BOSTON – By the time the Boston Bruins hit the ice for the Stanley Cup final Monday night, they will have gone a full 10 days between games. For those of you keeping score at home, that ties them with the 2002 Anaheim Ducks for the longest post-season layoff of the NHL’s expansion era. (And we’re going to go out on a limb and speculate that it’s the longest of all-time.)
Charlie Coyle has used the time between the sweep of the Carolina Hurricanes and the final to catch up with family and friends after being dealt to his hometown team at the trade deadline. Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy got the chance to go watch his son’s baseball game Saturday afternoon. The Bruins tried to keep the competitive juices flowing with a spirited intrasquad scrimmage in front of 16,000 fans Thursday night when Brad Marchand scared everyone by colliding with Conor Clifton. When the puck drops for real, the Bruins will likely have to shake off some rust, but there’s no big concern with that.
“I feel our team has been prepared most nights all year,” Cassidy said. “I think they’ve been prepared in the playoffs. There are always exceptions, but I think we’ll be ready to go Monday night. You’re always concerned you’re missing something, you don’t want to get caught. But you want to keep a lot of that in-house. You don’t want to give too much information to the players where they’re over-thinking. You’re a coach, so your brain never really shuts down, you’re always thinking of stuff. But for the most part, it’s been an enjoyable ride.”
Given the choice at this time of year, any team would take the risk of having to shake rust off early in a series for the opportunity to have an extended time off. You have to remember that prior to sweeping the Hurricanes, they went seven games against the Toronto Maple Leafs in the first round and six in the second against the Columbus Blue Jackets, the latter of which was a grinding, “big-boy hockey” series that took its toll. And it has also allowed the Bruins to give David Krejci, who missed the scrimmage Thursday night and the practice Saturday with flu symptoms, time to recover.
“I suspect we’ll see him (Sunday),” Cassidy said of Krejci. “That is the plan. If he’s not out (Sunday), now there’s a little bit of worry there. But right now, I believe he’ll be practicing (Sunday). He’s said he doesn’t like to practice so there you go, we’ve granted him his wish. At the end of the day, he’s been around a long time and he’s a very cerebral player. That part I’m not concerned about. He can pick things up in a hurry. It’s more about when you miss two or three days, do you have your legs, do you have your stamina?”
Another thing that can’t be replicated during a layoff where there are only practices is the physical side of the game. Although the Bruins have picked up the pace in that area in the past couple of days, it’s not even in the same realm as what they’ll experience when the puck drops. The Blues are a heavy, physical team, particularly on the back end. And even though the Blue Jackets tried to make the Bruins pay a physical price every time they touched the puck and the Maple Leafs were, surprisingly, the more physical team in the first round of the playoffs, Cassidy knows the Stanley Cup final will provide a much bigger challenge. Cassidy is expecting the Blues to target his smaller defensemen, namely Torey Krug and Matt Grzelcyk.
“I think (the Blues) are more consistently physical,” Cassidy said. “Columbus was certain lines and Carolina the same thing. I think this is more one-after-the-other line that will finish checks. That’s what I expect. Even their scoring line of (Brayden) Schenn, (Jaden) Schwartz and (Vladimir) Tarasenko, I know they’ll be more physical than (Artemi) Panarin, (Cam) Atkinson and whomever they rotate at center (usually Pierre-Luc Dubois). Every shift you have to prepare to get finished. You have to be aware, you have to be ready, you have to be agile before they get you in their sights. And you have to take some of those. It’s inevitable. We saw that with (Grzelcyk). He took some big hits and bounced back.”
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