By: Sierra Goodwill
The countdown to the Stanley Cup is on, as the Boston Bruins still await their opponent and have six more days off until game one on May 27. Here’s the best from head coach Bruce Cassidy from his media availability on Tuesday morning:
The Boston Bruins announced on Tuesday morning that the team will hold an intrasquad scrimmage at TD Garden on Thursday night at 7 p.m.
This is a direct result of the Bruins’ having a 10-day break in between the Eastern Conference Finals and the Stanley Cup Finals. Bruce Cassidy intends on splitting his squad into two teams, simulating a checking line versus a top line, to keep his players in the game mindset.
“Trying to simulate a game situation – going to the rink, preparing for a game day. It’ll be live to a certain extent,” Cassidy said. “I’ll obviously talk to the players about the physicality part. We’re looking for compete and we’re looking for pace. We’re not looking for guys to blow each other up.”
When live action is happening the risk of injury increases. This is something Cassidy is well aware of, but sees the benefits outweighing the dangers.
“I think that’s one of the inherent risks of this. This isn’t a physicality contest out there. It’s about competing on pucks; it’s playing with some pace, being respectful of each other,” the head coach said. “That’ll be the challenge, but I think we have a smart enough group and the message has to be relayed to some of the younger guys that we’re doing this for a reason, but the reason is not to injure one another.
There will be three lines on each team with five or six defenseman. In order to have enough skaters, players from the Providence AHL team will be joining the scrimmage.
“It’s a great stage for them, I haven’t seen some of them in a while,” Cassidy said. “They’ll be addressed ‘hey, we’re not taking out a player so you can get in the lineup, but we wanna see how your pace is and how your competitiveness is as well.’”
As for the normal roster, Cassidy said he’s giving the players liberty in deciding how much time they want to play, including Tuukka Rask. Although the Bruins are extremely healthy at this point in the season, their coach still wants to be careful with his key pieces.
The scrimmage will be controlled situations, including 4-on-4 play, 6-on-5 to end the game and other scenarios that could come up throughout the Stanley Cup Finals. Boston wants to make Thursday feel as similar to a normal game day as possible, even though it will just be two 25-minute periods instead of the normal game length.
“They’re coming in the morning, we’re going to do some video. We usually have an optional skate anyways, so they’ll come here and then we’ll go to the Garden,” Cassidy said. “Whether we do a warm-up or not…some of that will depend on logistics with the building.”
As for the winners – what do they get?
“They will put something on the line. That’s something they’ll have to discuss amongst them – I think it’s important. It could be something very minimal or whatever they want to decide on,” the head coach said.
Thursday night’s scrimmage will be available to the public with tickets going for 20 dollars, and 10 dollars for season ticket holders. Concessions will be available and kids will receive free popcorn. Proceeds from the event will benefit the Boston Bruins Foundation.
Zdeno Chara’s Focus Level
At 42 years old with just one year left on his contract, Zdeno Chara knows that his long-lived career is winding down. The defenseman has the taste of the disappointing 2013 postseason lingering on his tongue and is ready to finish the job.
His head coach has noticed the intensified preparation from his captain.
“He’s very focused when I’m talking to him about this whole week leading up to [the Finals] about the preparation, the tickets, the families, how to balance your time,” Cassidy said. “He seems like a pretty focused guy anyways, but I’m gonna guess it’s ramped up simply because of where you are in your career. It’s tough to get back here.”
The last time Chara was in this position, it ended in a 4-2 series loss to the Chicago Blackhawks. Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, David Krejci, Torey Krug and Tuukka Rask also experienced that stinging disappointment.
“They haven’t been back since ’13 and I’m sure those guys that were here look at that as an opportunity lost and they don’t want to go through that again,” Cassidy said. “That’s what I sense from [Chara] right now, which is good because we have some younger guys that haven’t been through it. I’d love their confidence to be that they assume they’ll be here every year, but it just doesn’t work that way.”
Chara also missed game four of the Eastern Conference Finals against the Carolina Hurricanes due to a minor injury, however the team is pleased with his current health. The defenseman participated in practice on Monday and was going to report back on Tuesday, the team’s off day, if he experienced any soreness or pain from the drills.
“I have not seen him, which is good,” Cassidy said. “That means he’s not in here for the wrong reasons. I think he’s going to be fine. [Wednesday] morning at practice we’ll see, but I think we’re good there.”
That’s good news for Boston, who absolutely wants its six-time All-Star with 21 years of NHL experience on the ice for the moment that every team plays for.