WILMINGTON, MA - On Wednesday morning, the Bruins gathered for the second straight day at Ristuccia Arena for practice in the lead-up to Saturday's Game One in Pittsburgh.
It was another high-tempo, high-intensity day, with all Bruins on the ice.
Lines were status quo, with defense pairings the same as Tuesday, the first day of full practice with Andrew Ference back skating with the team (since May 10).
Though, throughout practice, there was some mixing and matching, as the B's prepare for any situations that could get thrown their way, especially with the last change on the road, and the obvious scenario that the Penguins will likely want to keep Sidney Crosby (et al) away from Zdeno Chara.
Following the skate, Coach Julien seemed impressed with the focus of his team, especially amidst the seven-day layoff heading into Game one.
BostonBruins.com - On Tuesday afternoon following the Bruins' high-tempo, high-intensity practice - the first in a four-day prep before facing the Penguins in Game One of the Eastern Conference Finals on Saturday night in Pittsburgh - the players filtered off the ice at Ristuccia Arena, into the locker room and began to speak with a hoard of reporters.
It felt like just another practice back out in Wilmington. While the sun was beating down with the playoff-weather temperature of around 80 degrees outside, the inside of the infamously cold arena half an hour outside the city, was just as freezing as ever.
Only, it was so different.
The intensity was higher, the mood jovial but focused. Never was there a time during the regular season where the Black & Gold had seven days to rest, recover, refocus.
Was it really 16 days ago that the season was on the ropes, in Game Seven, down by three goals with the phantoms of summer closing in?
On Tuesday, there were the Bruins, speaking in front of their stalls, excited, ready, chomping at the bit, to face the Eastern Conference's most highly-touted team in the Penguins.
WILMINGTON, MA - Following two well-deserved and well-needed days of rest after their second-round series win over New York, the Bruins were back to practice Tuesday at Ristuccia Arena.
On the agenda: get ready for the Pittsburgh Penguins.
The Bruins' will have a layoff from game action for at least a week (the series schedule and Game One have not been confirmed by the league and are still set to be announced).
Coach Julien has been through the process before, having had lengthy time off in 2009 before facing the Carolina Hurricanes (the B's learned from that moving forward) and rest after they swept the Philadelphia Flyers in 2011 en route to the Cup.
"I think our team has matured a lot more in regards to that," said Julien following an hour-long, high-tempo practice Tuesday morning, in which there was no shortage of battling.
"Based on today’s practice, I thought we practiced really well, lots of energy, worked hard."
BostonBruins.com - On Monday morning, reporters were filing into the press conference at TD Garden to speak with Bruins' Head Coach Claude Julien. The team was off, and no full practice being held until Tuesday morning.
But there was Jaromir Jagr, taking turns on the ice in a warm-up suit, with ankle weights taped to his skates, a weight vest strapped on, and his familiar Bruins' winter tuque (which, ironically has the "Stanley Cup Champions" phrase ribboned around the hat's brim).
It's a familiar scene; there just aren't always people around.
At 41 years old, everyone - including Jagr himself - knows that he's not the same player that he was when he put up 12 straight 30-plus goal seasons from 1991-2003, and surpassed the 50-goal plateau three times.
Throughout the 2013 postseason, though the Bruins have propelled themselves into the Eastern Conference Finals (getting to face the vet's former long-time team in the Pittsburgh Penguins), Jagr has only put up four assists and has yet to find the back of the net.
BostonBruins.com - With the Bruins staying off the ice Monday for another day of rest, Head Coach Claude Julien spoke with media at TD Garden about a variety of topics, ranging from the importance of rest, match-ups against Pittsburgh, Andrew Ference's recovery, the snake-bitten Jaromir Jagr and third line, and how depth will be paramount to moving forward in the playoffs.
All of these topics are being covered on this site now, and in the coming days. But two areas that caught my attention were two aspects of the Bruins' game that have played a key role in this postseason - and that weren't strengths during the regular season like they are now.
BOSTON, MA - Defenseman Andrew Ference was back skating at TD Garden on Monday morning.
The veteran has been sidelined from game action since last playing in Game Five against Toronto in the first round on May 10.
The Bruins collectively stayed off the ice for the second straight day and did not hold practice following their series win, before ramping back up for their Eastern Conference Finals match-up with Pittsburgh.
B's bench boss Claude Julien addressed the media from the Garden, and gave an update on Ference's condition.
BostonBruins.com - On Sunday, the Bruins took advantage of a well-deserved off day with no practice, following their series-clinching 3-1 win over the New York Rangers that propelled them into the Eastern Conference Finals for the second time in the past three years.
General Manager Peter Chiarelli addressed the media from TD Garden, reflecting on the past series and the well-known depth on the Bruins' roster. The last time the B's GM spoke to media, it had been following the mentally, emotionally, physically draining Game Seven comeback win over Toronto.
"What I can say is that in that last half of that third period, our guys came together and you could see a push that I hadn’t seen in a long time," Chiarelli had said.
Aside from Game Four's miscues, the Bruins then strung together a push of 60-minute, full team efforts against the Rangers that, as a result, see a confident group entering the third round, despite the tough challenge that lies ahead with another deep team in the Pittsburgh Penguins.
"I’ve seen a bit of a collective surge in our play since the last series," Chiarelli told media Sunday morning, as he reflected on the second-round series.
BostonBruins.com - Bruins' netminder Tuukka Rask was allowed a laugh on Saturday night. And it wasn't just because he had backstopped his team to the Eastern Conference Finals with a 3-1 win over the New York Rangers, in which he made 28 stops.
"To win this game was important for all the right reasons. But also, it gives Tuukka the opportunity now to laugh about that goal instead of crying, right?" said Coach Julien following the series-clincher.
"I think that was pretty important, too. So that’s what I told Tuukka at the end of the game, ‘You can start laughing now.’"
Of course, the goal in mention was the snafu from Game Four, which will soon be an afterthought.
In a goaltending match-up that saw the Bruins facing Vezina winner Henrik Lundqvist, the Black Gold found 15 ways past the the King. At the opposite end, Rask posted a .936 save percentage and 1.86 goals-against average.
BOSTON, MA - Torey Krug was carrying the puck up ice from the Bruins' zone five minutes into the second period, when all of a sudden, a new chant from the Boston faithful rained down.
It was brief and low, but resonated throughout the building. Maybe that was a "Looooooch" chant, I thought. After all, Milan Lucic was out on the ice with his linemates, and it was a familiar cheer within the walls of TD Garden.
But then it happened again, and again, and again…all the way up until he was standing near the bench for an interview in front of the crowd, following the Bruins' 3-1 win over the New York Rangers that sent them into the Eastern Conference Finals for a date with Pittsburgh.
Just over a minute prior, the defenseman had lasered home his fourth goal of the postseason - his third on the power play - in just his fifth NHL playoff game. It's the most by a Boston rookie defenseman since 1988.
BostonBruins.com - On Friday afternoon, Tuukka Rask stood in front of his stall at TD Garden, his backwards hat answering questions about his Game Four miscue for the second time in less than 24 hours.
And just as he was Thursday night at Madison Square Garden - and for every one of his interviews, for that matter - the Bruins' netminder was honest and candid.
When asked if he had seen the replay of the goal that saw him lose an edge and watch as a Rangers' backhander trickled past the goal line, Rask affirmed, "I saw it."
"I saw it many times in my head, too. You can either cry about our laugh about it. I decided it's better to have a sense of humor, laugh about."
"Tough break, those happen. But to be honest, I think throughout the years I've been pretty good making those 'Not Top 10' lists. So, here we are again."