BRIGHTON -- Given the spaced-out schedule and the preponderance of non-playoff opponents they were facing, the Bruins' 3-3-1 record at this stage of October would seem to represent missed opportunity.
But, in actuality, we may remember it more as a blessing.
The Bruins were swamped by a massive wave of injuries in the first weeks of the season, and a lull in the schedule may prove to be the best time to absorb it. Even with Tuukka Rask and Kevan Miller cleared to play for tonight’s game against the San Jose Sharks, they’re still missing David Krejci, Noel Acciari, Ryan Spooner and Adam McQuaid. Nor do they have Patrice Bergeron, David Backes or Torey Krug at full strength, even though they're more-than-welcomed returnees to the lineup.
So there's still some time that needs to pass, and healing that needs to be done, before the Bruins will be anywhere close to 100 percent.
But in spite of all that, the B’s are looking forward to things picking up with their schedule.
After playing 10 games during the entire month of October, the Bruins will ramp it up with 9 games in 16 days at the start of November. They’ll ease into that stretch with three games in five days to close out October after a lot of practice time in the last couple of weeks.
It’s a rare thing for an NHL head coach to eschew extra practice time, but Bruce Cassidy openly wished his team could have played Wednesday rather than tonight. Too much practice can dull the sharpened edges of game action or suck the emotion out of things for the players, and that’s not a good thing.
“It would have been nice to play [on Wednesday] after we’d dealt with our issues at practice as far as defending the slot are and working back to put our fires so to speak,” said Cassidy. “Last week it was a puck-support issue, and I thought we did a much better job against Vancouver and Buffalo with that, and it showed on the score sheet offensively.
“But I think we need to play some games to better evaluate our group as well. It’s just a more enjoyable process for the guys, as well. Last year it was one of those things at the beginning of last year where it was too much, and the schedule was crazy. We’d like to get back at it.”
After playing a grand total of 3 games over the last 10 days and 6 over the last 16, the Bruins will not only pick up the pace but they'll also start facing more conference foes. After a West-heavy start to the schedule, the Bruins will play traditional Eastern opponents like the Blue Jackets, Rangers, Capitals and Maple Leafs. And they hope all this will finally get them into the rhythm of the season after an uneven start.
One might think the Bruins will take all the off days they can to heal and regroup. But that would be wrong according to the B’s players.
“I think this is going to help us, actually,” said Backes. “You get into a rhythm and you get into a routine, and you remember that feeling when it was just 36 or 48 hours prior to the next game. You’re able to cultivate that -- whether it was a good or a bad one -- into the next game, and either change it or not. Now it’s been four days with three days of practice, and those feelings aren’t as recent or as familiar. It’s not fresh in our minds.
“We’ve come out well [in the games], but I think playing every day is going to be very good for this group. We can stop some of the monotony of practice and play for keeps every other day. That’s going to be really good.”
The monotony ends when the puck is dropped tonight. And the Bruins hope that'll be reflected in on-ice results once they get into the true rhythm of the regular season.