BOSTON - The Boston Bruins have played a playoff hockey game every 48 hours since April 11. Nine postseason contests and 18 days later, the schedule finally allows the Black & Gold to catch their breath ahead of Game 3 of the second round series against the Columbus Blue Jackets.
"It's awesome," said defenseman Torey Krug on the additional day break. "We've been going every other day now for a while now, it gives us a second to catch our breath, regroup and focus on some things we want to do better in the series moving forward. I'm sure the guys are really appreciating the time off."
The intense grind of playoff hockey has taken a physical toll, but the emotional toll has been equally as taxing for the group.
"It came at a good time for us to get the two days between games," said head coach Bruce Cassidy. "We had a seven-game series, obviously high intensity, back and forth. It takes an emotional toll as well. Most seven-game series do, but the way we had to come back and then get right into it, I think we fed off that the first night."
The Bruins pride themselves in their physical fitness and ability to compete at a high level throughout the grind of the playoffs, but Cassidy began to note some mental lapses on Saturday night.
"I think also [Saturday] night, just our natural fitness level came through for the guys to be able to play that long," said Cassidy. "but I think mentally we made some mistakes that we wouldn't make if we were a little more fresh. That's where it caught up to us, the seven games. I do believe that. We had some breakdowns that typically we don't do, especially on the PK on the last goal. We broke down. They made a good play, but we weren't in the right spots and I think that's part of it."
Video: Cassidy discusses power play and extra rest day
Krug echoed Cassidy's sentiment and pointed to the experience in the room to help pull them through.
"It's no secret the physical toll that playoff games have on the body and the emotional toll as well," said Krug. "Especially going through a seven-game series early and having to respond and rebound in Game 1 and make sure that your emotional levels are up there. Physically, there's bumps and bruises everywhere, every team has them. I think our locker room has the ability, the capability to play through those and with those more than anyone. We have some warriors in here that can withstand that. The emotional toll that it takes, it's great to have this time off and hopefully we can use that to our advantage."
The Bruins stayed off the ice on Sunday and will be right back out for practice on Monday before travelling to Columbus for Game 3.
"Today, they're going to be tired, they're going to want a break, they're getting it," said Cassidy. "Tomorrow's practice, hopefully we have a little juice, but come Tuesday up there, I think the guys are going to relish that grind again. Especially the guys that have been through it, they know what it takes. It is a grind, mentally and physically. I like our physical part, because I think our guys are very well conditioned. The mental part is always a challenge for every individual. The team that gets through that the best generally comes out ahead. Because there is not a lot to pick from at this time of the year for a lot of these teams."
In the first round series victory over the Maple Leafs, the Bruins man-advantage found the back of the net on seven of the 16 opportunities for a blazing 43.8% success rate. Against the Blue Jackets, the B's are looking to regain that level of success, having gone just one for eight through two games.
"I think our power play didn't execute to the level it should," said Cassidy. "You might not score but it's been pretty good all year at finding itself. I think that was an area that we have an opportunity in the third period, at least put some pressure on them. Just looking at different parts of the game where it could make a difference and that was one. Especially in a tight checking game where neither team generated a lot of offense 5-on-5, so that's where you have to make hay and they did on theirs and we didn't on ours. Yes, we got a goal, helped us. The number looks good, you're 25% but in the big picture, our number one unit didn't generate much either game on it. We want to make sure we correct it."
The lone power play goal came in the first period of Saturday night's Game 2, when Matt Grzelcyk and the second unit capitalized. The first unit has yet to score on the man advantage in the second round series.
"Bruce is the best power play coach I've ever had and some of the things he sees are pretty incredible," said Krug when asked about fixes that that can be made. "As far as I'm concerned, it just comes down to good old-fashioned hard work. They have guys that are working hard and they get paid to be penalty killers and we have guys that get paid to score goals and be on the power play. We have one extra guy on the ice than they do, so just go to work and we have to execute. I think we're pretty close. We have to make one more good pass and then we'll break them down. It's just about getting some guys going and we'll go from there."
Video: Krug talks power play, rest
On To Columbus
The Columbus Blue Jackets have presented a new challenge. After splitting the first two games at TD Garden, the Bruins know they must be sharp when they head into enemy territory.
"We're aware the series is now one to one," said Krug. "We're going to have to win a game on their home ice and we're aware of it. It is what it is. You can't sit there and mope or sulk. It's playoff hockey. That's what makes it fun. You don't have to worry about anything that's happened in the past. You just move forward and play the game that is in front of you."
Connor Clifton is a newcomer to playoff hockey, but the rookie blueliner has not backed down.
"Obviously going into Columbus is going to be a challenge but we're going to be ready for the opportunity," said Clifton. "Obviously, we expected a tight series and that's exactly what we have. Two overtime games in the first two. I think you just want to play how you play, just stick with it."
Video: Clifton discusses first trip to the playoffs