WILMINGTON, MA - As the week ticks down on the Bruins, puck drop on the Eastern Conference Finals against the Pens is now only two days away.
As such, practice still had the same focus, but the intensity was dialed down a notch as they B's held about a half-hour practice, before separating into work on the details of the game for the next 20 or so minutes.
"That’s why we just did a couple drills and we just wanted to work on our power play and our penalty kill. Basically, the bulk of the practice was 20 minutes," said Coach, of the tapered skate. "Power play stuff and the other stuff was more to warm the guys up before we did that drill. So that was dialing down, and tomorrow let’s have a good quick paced practice and then head to Pittsburgh."
Instead of wearing their normal practice jerseys today designating lines, the B's were split up into white and black jerseys for the skate (you know when Zdeno Chara hits the ice in a white top-line jersey and not his normal black, that scrimmaging will be in the practice mix).
David Krejci was the only Bruin not on the ice, and Coach Julien said following practice that it was just maintenance for the center; "minimal maintenance."
Andrew Ference was one of the first Bruins to hit the ice, flying around as he gets his legs back under him after not having played in game action since May 10. The netminders, as per usual, got in extra work before practice with goaltending coach Bob Essensa.
Coach said he has not yet been told if Ference is medically cleared and available for Game One in Pittsburgh on Saturday night. "I'd say no," he said.
The B's began practice with one-on-one and two-on-two battles up ice, which brought out intense competition - and plenty of smiles, before segueing into special teams work. Not that every Bruin isn't tough in a mano-a-mano situation, but tough break to go up against Dennis Seidenberg or Zdeno Chara…
Shawn Thornton seemed to think so, sharing a laugh with 'Seides' after their battle.
Synergy on 'D'
For the past few days, defense pairings have been fairly the same since last series, but the 'D's have also mixed and matched throughout drills.
Coach had said following Wednesday's practice, that splitting up different pairings during the regular season will only help the B's in this situation, where they could be facing different match-ups with Pittsburgh, especially on the road with the last change.
"You guys kept asking a lot of questions about that and I said, ‘You know what? It’s important that we do that because at some point you’re all going to have to play with each other,'" Coach said. "Guys that can play right that are left shots and vice versa, or even playing with different players, knowing how to do that. During the game we mix and match pairs sometimes. It’s not necessarily set pairs that you see on the ice all the time. That’s not going to change."
"We're kind of used to it. I think it's pretty important (synergy with match-ups), but it's coming with just the way we're using different pairs and different people, so even if you're not used to it, you'll get used it, because you don't have a choice," said Captain Zdeno Chara.
"I think that we have to play, not just looking at it as individuals or just defensive pairs on the ice; we just have to do our job as a unit of five on the ice and it's always a little bit easier when you're working as a unit of five people."
"It's going to be for sure challenging and it's a big motivation."
We've heard much about "depth" throughout the playoffs and especially heading into this series that GM Peter Chiarelli has labeled a "battle of deep teams."
"I think it's about a lot of depth. We said that. When you look at how they finished, they've got a guy by the name of [Brendan] Morrow on their fourth line, [Jussi] Jokinen. There's definitely some depth there," said Coach Julien, of going against Pittsburgh's four lines. "We feel we've got the same thing. It's going to be a lot of head-to-head here and see who's going to outplay the other team's line and so on, so forth. I think that's what you're looking at, a really good matchup here, which to me should be a really entertaining series."
The B's will play Games One and Two away from home, but, they've proven to win games on the road against both Toronto and New York.
"We have to win games on the road, and we’ve done that in both series so far. We know we can win games on the road. I guess the advantage you want to take from that is you hope to come out of there with at least a win, right?" said Coach, when asked about facing the challenge of not having the home-ice advantage heading into the best-of-seven series.
"You come out with at least a win, you’ve got home-ice advantage. It’s always been a goal of every team, I’m not telling you a big secret or something that will reveal something of our plan to go down there, but that’s basically what it is. You start on the road and you hope to come out of there with at least a win."
Been There Before
Alternate Captain Patrice Bergeron knows what the mindset needs to be in the Eastern Conference Finals. It's the same mindset they've had throughout the entire postseason.
"It's really staying in the moment, not getting carried away looking ahead. Take it a game at a time and it's something that's served us well over the course of the playoffs," he said. "It's going to be the same thing here and we have a good challenge ahead of ourselves and we should embrace it and enjoy it."