Bergy [Patrice Bergeron] back. He helped out a lot because he was a very good faceoff man. Winning faceoffs is so important. Tyler [Seguin] played really well when he stepped in for Bergy. Those first two games Tyler got a bunch of points, which helped us get a win. For him to step up and fill that void really helped our team out. It's hard being a first-year player in the league. I know that, I've been there. You just have to make sure to bring it every game. He's a very skilled player and when he has that speed that he has and the hands and the scoring ability, nobody can stop him.
Something I won't say we learned because we learned this last year was a three-goal lead is never enough. After Game 4, we were reminded about it a lot. Even ourselves, we remind ourselves about it. You just have to bear down when you have that lead.
I don't know if this is a key to our winning the series, but it is definitely an element of the playoffs: playing through pain. You probably saw me get hit by [Steve] Downie. What happened with the Downie hit was I got the puck and I didn't see him coming from my right side. I passed it over to [Andrew] Ference and then while I knew he hit me, I didn't see him coming. My head was a little fuzzy, that happens when you're blind-sided like that. But nothing was wrong with me so I was happy about that. At this point unless you have a broken leg, you play through it. As you can see from what happened in Game 7 to [Steven] Stamkos with the unfortunate puck from me that went off his face, you come back and play.
That brings us to Game 7 and there is nothing quite like winning one. I’d say winning a Game 7 is obviously key to winning a series! [Nathan] Horton came through for us again. The crowd was unbelievable and we needed them to be like that tonight. They gave us boosts when we might have felt tired. They cheered loud almost to the point where you would have put earplugs in if you could. It was an intense game. You could hear the crowd all the way from the dressing room stomping their feet and yelling. It was unbelievable. We worked hard in the regular season to get home ice in the playoffs as much as possible. It made a difference tonight but next series we don't have home ice advantage. But I'm sure when we come back here for our games against Vancouver, the crowd will somehow be even louder.
With Vancouver, be watching for the Sedin twins who are unbelievable and [Ryan] Kesler. I know Kesler is a little banged up with a leg injury, but I don't expect that to affect him. I don't think it would affect anybody in the Stanley Cup Finals. They got [Kevin] Bieksa and a lot of skilled and gritty players like him. [Roberto] Luongo is a world class goalie. Fortunately, we have one too. This series will feature two world class goalies. It's going to be hard to beat either one of them. They are a good team, obviously, to get to where they are as Western Conference champions.
We only played them once in the regular season [Editor's note: A 3-1 win on February 26 in Vancouver]. I barely remember playing them. So we'll be going over them a lot in video sessions to find out the keys to what will be most effective against them. I do know they have a never quit attitude. They are an all-around good team just like us. I also know our power play will be very important. Put all the series behind us now, the power play is starting on a clean slate. If our power play is going, we have a better chance to win.
Looch [Milan Lucic] is from Vancouver, but I don't know how excited he is to be going home. I say that because tickets are going to be pretty expensive! The crowd there is going to be going crazy. You could see it. We all watched the last game they won in double overtime against the Sharks. The crowd was going wild. With both teams not having been in the Stanley Cup Finals for such a long time [Editor's note: Since 1990 for the Bruins, 1994 for the Canucks] their crowd will be just as intense as our crowd. Fans may think about how long it's been for both teams but the players don't. We don't really think about it. We just want to make sure we get the job done. And I don't believe all of Canada will be rooting for them. I believe half of Canada will be rooting for the Bruins.
Cam Neely [Bruins president], as everyone remembers, was traded from Vancouver to the Bruins. I don't know if beating this team will be any more special for him. I just think he wants to see everyone fulfill their dreams. If we get to beat his old team, then so be it. That's what you dream of as a kid, winning a Stanley Cup. I think every kid that plays hockey does. I sincerely mean it when I say winning a Stanley Cup would be a dream come true. I have seen the Cup. I went to the Hockey Hall of Fame and saw it. Of course I did not touch it. For those that don't know, you don't touch the Cup unless you win it. Not even the Eastern Conference Trophy, you don't touch any cup until you win it.
You may be surprised that we don't have champagne flying or anything like that after winning the Eastern Conference finals. I mean, we will enjoy the moment, but we have one more goal left to do. I want to end by saying thank you to the fans for everything throughout the whole year. Thank you for supporting us as much as you have.