Eleven days. It’s a long time between any hockey game, let alone a timeframe between the Round 3 finale and Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final.
The Boston Bruins took two of those 11 days off following their sweep of the Carolina Hurricanes Thursday night in Raleigh. They returned to the Warrior Ice Arena surface on Sunday sans Zdeno Chara (day-to-day, undisclosed injury), Steven Kampfer (undisclosed injury), Kevan Miller (right knee), Chris Wagner (arm) and David Krejci (maintenance).
Bruce Cassidy’s bunch won’t know their Cup Final opponent — the Blues or Sharks — until Tuesday at the earliest. His team can only do so much scouting in the initial timeframe, making the planning of some of these practices a little more difficult.
That’s only one challenge presenting itself in this long layoff. The Bruins will enter Game 1 against the Blues or the Sharks as a rusty bunch. Somehow, someway, they’ll need to stay sharp between now and the Memorial Day series opener.
“We have a plan with how we’re going through the week — balancing the practices and days off,” Cassidy said following Sunday’s on-ice session in Brighton.
Staying engaged during a lengthy vacant timeframe gives the Bruins their biggest test since the second round win over the Blue Jackets. That challenge also presents unique opportunities.
Some of the veterans, like Chara, Krejci, Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and Tuukka Rask, are no strangers to having a week or more off between rounds. That’s a pretty good core to lean on this late into the postseason. After all, they have a combined 612 career playoff games between them.
And then there’s Rask’s situation. His 2019 postseason run only rivals his 2013 postseason where he backstopped the Bruins to their second Stanley Cup Final appearance in three years.
How will goalie coach Bob Essensa and the Bruins’ teammates keep Rask dialed-in with the lengthy layover? Will the team pepper him with shots over the next week? Will they even give him some milk crates to throw down the other end of the ice?
“Leave him alone. You let him be. You just let him do his thing,” Marchand said about the Conn Smythe favorite. “Whatever he wants to do, you let him do it. He’s a pro. He’s been around for a long time so he knows how to prepare himself to stay sharp.”
“I don’t even talk to the guy right now,” joked Torey Krug. “I’ll try to acknowledge him, but I think he’s just going to ignore me.”
We’re sure that Krug and the rest of his teammates aren’t totally avoiding Rask, but the Bruins are doing their fair share of talking during their time off.
And it isn’t limited inside the confines of Warrior Ice Arena or TD Garden either. They’re searching for resources outside of the organization on how to handle their time off, including a call to One Patriot Place in Foxborough.
If any team knows about time off between a conference championship and a big game at the end, it’s Bill Belichick’s Patriots.
“There’s a local team that’s had time between when they’re going to the Super Bowl,” Boston GM Don Sweeney said. “We are gonna look at different resources that have done it and done it well.”
The Bruins don’t have to look far for outside help. They have each of the three other pro sports franchises to seek for advice.
On the ice, they have veterans like Bergeron, Chara, Rask, Marchand and Krejci. They also have the benefit of the ‘Black Aces’ highlighted by top prospect Jack Studnicka and 2016 first rounder Trent Frederic.
The Bruins have all sorts of avenues to stay sharp. Scrimmages (potentially at night), information from outsiders, you name it.
One thing is for certain: they have time and resources on their side.
Tim Rosenthal serves as the Managing Editor of Bruins Daily. He started contributing videos to the site in 2010 before fully coming on board during the Bruins' Stanley Cup run in 2011. His bylines over the last decade have been featured on Boston.com, FoxSports.com, College Hockey News, Patch and Inside Hockey. You can follow Tim on Twitter @_TimRosenthal.
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