CHICAGO — With the Stanley Cup Final shifting back here for Game 5 Saturday night, it meant not only a switch in venues for the Bruins from TD Garden in Boston to the cavernous United Center, but also a switch in game conditions.
After splitting the first two games on the Blackhawks’ home ice, the Bruins returned here with some valuable intelligence on the conditions they were likely to encounter in Game 5.
“Getting to play two games [here] definitely helps you learn that,’’ Milan Lucic said Friday. “They still have those metal seams between the glass, so you know the bounces that can come off of those.’’
That was but one of the discernible differences the Bruins encountered in their return to the Windy City.
“The boards aren’t as lively, but that’s not a huge deal, I don’t think,’’ said Shawn Thornton, who spent the early part of his career in Chicago. “The ice is the same for both teams. I never really felt that was an issue.
“The crowds are fairly loud here. It’s 21,000 people and they’re not afraid to show their emotions with their voices. That was probably the biggest adjustment. I’ve said it before, from playing here before, you can take that noise and embrace it yourself, even though it’s their crowd.’’
With temperatures reaching the low 90s Saturday, it was uncertain what impact it would have on the ice at the United Center. It was not clear if it would result in a pock-marked sheet, which seemed to be the case in Game 3 in Boston, where both teams appeared to fight the puck.
“We talked about that going into that game against Detroit with the Stones,’’ said Chicago coach Joel Quenneville, whose Western Conference semifinal series against the Red Wings was interrupted by a Rolling Stones concert at the United Center. I think everybody had no problem with the ice. I think sometimes late in periods you’ve got to know that it gets a little bit worn out in both buildings, and you’ve got to be smart in those areas.’’
Entering Game 5, home teams owned a 58-26 record in this year’s playoffs, already a record for wins by hosts in a postseason. It bettered the mark of 57 set in 1991.
Before the Cup Final shifted back to Chicago at two games apiece, the Blackhawks had won six of their last seven games at the United Center, where they posted a league-high 10 victories on home ice this postseason (10-2), outscoring opponents, 38-22.
The Bruins, meanwhile, had the best road record of any playoff team, going 6-3 to earn the distinction as the only playoff team with an above-.500 road record, having outscored their hosts, 29-18.
“It all comes down to the same game, right?’’ said Patrice Bergeron, ever the pragmatist. “It’s all the same rules, the same ice. It’s just about making sure that you’re ready for the game. Even though you’re on the road, we feel pretty comfortable playing away. But there’s nothing we can do about the first two games here. We just have to show up and make sure that we do the job.’’
Perhaps the biggest adjustment the Bruins had to make playing at the United Center, a venue they did not visit during the lockout-shortened regular season, was the lighting.
While the surface at TD Garden is brilliantly lighted, the dim lighting at the United Center gives the ice sheet a yellowish hue.
“I think the red seats probably have something to do with that, too,’’ Thornton said. “I think during the pregame skate, it seems almost yellow in there. But during the game I didn’t notice it as much. I think practice you do, but for games it’s a little brighter. I didn’t feel a difference adjusting the eyes or anything.’’
“Yes, it’s a little more dim,’’ Lucic confirmed. “It was kind of like playing in the old Madison Square Garden. But at the end of the day, when you’re playing you’re not too focused on any of that stuff. You’re just focused on what you need to do in order to play well and be successful.’’Michael Vega can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.