TORONTO - I have to admit. Sunday was a pretty a weird day.
I wasn't sure what we'd be walking into when we got to Toronto and the day was already off to a much different start than we're used to.
Our flight was much later in the afternoon, so there was a lot of sitting around and plenty of time to think. We were all kind of anxious to get going in the days leading up, making sure we were packing all the right things and not leaving anything behind.
It was all a little bittersweet. It is tough to leave the comfort of your own home, especially with what's going in the world, but we're very fortunate as players that we still have a job to do.
In the end, I was just really excited to get away with everyone and get another chance at playoff hockey and another chance to play for a Stanley Cup after having such a good season. We didn't want it to go to waste.
And once we got on the bus to the airport - we actually made a few stops, kind of like riding the bus to school - it was really fun to see all the guys. I know we've been skating at the rink for two weeks as a team during training camp, but to get on the road again was great. We have such a close team, it's nice to kind of spend time bonding with them.
Once we arrived at Hotel X in Toronto, that's when it really began to set in. I think everyone was a little bit more on edge making sure that we weren't doing anything that would raise any red flags from a health standpoint. I think everyone is very cautious of that and conscious of the decisions that they're making. That was good to see.
There was a lot more security and things were a lot more of hunkered down and tedious. But after a couple days, we have all started to get used to our surroundings and what we can and can't do. Honestly, it's been as smooth as it possibly could be so far.
Coming into the bubble, I was a little skeptical about what we would be able to do. You kind of just assume that you'll be going to the rink at your allowed time and then back to your room and not able to see your teammates after that. But I'm pleasantly surprised that they do have things available that will keep us entertained. We can go out for a little walk as long as we don't leave the restricted area and they have a few games outside that are available to us if we don't want to spend as much time in the room. They've done a great job at allowing us to do things, but also stay safe at the same time.
What has really been odd is seeing the other teams around the hotel. It happened right from the start. There's not any other experience to go off of from that aspect. We have our own couple floors to ourselves, but sometimes you're going to use the elevator and you bump into a few guys on the other team. It's a bit strange even though we all know a lot of guys on different teams. Although it is tough to recognize them with masks on!
And especially getting into playoff time, you don't really want to be worrying about chatting with your friends on other teams. I think we're all really competitive and that can wait for a different time. I think that part will get better once we start playing games and get more competitive. We'll probably just find ways to hang out with each other and do things as a team.
Our focus right now is on our exhibition game against Columbus on Thursday. I think we're all kind of sick of practicing at this point. The competitive juices have been heightened in the last couple practices, we're all really anxious to finally get back into that setting and realize the goal that we have for ourselves.
We came up one game short last year and we want to make sure that we're doing everything we can to prepare ourselves. It will be nice to get into a competitive setting and battle and feel those tendencies you need to be sharp in a game and make those quick little plays.
It will be huge to get that in before we play those three important round-robin games and then we'll be off to the playoffs. It's something that we've been thinking about for a couple months now. It's time to drop the puck again.
-- Matt Grzelcyk