When the puck drops Saturday night at the Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh for the Eastern Conference Finals it will mark exactly one week since the Bruins last skated in a game. A whole week is a long time to wait between games, especially during the playoffs and after a lockout-shortened season where more than one day off between games was very rare.
If any team needed an extra few days of rest it was certainly the Bruins. Just take a look at the B’s defensemen. Captain Zdeno Chara is averaging just north of 29 minutes per game, that’s nearly half the game.
With an extremely deadly Penguins offense on the horizon the Bruins need a fresh Chara for sure.
“It’s been a pretty busy schedule,” said Chara. If you count the seven-game series with Toronto, and obviously the series with the Rangers, so it’s been nice to a have few days to actually kind of relax and step away from hockey.”
Two other guys who benefit greatly from the extended rest are Dennis Seidenberg and Andrew Ference. Seidenberg returned to action in Game 5 against the Rangers and logged 23:37 of ice time, but Seidenberg clearly wasn’t 100 percent and took some big hits.
Seidenberg said he felt fine after Game 5.
“I felt comfortable moving the puck,” said the German defenseman. “My gaps, my timing was fine, I think. I just can only get better now.”
Ference hasn’t skated since sustaining a foot injury in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals against the Toronto Maple Leafs, but now after a few days of skating is inching closer to a return.
“It’s just nice to be out skating again, and trying to get everything back to full speed. Watching games is tough, but it makes it a lot easier when we’re winning,” said Ference. “In that series against Toronto I was obviously biting my nails, and it was tough to watch. But it was pretty euphoric when the comeback happened.”
When Ference is cleared to return to action, the Bruins will have one difficult decision to make as either Matt Bartkowski or Torey Krug will need to sit if Ference is to return to the lineup.
“We’re not there yet, now isn’t the time to start talking about this [lineup], or that,” said Bruins bench boss Claude Julien. “We’ll decide on what D pairings we want, and who we want to play against certain guys. We’ve got a lot to decide before we answer that question.”
The Bruins have been here before. They’ve had a few long layovers between playoff series in the past. Some have gone better than others, but Julien says his club is focused and ready to go.
“The year against Carolina I think we had almost 11 days off, the layoff was closer to two weeks. That was a lot and somehow we felt like we slipped out of our game and by the time we got back into it, we were in deep trouble. I think we were down 3-1 against Carolina,” said Julien. “That was something that, hopefully, we learned from. Right now, I don’t sense that, to be honest with you. I think our guys are pretty focused right now. I liked our intensity and our focus and our jump in practice today.”
The Bruins are not the only ones in the series with a week off between games. The Penguins closed out their series with the Senators last Friday, one day prior to the Bruins win in Game 5.
A week off between games will be especially huge if this series goes the distance. Game 6 and 7 are scheduled to take place on back-to-back nights.