“That’s what kind of team we’ve got, we’ve got a hard working team, trying to play physical, in-your-face style of hockey, that’s going to be a trademark of our squad this year,” Jimmy Hayes said Wednesday from TD Garden, on the eve of the Bruins’ home opener.
“As you see in preseason, the team’s a close-knit group that’s come together pretty quickly.”
As the team held their final full practice on Wednesday before Thursday night’s season opener at TD Garden against Winnipeg, every Bruin was impatiently awaiting the drop of the puck on 2015-16.
“That first shift [Thursday] night, it’s going to be a whole nother level from preseason,” said Matt Beleskey, who can hardly be considered a new face anymore, having been inbred with his teammates now for a month and a half. “So I’m excited for that, [let’s] get back to NHL hockey.”
“I’m excited, have a lot of family coming in. It’s finally time to get going.”
Hayes will plenty of well wishers in the stands as well, in addition to the Boston faithful.
“It’s just going to be a pretty cool moment for me,” said Hayes. “Just to be a hometown kid and be able to play in that first home game and just take it in, and be ready to play.”
“I’m sure there will be a lot of Dorchester people filling the building [Thursday] night,” he smiled.
Like Beleskey, Hayes has meshed well with the close-knit group.
“I feel like I fit in,” said Hayes. “I feel like I have a role here and that’s to obviously be a big guy that plays a simple game and just kind of goes to the net. Be reliable defensively and make sure to capitalize on my opportunities around in the offensive zone.”
With the majority of the teams around the League opening their seasons on Wednesday night, the Bruins are left to wait one more day.
“I’ll obviously be watching — my little brother’s opening up [Wednesday with the New York Rangers] so I’ll catch his game, but everybody’s ready to go,” said Hayes. “Training camp can get long and you just kind of want to get it over with, because the whole time you’re just building up to this first game, so now that it’s here, it’s going to be an awesome moment for this team.”
Pulling on the Same Rope
Before Wednesday’s practice, the Bruins’ power play units hit the ice for some work with Assistant Coach Joe Sacco.
The first unit consisted of David Krejci and Torey Krug on the points, with Patrice Bergeron, Ryan Spooner and Loui Eriksson. The second unit saw Matt Irwin, Jimmy Hayes and Brett Connolly as mainstays, with Zach Trotman and Zdeno Chara rotating, and Matt Beleskey rotating with Brad Marchand.
David Pastrnak, a usual suspect on the power play last season, did not take part.
The forward was asked about it after practice.
“You know, all of the guys have to earn a spot on the team — I’m just doing the best,” said the always affable Pastrnak. “And we are here as a team, and that’s how it is — if you want to win, you have to be a good team and no matter what if you play first or fourth line or power play or not, you know.”
“We’re all here as one guy and that’s how the team works.”
It was the perfect example of what this team wants to put into action this season — all of them pulling on the same rope.
Pastrnak was also asked if he had a goal number in mind for the season.
“I don’t think that far,” said the 19-year-old. “I’m just thinking about day by day and game, no matter if I’m going to have zero points on the season and we’re going to win the Cup. As I said, we are here as one guy, as one team, and no matter as someone’s going to score the goal, doesn’t matter who it is, you know, and if at the end of the game we’re going to get two points, that’s all the matters.”
Bruins’ alternate captain David Krejci also had the same mindset. A regular on the power play, the center has been casually lobbying for time on the penalty kill — though Head Coach Claude Julien likes to put Krejci’s line out on the ice for the first shift after a PK.
“We’ll see,” said Krejci. “The most important thing is to get off to a good start, get some wins early on, so that’s what matters. If that means I won’t be on the PK, then so be it — the team’s more important right now.”
Will Chara Be Ready for the Opener?
Zdeno Chara skated in his second straight practice with the team on Wednesday.
“A guy who’s getting better all the time,” said Julien. “I haven’t had a chance to talk to him after practice obviously, you know, you get those chats either after practice or the next morning and stuff like that.”
“I know there’s a decision to be made there as far as [Thursday’s] concerned, whether we take him off IR [Injured Reserve] or whether we keep him on. So I don’t have that answer.”
“But I know he’s feeling a lot better,” Julien added. “Early in the season we have to make a decision here whether he’s well enough that we can take that risk or whether we want to be a little more cautious and that’s a discussion I’m sure that’s going to happen at some point before [Thursday].”
Options Moving Forward
If Chara is taken off IR, that would give the Bruins eight defensemen, 14 forwards and two goaltenders on their roster — one too many.
Max Talbot cleared waivers on Tuesday at noon, and remains with the team in Boston, though he could be assigned to Providence. He’s currently in a battle for fourth line time with Tyler Randell, Zac Rinaldo, Joonas Kemppainen and Chris Kelly.
The options are there for the Bruins moving forward, and more experimenting could happen both up front and on the back end in the coming weeks.
But that’s not the objective for Julien and his staff right now.
“I think it’s important, for me, to focus on that first game,” said Julien. “You want to get off to a good start, you know. My worry is not about whether the third of fourth line is going to do well, more than how are we going to be as a team in those first few games? That’s more where my focus is right now.”
“And, you know, that along the way you might put guys in and out, you might work some bodies around a little bit. But hopefully we’re good enough as a group and as a team to have a good start to the season and work it out from there. “
A Healthy David Krejci Changes Bruins
Krejci’s start to the season in 2014 was halted by an injury in the final preseason game that nagged him for half of the season.
He’s glad to be healthy and a significant part of the group as 2015-16 gets underway.
“I feel pretty good,” said Krejci. “I think training camp went pretty well, not just for me but for the whole team. We’ve got a good group of guys and we created chemistry on and off the ice already and it’s been fun. Can’t wait to get it started.”
“I’m just trying to take it game by game, day by day, even practices, I’ve got to make sure I’m ready for practices as well, so — so far, it’s been really good and like I said, let’s go game by game.”
“We’ve been checking in on him making sure we gave him that day off that one day and but he’s had no issues at all,” said Julien. “He’s felt good and I think he’s looking forward to a bounce back year.”
“He’s definitely disappointed in how little he was able to play last year and he made sure that he worked on those things so that he would be fresh and obviously healthy and he’s maintained that. So that’s great news.”
“To me, you get a healthy David Krejci — you have a different team.”
Practice Lineup 10/7
Gold Jerseys: Brad Marchand—Patrice Bergeron—Loui Eriksson
White: Matt Beleskey—David Krejci—David Pastrnak
Gray: Jimmy Hayes—Ryan Spooner—Brett Connolly—Tyler Randell
Merlot: Chris Kelly—Joonas Kemppainen—Max Talbot—Zac Rinaldo
Zdeno Chara—Colin Miller
Torey Krug—Adam McQuaid
Joe Morrow—Kevan Miller
Matt Irwin—Zach Trotman
Goalies: Tuukka Rask, Jonas Gustavsson