- Joe McDonald, ESPN Staff Writer
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BOSTON -- The love fest is over.
The Boston Bruins and Tampa Bay Lightning will have waited more than a week when the puck finally drops on their Eastern Conference final series Saturday night at TD Garden. While the four remaining Western Conference teams beat up on each other, the Bruins and Lightning were resting and recuperating.
During that time, both teams spoke glowingly of each other. Opposing players were talking about each other as if they were teammates and not about to be bitter rivals.
This guy is great. That guy is great and blah, blah, blah. Enough is enough. Drop the puck, and let's see some blood, guts and glory.
"It's been a long time," Tampa Bay coach Guy Boucher said of the layoff. "It's been a long time for everybody. I think the fans can't wait for it to start and the players can't wait for it to start."
For the Bruins, this series represents a chance to return to the Stanley Cup finals for the first time in more than 20 years.
Ask any player in the Boston locker room and he'll tell you there's a belief this team can return the Cup to this city for the first time since 1972. That belief has been present all season, but for David Krejci, it was reinforced recently in the form of an '80s rock band.
While the Bruins were hiding away in the Adirondack Mountains between Games 3 and 4 of their Eastern Conference quarterfinal series against the Montreal Canadiens, Bruins players had some time to enjoy small-town life in Lake Placid, N.Y.
Boston trailed the Canadiens 2-1 in the series at that time, and with two days off between games, Bruins coach Claude Julien decided it would be best to leave the distractions of Montreal behind and set up camp at the home of the 1980 Winter Olympics, where Team USA won the gold medal in men's ice hockey in the "Miracle On Ice."
As Julien said, they weren't looking for a "miracle" at the time; the coach thought it was an opportunity for the players to continue their strong bond as a team.
One night in Lake Placid, Krejci and some of his teammates visited a local restaurant to watch the Vancouver Canucks play the Chicago Blackhawks. There was a jukebox on the wall, and Krejci decided he wanted to hear some tunes.
The Czech Republic native wasn't standing at the machine long before "Don't Stop Believing" by Journey came roaring out of the speakers.
His hips began to sway and he was tapping his foot as he turned around with a big smile on his face before joining his teammates at a large table in front of the widescreen TV.
The Bruins returned to Montreal and beat the Canadiens in Game 4 and eventually won the series in seven games. Then Boston swept the Philadelphia Flyers in the semifinal round.
After Friday's practice, Krejci was asked about his song selection that night in Lake Placid.
"I did it by accident," he said with a smile. "I was trying to pick a song. I was going through the songs and accidently I pressed on Journey, and it started to play. Then I had no more credits."
Krejci said he didn't like the music that was playing at the time so he wanted to change the mood a little. But that was the only song he played. It was one-and-done for DJ David Krecj.
"Well, I didn't have any more coins," he said with a laugh. "I like that song. Sometimes we play it in the room. I really like the beginning, the first minute. It was an accident that it happened, but I enjoyed it."
That song became famous around these parts during the Boston Red Sox's run toward their World Series championship in 2004.
"Yeah, that's why I chose that song," Krejci said with a laugh.
There's nothing funny about it. The Bruins currently own the landscape in Boston. The Celtics lost their recent playoff series to the Miami Heat. The Red Sox are struggling big time. And the Patriots are locked out.
All the focus is on the Bruins.
This team has breathed life back into a once-dormant fan base. If the Bruins were able to win the Stanley Cup, it would be bigger than the Patriots winning the Super Bowl simply because there's more history with the hometown hockey team.
Krejci will be arguably the most important skater on the ice this round given the fact that the Bruins will be without the services of assistant captain Patrice Bergeron, who figures to miss at least Games 1 and 2 due to a mild concussion.
"Everybody knows they need to step their game up because we're playing for the Stanley Cup finals," Krejci said. "Everybody wants it and everybody is excited. Bergy will be back; it's only a matter of time. While he's not here, everybody has to step up and play hard."
The Bruins are eight wins from hoisting the Stanley Cup.
Krejci's advice to long-suffering fans: Don't stop believing.
Joe McDonald covers the Bruins for ESPNBoston.com.
7dScott Burnside and Craig Custance