BRIGHTON, Mass – For most members of the Bruins, the 10-day reprieve between the Eastern Conference Final and the Stanley Cup Final is going to be a very good thing for healing bumps and bruises, and for recharging the batteries after playing 18 bruising postseason games in the first three rounds.
Interestingly enough the Bruins indicated they’ll be scrimmaging to stay sharp with pseudo-game conditions, and they will also hit the New England Patriots for advice about the two weeks spent preparing for the Super Bowl. But even the largest amount of rust will probably be gone for most players after the first period of Game 1 at TD Garden regardless of the opponent.
“Ultimately it will be up to him about getting a read on where the players are, first of all mentally and physically. We’ve given them the first couple days off, we’re going to practice for a couple days,” said Bruins general manager Don Sweeney. “We now know the schedule, so we can start to forecast. A little bit depends on where the players are at.
“[Zdeno Chara] missed the final game. We have to give guys the appropriate time to recover and then go to work. I think our guys know how to practice. We’re a team that likes to practice, except for [David Krejci], who has publicly stated that he doesn’t like to practice. But I think this time of the year he’ll show up and practice accordingly.”
The one exception to all of this could be Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask, who has been “in the zone” for the first three rounds of the postseason while leading all players as the top candidate for the Conn Smythe Award this spring. Rask is an amazing 12-5-0 in 17 games with a 1.84 goals against average and a .942 save percentage, and is coming off a blistering .956 save percentage in the Eastern Conference Final sweep of the Carolina Hurricanes.
He’s consistently been Boston’s best player throughout the postseason, and will need to be in the Stanley Cup Final if the Bruins hope to win it all. There’s also the unique challenge for the Bruins of ways to keep Rask “in the zone” even though he’s going to go almost two weeks between playoff games, and that’s something the B’s acknowledged as they rested this weekend after capturing the Eastern Conference.
“I think Tuukka missed, when he was concussed, I think he missed quite a bit of time then came back and played well,” said Sweeney. “He’s in a really good place, a really good place mentally and physically and his routines. He’s gone out game days. In the past, he hasn’t. He’s gone out for specific reasons. I think he’ll continue to do those things. It’s just the game, to get into the flow of the game and speed of the game you can’t ever simulate, so there will be challenges, certainly. Tuukka is in a really good place, and I expect him to return there.”
Certainly the Black and Gold will need him "to return there" if they hope to come home with the Cup.
As Sweeney referenced, Rask missed 11 days sandwiched around the week-long bye and NHL All-Star weekend after getting concussed in a collision at the net with Filip Chytil, and then made 38 saves in a 3-2 OT loss to the Flyers when he did return from the long layoff. So there’s hope that Rask can stay dialed in despite the lengthy break in between series, but it won’t be a lockdown certainty until things get going with either the Sharks or the Blues on May 27 at TD Garden for Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final.
Until then the B’s coaching staff has to work on keeping the team as sharp as possible, and hope that Rask remains “in the zone” for at least another three weeks.
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