BOSTON -- There have been so many games in a long and illustrious NHL career for Mark Recchi -- 1,840 of them between regular-season and postseason contests, not to mention the countless exhibitions and practices.
If this is it for Recchi -- he has said if the Boston Bruins win the Stanley Cup he definitely will retire -- the 43-year-old is scripting quite an ending. The Bruins faced elimination in Game 6 of the 2011 Stanley Cup Final, but Recchi helped them force Game 7 with 3 assists in a 5-2 victory Monday.
"It crosses my mind, but, you know, I have a job to do out there for the guys and I can't put those thoughts in my head," Recchi said if he had thought Game 6 could have been his last. "I'm going to lay it on the line one more time and see where it takes me after that. No matter what, it's been a great 22 years, and I've enjoyed every minute of it. This has been one of my best ones, regardless of what happens, and I'm just still proud to play in the NHL."
When this series began Recchi was struggling to produce, and people said all of the miles from those 22 years in the League, combined with Boston's long playoff run, had caught up to him.
He scored a goal in Game 2 and afterward told critics off with a defiance that is symbolic of how the Bruins have at times outplayed a Vancouver Canucks team that was supposed to be superior.
Recchi added 2 more goals in Game 3 and the trio of assists in Game 6. No player in the 2011 Stanley Cup Final has more points than the old man from Kamloops, B.C., who might very well play his final NHL game in the Canadian province where he grew up.
"He has a ton of experience and he's been here before. He's won a couple of Cups and he knows what it takes," linemate Brad Marchand said. "He's been one of those guys who has stepped up and played unbelievable lately. It is great for us. We really feed off him and follow in his footsteps. He had another big game tonight and he seems to step up at the right time. He's such a great leader."
Recchi has lifted the Stanley Cup twice, once as a baby-faced 22-year-old in 1991 with the Pittsburgh Penguins. He was traded during the next season, so instead of winning again the following spring he had to wait 15 years until triumphing again, with the Carolina Hurricanes in 2006.
People have speculated when Recchi would retire for some time now. He was waived by Pittsburgh after a third tour of duty, and there were stops in Atlanta and Tampa Bay before he found the right place for a late-career resurgence in Boston.
"That's the great thing about it. I was fortunate to win won early in my career," Recchi said. "From '06 when I won in Carolina to every playoff I've played in after that, I've been able to embrace it and enjoy it and watch how guys react and watch how they're acting and enjoy the experience of seeing guys go through their 'firsts.' It's neat and you're able to do that. I've been doing that for a number of years now and it's been just a great, great year this year for me.
"Like I said, great from the get-go with this group of guys. You knew there was something special right from the first time we got together. When we went over to Prague, we knew we had something good there."
It certainly would be something of a storybook ending for Recchi if he were to claim the Cup for a third time, and to do so about 200 miles from his childhood home. He has more than 1,500 regular-season points on his resume, 146 in the playoffs and he's collected his fair share of "oldest guy to ..." and "most by a player 40 or older ..." records along the way.
Recchi's final act could be to help his teammates deal with playing in Game 7 in the Stanley Cup Final. He and Andrew Ference, who played for Calgary in 2004, are the only two Bruins to have reached this point before.
"We'll talk. We have practice (Tuesday) and the biggest thing is just embracing it," Recchi said. "This is what we dream of. We've had pressure all year, pressure all through the playoffs. It's come down to one game. There is no pressure -- go play, go out and have fun with this. It's what you play for and what we've worked hard for all year. We're going to have a blast doing it. That will be the message. They'll see how I'm acting and see you can't let it grab you. You can't let it bite you. We're going to play on the road and go and play a tremendous road game and compete and try and win a hockey game. It's something … the guys will be focused and ready."