Energized Bruins face challenging stretch

Energized Bruins face challenging stretch
April 21, 2013, 12:45 am
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In some ways conventional wisdom would say that the Bruins should be emotionally spent after playing in a pair of games this week that were mixed in with one of the biggest tragedies in the city of Boston’s history.

The Star Spangled Banner started by singer Rene Rancourt and finished by nearly 18,000 people at TD Garden on both Wednesday night and Saturday afternoon gave birth to a budding new sports tradition in Boston of the crowd singing the anthem a cappella. That was paired with a “Boston Strong” video full of images from the Boston Marathon and the subsequent four day manhunt for the two suspected terrorists to the tune of Phillip Phillips’ poignant “Home.”

Once again it had the Bruins players going through the full range of emotions on the ice prior to Saturday afternoon’s 3-2 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins at TD Garden. It started in pregame warm-up when the B’s players were wearing City of Boston Police, Massachusetts State Police and Watertown Police baseball hats on their heads as they skated around.

“[There was] not a dry eye again. I’ll probably take my quotes from Wednesday and reuse them because I had the same feeling before the game,” Shawn Thornton. “[It was a] pretty tough week for the city, for the country. [There were] a lot of proud Bostonians throughout and seeing what happened last night the emotions definitely carried over into this rink before this game.”

The Bruins had good energy throughout Saturday afternoon’s matinee, and the difference in the game turned out to be a pair of power play goals surrendered in the final 20 minutes. So it wasn’t about any kind of emotional letdown rather than some discipline issues against a power play-seeking Penguins club, and that kind of effort bodes well for the Black and Gold.

They will be playing five games in the next eight days including a pair of travel days to Washington and Philadelphia, and now have another back-to-back situation as they host the Florida Panthers on Sunday afternoon. The unprecedented three game postponements for Boston this season have turned the team’s final week into a rigorous exercise with the playoffs just around the corner, but it’s something the Bruins have fully prepared for.

Claude Julien will make decisions that will put the Bruins into as good a possible position to win any particular hockey game, and perhaps secure the No. 2 spot in the Eastern Conference for the playoffs.

“It’s on your mind the minute you see what the schedule is like. We’re going to certainly have to maneuver through that very carefully,” said Julien. “Like I said the other day, it’s a balance of hopefully being able to win games and at the same time rest some guys. We’re going to have to deal with it the best way we can.”

With so many games squeezed into the final small portion of the schedule, one would expect that the heavy emotions of the last two games -- with the stirring ceremonies and deep feelings – would begin to exhaust the Bruins players. But they say that is quite the opposite, and witnessing so many acts of kindness, togetherness and solidarity has actually inspired the Bruins and giving them direction.

“[It’s not exhausting]…not at all. It’s something that…it’s very easy to get up for and we were all very excited for the opportunity to do that,” said Brad Marchand, who scored Boston’s first goal on Saturday afternoon. “It’s definitely not something that is draining or anything like that at all.

“We want to try and give the city something to believe in and something to look forward to with watching our games and everything. It would’ve been a little nice if we’d gotten a couple of wins [on Wednesday and Saturday]. But I think for the most part the city was able to take their mind off everything for a couple of hours and watch our games.”

The good thing for Marchand and the Bruins: they’ll get plenty of chances to take the fans’ minds off things for a while with five more games to play in the final days of the season beginning on Sunday.