UNIONDALE, NY - Beginning on Tuesday, for the next 61 days, the Bruins will face a playoff-like test of 33 games within that span. That's an average of one game every 1.85 days - and one game more than the New England Patriots would play over the span of two regular seasons.
Taxing, to say the least - and even more important to focus on each practice, each game, each day as it comes.
"Well, it is and that’s why we kind of kept our workout a little bit shorter today," said Coach Julien, on the B's 50-minute or so workout today. "Definitely, when you have four games in the next six days, starting tomorrow, you’ve got to make sure that you do the right things here."
"We have the four games in a week and three the next, really looks a lot like a playoff format when you look at the two weeks in a seven-game series. We’re going to be approaching that a lot the same way we would normally in a playoff series and make sure our guys get their rest and that we utilize the ice time that we have available to us the proper way, when we do get that opportunity."
Coming off the Bruins' 4-1 win over Florida on Sunday, the team traveled to Long Island Monday and got in a short, but packed practice, which included work on net-front deflections and special teams, along with odd-man rush situations.
All 14 forwards, seven defensemen and two goaltenders hit the ice, with no changes to lines. Lane MacDermid has been skating on the Merlot Line, and Jay Pandolfo on the line in grey with Rich Peverley, Chris Bourque and Chris Kelly. With the upcoming schedule, Coach Julien has said that he's comfortable with the depth of his squad, if needed, during the tough stretch.
"I would have to say that I’m more convinced than not, we’re going to have to use them out of necessity, more than just having to keep them fresh," Coach had told media following practice in Florida on Saturday. "We don’t want guys sitting around forever, but at the same time, the guys that they’d be replacing are playing well enough, right now, that you just can’t pull them out. Certainly, we’ve got some good depth and we plan on using that depth."
"We’re anticipating that there’s going to be some rough patches along the way, so we have to be ready for them."
Two days later, Coach Julien's mentality has remained on taking it one game at a time, building off the already solid 11-2-2 start the B's have built up, and finishing out the three-game road trip with another win.
"I think our guys are pretty good about that," Coach said, on his team staying focused on the task at hand and not looking too far ahead, at finally heading home after what will be five straight games on the road. "We just talked about that again today. It’s always nice to finish on a positive note - as much as we’ve won the first two games on this three game road trip, we want to be going home on a positive note and the only way you can do that is by winning and playing a solid game tomorrow."
Milan Lucic agreed with his Coach, happy that the B's could pick up four points on the warm weather swing.
"Going down to Florida and having a successful trip for once, for us, we don’t want to mess it up and come back with a sour taste in our mouth."
"We played very well, we have to give ourselves some credit," Brad Marchand said following practice at Nassau Coliseum, on the B's not being complacent on the road, and with the extra rest the past week. "It really just gave us a little bit of momentum heading into this next few weeks. We know we have a very busy schedule, so we have to make sure we’re prepared every night."
And it will end up being almost every night, with just one two-day stretch from March 28-29 without a game until the end of the regular season on April 27.
"It’s definitely going to be pretty compact, so I think it’s going to be really important not to look too far ahead because that’s when you’re not playing in the moment, that’s when things kind of spiral," said Adam McQuaid on the team's focus moving forward. "We’re not going to worry about what’s ahead, we’re going to focus on each game."
Heading into Monday night's games, the Bruins have played the fewest games of any team in the league, with 15 - but their 24 points still place them in fourth in the Eastern Conference, along with Ottawa, who has 24 points through 19 games. Boston only sits two points back of first place in the Northeast Division, a spot currently owned by the Montreal Canadiens, who have played three more games than the B's with 18.
"We kept talking about this stretch that we’ve had where we’re behind some teams five games and we still managed to stay with the pack," said Lucic. "So that’s obviously a great thing for us, and hopefully we can keep that going and keep moving up the standings."
Rest and Recovery
The recovery that will come on days after games is going to be even more important during the stretch - and the B's are obviously well prepared for the playoff-like schedule.
"The big thing is, you have to make sure you fuel your body the right way, with lots of water and lots of food, make sure you get lots of rest," said Marchand. "We don’t have a ton of days off here in the next little while and we have to make sure when we get them we use them to our advantage and we’re taking care of our bodies."
"I think you just have to make sure you’re hydrating, make sure when you have down-time, you’re resting. I guess that’s probably the main thing," added McQuaid. "There’s going to be games where we’re going to have to make sure we’re battling and playing smart. Everybody’s got to play the same amount of games. We’re not the only ones."
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