BOSTON - The Stanley Cup Final is so close, yet so far away.
It will be a long nine days before the Bruins take the ice on Memorial Day for Game 1 against either the St. Louis Blues or San Jose Sharks.
But Don Sweeney, for one, is not concerned about his team's extended hiatus.
"I really believe our team has earned the right to be here," Sweeney said while addressing the media at Warrior Ice Arena on Saturday morning. "They're in the moment. If you really listen to our leadership group - and there's a lot of microphones in and around the game now - you can understand how dialed in they are. They recognize the finish line and they want to get there."
Sweeney went on to say that he views what will end up being an 11-day layoff as somewhat of a reprieve in the midst of what has been a relentless 17-game voyage over the course of the past six weeks.
"I think in the short term it's really beneficial for our group," said Sweeney, noting the grind of a seven- and six-game series against Toronto and Columbus. "But we've been peddle to the metal here mentally and physically for a while. I do believe in the short term it will help us a lot. Then it's incumbent upon us to simulate the best we can with what's going to be required going forward.
"We're gonna tap into some outside resources that have gone through some layoffs and some situations, just try and do the best we can to simulate."
Video: Sweeney speaks following ECF win over Carolina
One of the resources the Bruins may explore has been through a layoff or two - or nine - ahead of the championship round in recent years. While he does not have a personal relationship with New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick, Sweeney said the team is likely to reach out to the six-time Super Bowl champion for some advice on how he has handled the two-week period ahead of the title game.
"I have a hell of a lot of respect for the man, that's for sure," said Sweeney, who on Thursday was named one of three finalists for the NHL's General Manager of the Year Award. "I think we're gonna reach out to their group and tap into every different [resource] - we look at everybody's assets in that way and hopefully they'll be able to share some information with us."
The players were given Friday and Saturday off and will return to Warrior Ice Arena on Sunday for practice. At some point during the week, Sweeney indicated that an intersquad scrimmage was possible, but that in the end it will be up to coach Bruce Cassidy to decide what he believes will be best to keep his players fresh.
"Bruce and I have talked briefly about it, ultimately it will be up to him about getting a read on where the players are, first of all mentally and physically," said Sweeney. "We've given them the first couple days off, we're gonna practice for a couple days. We now know the schedule, so we can start to forecast.
"A little bit depends on where the players are at. [Zdeno Chara] missed the final game [against Carolina]. We have to give guys the appropriate time to recover and then go to work"
Full 2019 Stanley Cup Final schedule.
Should the Black & Gold opt to hold a scrimmage at some point in the lead up to Game 1, they would certainly have enough bodies. Ten members of the P-Bruins have been staying fresh down in Providence in the event they are needed at some point during the postseason.
"We've tried to make them understand that they're not out of sight, out of mind," said Sweeney. "At any point in time a player can find himself in that moment, in that stage. We were going into Game  and Zee is all of a sudden not going to play. Things change quickly, and all of our guys are here for a reason. They deserve to be here, and they're part of it."
The 'Black Aces' roster includes: forwards Anton Blidh, Paul Carey, Peter Cehlarik, Trent Frederic, Zach Senyshyn, Jack Studnicka, and Jordan Szwarz; defensemen Jeremy Lauzon, Jakub Zboril, and Urho Vaakanainen; and goalies Kyle Keyser and Zane McIntyre.
"They're all going to come up this week," said Sweeney. "We've got 10 players that have been a big part of our organization. Several of them have contributed to our success during the course of the season with our club here, certainly down in Providence, so we're going to bring them up. And we may integrate them during the week in practice in certain situations. That will be Bruce's call."
Should Be Good
The long layoff will certainly be beneficial to Chara, who sat out Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Final with an undisclosed injury. The team considers him day-to-day, with Sweeney saying he is "confident" Boston's No. 1 defenseman will be ready for Game 1 of the Cup Final.
"We've got a lot of time to make the absolute right decision and give him the proper time to get over something that's been nagging him," said Sweeney. "We'll cross our fingers that that will be the case, but we're confident it will be.
"I expect he'll be fine, but I'm not going to sit here and make a proclamation, make promises. I do believe the time will be used effectively, and he'll be fine. But sometimes those are out of your control."
Sweeney noted that sitting out Chara for the clinching game against Carolina had nothing to do with the Bruins leading the series, 3-0. Following the win, the Captain joined his teammates, in full uniform, for the celebration, Prince of Wales Trophy presentation, and handshake line.
"Nope, no factors, game-to-game, decided that he wasn't going to be able to be at his best in Game 4," said Sweeney. "Next man up, Johnny [Moore] goes in, fortunate to have the guys waiting in the wings that way and well prepared. We would've made the same decision going into a Game 5, to tell you the truth.
"We're living in it day-by-day, trying to give our team the best chance to win, and I think Bruce has picked his lineup that way. We've made all our decisions that way, and we're going to continue to operate that way."
Despite the fact that Chara is currently battling an injury, Sweeney admitted to marveling at the success the 42-year-old continues to have at the highest level.
"You see the respect that [Carolina head coach] Rod Brind'Amour had for him as they were going through the [handshake] line," said Sweeney. "It's incredible that he's doing it. I know he looks at other athletes and what they're able to accomplish and taps into those resources, as well, so he's the guy that's continued to evolve over a long, long period of time. It's a testament to him, and we're thankful he's in our organization."
Miller, Wagner Unlikely
Sweeney, meanwhile, was not optimistic about the chances that the Bruins would have the services of Kevan Miller or Chris Wagner for the Stanley Cup Final. Miller, who has not played since April 4 because of a lower-body injury, was with the team in Carolina working out off the ice, but Sweeney indicated that the blue liner suffered "a little bit of a setback, so I don't expect him to be ready to play."
Wagner blocked a shot with his right forearm late in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Final and is also unlikely to play in the Final.
"I would be very surprised if Chris is ready to play, but we'll wait and see where that goes," said Sweeney.