BostonBruins.com - What are the signs that the Bruins are ready for their final nine game push to the playoffs?
Are they mentally ready, and in the right mindset to handle the pressure?
"Again, I keep the same thing I said yesterday, these next nine games will give me the answer to that," Head Coach Claude Julien said following Wednesday's practice at Ristuccia Arena. "And I'm standing here preparing the team for this next game. Not looking any further than Anaheim, and we need one game here to get the right results, to get us going, so I'm not looking any further than that."
"Overall, these next nine games will tell the tale of our season. That's my take on it."
It's up to those pulling on the Spoked-B to believe that they can get the job done. People around Boston and the League may not believe it, but they have to.
"We know what we're capable of in here, and we all want to win for one another," said defenseman Adam McQuaid. "So it's just getting the right mindset and staying positive and doing what we need to do."
The Bruins' morale seemed high around the rink. Two rare, heavy practice days at home after a day of rest on Monday gave evidence to plenty of battling and highly competitive drills, along with extra work on the details before and after skates.
"When you have more than two days between games, at this time of the year, you don't want to miss the opportunity to work on different things and have good practices," said Captain Zdeno Chara.
"It's the most important part of the season for us. We know what's left, only a few games before the playoffs start. We're going to have to have good performances and obviously play to the best of our ability, and have good 60-minute performances."
The rest should help the Bruins be mentally sharp. There's no room for sloppy play this time of year. They have to execute the game plan.
"Right now, so much is on the line every game and we're going need guys to step up," said Brad Marchand. "We realize we can't just coast into playoffs - we need to be playing our best every night and if we're not, then it's going to cost us our season. So hopefully everyone realizes that and is prepared to play every single game."
While it may seem like a blip in a busy month of March, a few hours spent together, away from the rink, at Tuesday's Cuts For a Cause charity event helped eased the pressure for a few hours. The event raised a record $130,000 for the Boston Bruins Foundation and Floating Hospital for Children at Tufts Medical Center.
Whether that was part of the reason for the lighter mood around the rink or not, it's difficult to really say, but when the entire team joins together like that - in support of a grander cause, and to show support for children battling cancer - it certainly brings them a bit closer, and not apart.
"I think it was good to have that event," said Marchand, with his newly shaved head. "I think we saw how excited fans still were to be around our team and to be a part of it and they believe in us."
"So I think it was big for the guys' morale and it was good to just get your mind away from all the pressure that's going on, and just have fun and enjoy the time, I think we all did that. Back at work today and we're all excited for tomorrow."
Chara, sporting his own new 'do (and thick, playoff-style beard), felt the same way.
"Exciting. I think that everybody feels excited," he said, of the morale around the team. "This is the time that you've got to be excited about those games, rather than feeling the pressure or fear. You've got to embrace it, and I really feel that in our team."
The real test will come on Thursday night, when the Bruins get back into game action after their three-day layoff, hosting the Anaheim Ducks at TD Garden.
Battling for the Presidents' Trophy, the Ducks pose a significant challenge with their speed and skill. We'll see if the Bruins rise to the challenge. All talk points to them being ready to do so.
"It doesn't really matter what I think right now, I think what matters is what's going to happen, and that's where I'm putting my comments towards - what's going to happen here in these next nine games," said Julien. "As you guys all know, talk is cheap. I'd rather see actions here."
"We can't be hoping for the performances or accountability," said Chara. "We've just got to realize that is has to be there, and that's the way it's going to have to be until the end of the season."