BOSTON - Nearly four months to the day since they last gathered as a team, the Bruins returned to Warrior Ice Arena on Monday for their first practice as training camps opened across the NHL in advance of the league's Return to Play later this month in Edmonton and Toronto.
"Normalcy is something that we were all kind of seeking throughout this whole pandemic. It was hard for everyone. I'm talking about just life in general, it was hard for everyone. It affected a lot of people in different ways. It's one step towards a little bit more normalcy," said Patrice Bergeron.
Despite a lengthy layoff because of the COVID-19 crisis, the Black & Gold skated with pace, intensity, and plenty of smiles.
"Really good, to be honest with you," Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy said when asked how he would assess Day 1. "I thought our guys had really good pace. Execution was pretty good for a first practice. I know a lot of guys have been working, skating…I thought the willingness to work was excellent. Guys were in a good mood.
"It reminded me a lot of our practices during the year where guys are working hard, taking care of business, but enjoying themselves, having fun, and chirping each other. It was kind of where we left off in terms of the mood and the overall rating of it.
"I really liked it. And I think guys are happy to be back together. They enjoy each other and are obviously looking forward to be back to work."
More notes and observations from Day 1 of Training Camp:
Among those not participating in Monday's practice were wingers David Pastrnak and Ondrej Kase. Under the NHL's new injury and illness protocols, all that Cassidy could disclose about their absences was that they were "unable to practice, unable to be here."
Both players spent time in their native Czech Republic during the pause and Cassidy suggested that they could be fulfilling their international quarantine period.
"Because of the timing of when they got here, they have to have enough tests," said Cassidy. "The rest of the guys, there's some guys going out in a later group simply because of numbers and the other guys just aren't able to be here. I would expect a few more would join us [on Tuesday] and we'll go from there on a daily basis from here on out."
Also missing from the skate were winger Anton Blidh, defenseman Urho Vaakanainen, center Trent Frederic, and goalie Dan Vladar. All except Frederic took the ice following the Bruins' main practice.
Assistant coach Kevin Dean was also absent. "Unable to be here. I anticipate he'll be here [Tuesday] or Wednesday. He's fine," said Cassidy.
Video: Cassidy Speaks To Media After Bruins Season Resumes
The Bruins' right side looked quite different on Monday with Pastrnak and Kase missing and Sean Kuraly switching over to his off wing. Kuraly has played mainly center during his three full seasons with the Black & Gold, though he had seen some extended time at left wing during the 2019-20 campaign.
But with an expanded roster giving Cassidy a number of options on the wing and Par Lindholm playing well between Joakim Nordstrom and Chris Wagner, Boston's bench boss opted to take a look at Kuraly on the right wing alongside Nick Ritchie and Charlie Coyle.
"It's Day 1, right? So, we have the luxury of doing some of these things now," said Cassidy. "I thought Lindy did a real good job in the middle there. Kuraly, we can move him to different spots in the lineup. Obviously, someone would get bumped then. That's what we did today, tried him on the right side.
"Got two guys that can take draws, a pretty accountable line. Does it free up Sean to be a little more creative offensively, who knows? We'll look at it in practice and see if there's any merit to it."
Plenty of Competition
While this two-week practice period is not quite like a traditional training camp, there is a bit of competition thanks to an expanded roster of 33 players. With the likes of Anders Bjork and Karson Kuhlman pushing for a permanent place in the playoff lineup, Cassidy will have some decisions to make.
"We are looking at scrimmaging later in the week. There will be some performance evaluation during that," said Cassidy. "Gotta be careful you don't rush to judgment early on. For example, today, Anders Bjork looked terrific, maybe the best player out there today. But it's Day 1. Are we automatically gonna say he's in and not player so and so? It's good for him.
"There's competition here and I think our guys understand that. And they've understood it for two years here…there's some spots that we've rotated guys in and out and that won't change. You can look at our lineup and see 14 forwards that have made good contributions…eight defensemen that have all played."
A Leg Up
Bergeron had been skating during voluntary workouts at Warrior for roughly a month as part of Phase 2 of the NHL's Return to Play format. While the on-ice groups were far smaller, Boston's alternate captain felt a bit more adjusted to some of the strict health and safety protocols, allowing him to place all of his focus on the ice.
"It took a little bit of time to adjust. It was nice to touch the ice for Phase 2 getting ready with the protocol and getting used to all of that," said Bergeron. "Getting back on the ice, the first week there was definitely some rust there and trying to get the timing and hands back…I think in this situation with the whole team back on the ice it's getting adjusted to the 3-on-2s and the battles and the 5-on-5s. It's more adjusting to bigger groups and a regular practice, something that we haven't had a chance to do in Phase 2."
Video: Bergeron Speaks on First Day Of Training Camp
Cassidy and assistant coaches Jay Pandolfo, Joe Sacco, and Bob Essensa and skating and skills instructor Kim Brandvold all wore face coverings during Monday's practice. The players also donned masks until they reached the bench area or stepped onto the ice.
"Especially early on with that many players on the ice, a bit of the newness, you're going through some new drills," said Cassidy. "We'll follow that protocol until we're told differently. I know we've been told during the games the mask is not necessary, but for now we'll try to use one as much as possible.
"Sometimes you do have to lower it to speak, but we're trying to remain respectful of what they've asked us to do and I thought it worked out well today."
Quote of the Day
"It was a lot of fun to be out on the ice with all the guys. A lot of smiling faces. Always great to get out there with the brothers and just enjoy competing against one another." - Torey Krug on Day 1 of camp
Video: Krug Speaks to Media After Bruins First Day of Camp
Monday's Practice Lineup
Brad Marchand - Patrice Bergeron - Karson Kuhlman
Jake DeBrusk - David Krejci - Anders Bjork
Nick Ritchie - Charlie Coyle - Sean Kuraly
Joakim Nordstrom - Par Lindholm - Chris Wagner
Paul Carey - Jack Studnicka - Zach Senyshyn
Zdeno Chara - Charlie McAvoy
Torey Krug - Brandon Carlo
Matt Grzelcyk - Jeremy Lauzon
John Moore - Connor Clifton
Video: The B's return to the ice as a team after pause