BOSTON -- The Stanley Cup Final logo had been traced onto the TD Garden ice, the podiums for Media Day had been readied. The Boston Bruins had switched their normal practice venue from Warrior Ice Arena to TD Garden, where they will play Game 1 against the St. Louis Blues on Monday (8 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, SN, TVAS).
It was all starting to feel real.
The Bruins last played in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Final against the Carolina Hurricanes on May 16. Since then, Boston has spent nine days killing time before the main event begins, time that has been devoted to practicing, to resting, to scrimmaging. It has been devoted to keeping the Bruins fresh but not rusty, ready for the task ahead.
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So how do they figure out how to turn it on now, when the time on ice starts to mean something? When it's time, finally, to go all out?
"Playing in the Thursday night [intrasquad scrimmage] was beneficial, to get out there and play in a game situation," Bruins defenseman Charlie McAvoy said. "It's tough. Obviously, from an excitement standpoint, from a readiness level, we are going to be as ready as we'll ever be.
"It's the Stanley Cup Final, Game 1. Just the emotion and the excitement in the city and the feeling in the building is going to be contagious."
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But McAvoy acknowledged that it won't exactly be an easy switch to flip, going from the slowness and ease of the days off to the intensity and physicality of the biggest games they may ever play. They will need to be aware of the layoff, to work against it, to position themselves to be ready from the opening puck drop.
"Hopefully we can come out and we can play our game right from the start, whatever rustiness or maybe perhaps getting your legs under you or whatever it may be, hopefully we can shake that out as quick as possible and just get down to playing our game," McAvoy said. "I think playing a simplistic game to start is going to be the key to that."
And although there were questions about the Bruins' decision to play an intrasquad scrimmage on Thursday -- especially concerning injuries -- it seems that getting the players back on the ice in a game atmosphere, having them go through a typical game-day routine, had put them back in the mindset of knowing how to prepare, how to mentally approach what's ahead.
After that game, the Bruins took a day off Friday before heading into their final preparations. They practiced for about 45 minutes on Saturday and will practice again Sunday ahead of Media Day and Game 1 on Monday.
"It's been a long stretch of not playing games," Bruins forward Charlie Coyle said. "We're just itching to get there. But we've just used the time to our advantage, stay positive and stay upbeat. Once the time comes, we'll be ready."
It helps that it's starting to feel closer, starting to feel a bit more concrete at this point.
"It definitely feels a little bit more like we're in the swing of things now," Bruins forward Jake DeBrusk said.
For most of the players, the feeling finally settled in when the Blues finished off the San Jose Sharks in Game 6 of the Western Conference Final on Tuesday. After that, the Bruins could focus on an opponent, they could game plan, they could envision what would happen.
"From then on, your mind's racing," DeBrusk said. "We're getting closer and closer. It's right around that time. I couldn't be more excited."
He's not alone.
"Here we go," McAvoy said. "We've got two days now. It feels a lot more exciting now than 11 days ago."