Eleven-day layovers aren’t the best remedy for any team on a hot playoff run. But the Boston Bruins are finding different ways of production both on and off the ice heading into Game 1 of the 2019 Stanley Cup Final series against the St. Louis Blues.
Every Bruin is using the 11-day layover to their advantage whether it’s practicing at Warrior Ice Arena, scrimmaging at TD Garden or spending quality time with their families.
Yet the Bruins had some challenges to combat this nearly two-week timeframe. At times, they felt antsy and just wanted to get back to game action sooner rather than later. That antsy feeling turned into anticipation as the days progressed.
And now here we are, about 48 hours away from the second ever Blues-Bruins matchup for hockey’s ultimate prize.
“That’s how it’s been the whole playoffs: it’s been just go, go, go,” Charlie Coyle said following Saturday’s practice. “Once you get out of it — after a day off or two days off — you’re like, ‘alright let’s go, let’s get right to it.’ But you can only control so much, so use [the downtime], like I said, as a positive and use it to your advantage, and that’s what I’ve been doing.”
The Bruins rarely had time off between each of their first three series. They followed a two-day layover between the Toronto and Columbus series with a three-day break between their Round 2 win over the Blue Jackets and the start of the Eastern Conference Finals against Carolina.
But the Bruins won’t be the only ones with a lengthy timeframe between games. The Blues will enter Game 1 coming off a six-day break following their Western Conference Final victory over the San Jose Sharks.
“Once St. Louis won and you know who you’re playing, I think that’s when — from then on — your mind is kind of racing,” second-line winger Jake DeBrusk said. “Like you said, we’re getting closer and closer, and it’s right around that time [for Game 1]. And I couldn’t be more excited.”
The Blues earned a breather before returning to work in St. Louis in their prep for the Final. The Bruins needed something, though, to get back in game shape.
Their intrasquad scrimmage Thursday night provided a unique opportunity for everyone to get back in a gameday routine. The Bruins checked off every item on their to do list and now look forward to finally playing for real come Memorial Day night.
“I think [the intrasquad scrimmage] was really beneficial to me personally. And I kind of shared that with the other guys on the team that it felt good to play, you know, in game situations — 5-on-5 — and trying to put an emphasis on playing like it was a real game,” third-year defenseman Charlie McAvoy said.
“Once we got to that, I felt the tide kind of turned. And then when we found out who our opponent was, that too kind of turned it over to the next chapter. But here we go. We’ve got two days now, and it feels a lot more exciting now than it did 11 days ago.”
The players inside the Boston dressing room stayed busy but enjoyed a little more downtime than usual.
But what about the coaching staff? Did Bruce Cassidy and his fellow assistants rejoice in the perks of the 11-day layover? Or were they too busy prepping for a matchup against the Bruins’ “mirror image”?
“You don’t want to drive yourself crazy, but you get your work done. I think our team — I feel anyways — has been prepared most nights all year,” Cassidy said. “I think they’ve been prepared in the playoffs [but] there are always exceptions and I believe they’ll be ready to go Monday night.”
The minutes are ticking away heading into Game 1. But the Bruins still have a little time to enjoy the Memorial Day weekend festivities.
And Cassidy is making the most of that little time he has left.
“I’m on my way to a baseball game in about an hour so I’m going to enjoy my downtime. Not the Red Sox, but my little guys,” Cassidy said, prompting a round of laughter from reporters. “Weather has been nice, so [you’re enjoying it] as much as you can. You’re a coach, right? Your brain never really shuts down — you’re always thinking of stuff — but for the most part, it’s been an enjoyable ride.”
That ride nears its conclusion beginning Monday. The Bruins hope that a certain silver-colored Cup accompanies them on their final stop.
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