Rest assured, Avs and Bruins relish long gap between series
DENVER — Devan Dubnyk debunked the whole rest-or-rust debate.
Rest always trumps potential rust, the Colorado Avalanche backup goaltender said, because rust may at most spill into the opening minutes of Game 1 — if at all.
The Avalanche are certainly well-rested. Same goes for the Boston Bruins.
Both teams made quick work of their first-round opponents, which was rewarded with some valuable downtime. The Bruins will play the New York Islanders starting Saturday — a full five days off between games.
The top-seeded Avalanche face either Minnesota or Vegas, who play Game 7 of their grueling series Friday night in Las Vegas. The winner travels to the Mile High City to begin a second-round series with Game 1 set for Sunday. That’s a six-day break for Colorado.
“It’s a real advantage to have the rest we have,” said Dubnyk, whose team finished a sweep of St. Louis on Sunday.
Because the alternative is not that appealing — a long, grinding series where anything can happen, including going home.
“You always want to close out a series as quickly as you can. It just takes away any stress,” said Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy, whose team eliminated Washington in Game 5 on Sunday. “Guys get to rest up a little bit. So I’m OK with it. We’ll try to do whatever we can.”
The Bruins experienced a similar sort of layoff during their 2019 Stanley Cup chase. They completed a sweep of Carolina in the Eastern Conference final on May 16 and then had to wait for the Blues to eliminate San Jose in six games on May 21.
The Cup Final between the two didn’t begin until May 27, with Boston going 11 days between games.
St. Louis captured the Cup in seven.
“I think guys have their eye on the prize, so to speak, and they’ll be fine,” Cassidy said of the break.
The Avalanche have taken a low-key approach to a week of practice sessions. If a player feels like taking the ice, they take the ice. If they don’t, they don’t.
“Every individual is different,” Avalanche forward Andre Burakovsky said. “So do whatever it takes to get prepared.”
The Avalanche have shown to be a resilient bunch with time on their hands. Twice they were paused due to coronavirus-related issues this season, but they still captured the Presidents’ Trophy for the best regular-season record.
Much like Boston, Colorado is no stranger to the playoff waiting game. In 2019, the Avalanche knocked off Calgary in five games, clinching their first-round series on April 19. They waited until April 26 to open a second-round series against San Jose, which the Avalanche lost in seven.
For coach Jared Bednar, this is a perfect chance to tighten up some areas.
Asked which particular ones, Bednar cracked: “All of them. That would be my answer. ... We’ll brush up on everything.”
Admittedly, Burakovsky doesn’t watch much hockey in the regular season. He’s tuning in now to catch the Wild and Golden Knights. The Avalanche went 5-2-1 against Minnesota in the regular season and 4-3-1 vs. Vegas.
“It’s good to see what kind of style they’re playing now in the playoffs and where you can expose them,” Burakovsky said.
The Avalanche are steadily healing, too. Most notably, young defenseman Bowen Byram, who hasn’t played since March 25 against Vegas due to an upper-body injury.
“I’m just happy to be feeling 100% again,” Byram said. “It’s definitely a tough thing to go through and it was frustrating being out for so long.”
The injury bug besieged the Bruins’ blue line with defensemen Jeremy Lauzon, Jakub Zboril and Kevan Miller all sidelined. Lauzon returned to practice Wednesday in a non-contact jersey, with Cassidy saying he’s “trending very well.”
“Our group has enough experience to understand the time off, how to use it to the best of their abilities as far as getting rest and recovery,” Bruins president Cam Neely said. “It’s very important. Especially if you hope to have a long run, I think these days off are going to be very beneficial moving forward.”
Because the road only gets tougher.
“We just need to stay sharp,” Avalanche defenseman Cale Makar said. “Whatever the guys need to do now, whether it’s getting on the ice or not or making sure their bodies are recovered is important.
“We need to make sure that we’re ready and not too much time off where we’re getting out of that winning mindset.”