I was thankful for the return to ’normalcy’ in the Bruins locker room after this morning’s practice.
Normalcy, you ask?
The smiles and noise had returned. Marc Savard
was holding court and chirping at everyone who walked by. The equipment guys were literally running around preparing all the stuff for transport to Montreal and there was an underlying sense of determination that had bubbled up from within the club.
Perhaps the good feelings that accompanied the 8th Annual Boston Bruins Charity Auction, an event where all of the players participated and commingled with fans, did more for their psyche than any amount of laps might have done.
Charity does the heart good, after all. And surely there were some broken hearted members of the Black & Gold after Saturday’s game.
Just looking around the room, the change from one day to another was amazing.
I know that rookie forward Phil "the Comet" Kessel was grinning ear to ear when asked about his being auctioned off as a show and tell piece for three school children.
And veteran defenseman Jason York was thrilled to have been able to win the auction that put his children into this morning’s team picture.
Meanwhile, newcomers Joey MacDonald and Aaron Ward enjoyed the chance to relax with Bruins staffers and teammates, as well as mingle with faithful fans.
But there was one more entity that was bringing the club together -- the Montreal Canadiens.
As funny as that sounds, after le affair d’Rangers, maybe it is good to be able to point to one team and want, more than anything, to be focused on defeating that club.
After all, focusing on Les Habitants
, a team that most of the players in the room grew up rooting against, your club’s archrival is easy. Looking at a dozen very complicated ’what if’ schenarios -- represented by a standings board -- is not.
Savvy, for one, could not wait to get on the plane, and in order to get the team together a little longer, was organizing a team lunch. And anyone who tried to bag out sought his ’wrath’ through his wagging tongue.
Coach Dave Lewis had an easy explanation for the distinct change in attitude.
"It’s exciting…they’re exciting games to play in," said Coach. "I anticipate the same tomorrow. They are exciting games to be involved in."
Asked why the Habs bring out the best in the Bruins, particularly this season, Coach said, "Maybe it is the ’B’ and the ’C’?
"I don’t know. I think there is so much history there that the guys sense it and feel it for both teams.
"And I think the fans do, too. The last time we played, here, was an outstanding environment to play a hockey game in.
"And it’s like that in Montreal."
Thinking about tomorrow’s game, Coach continued to muse about the match up.
"Hopefully, tomorrow, will be a good contest for us," he said. "I think they have some dynamic young players.
"And they’ve had inconsistencies like we’ve had. And that’s why we are where we are in the standings.
"Every time we’ve played them, we’ve had heated battles and some really good games, so I anticipate that."
And like the Bruins, they have had some lineup changes, too.
"They’ve had some injury problems, too," said Lewis, surely referring to the Habs loss of their All-Star goalie, Christobal Huet, as well as nagging issues with Alex Kovalev (vertigo) and Radek Bonk (flu).
But there is plenty to respect on the other bench, and it goes beyond their sweater and the winning history for which it stands.
"Their power play -- they’ve executed very well in that area," said Lewis. "And they have defense that like to join up on the rush. They have defense you have to pay attention to, like (Sheldon) Souray.
"He’s got that big time shot.
"And then they have some guys that are quick. They’re a quick team…and they’ve got some size," he said.
But in the end, Lewis brought the conversation full circle.
It just boils down to an ancient rivalry.
"I think, for me, the big thing is the ’B’ vs. the ’C’," he said. "And it’s going to be fun to be involved in that game."
It’ll be fun to watch, too.