Haggerty: Bruins ready for two months of hockey insanity

Haggerty: Bruins ready for two months of hockey insanity
February 23, 2013, 3:30 pm
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SUNRISE, FL – The Bruins made full use of their “off” days in Florida that will soon before few and far between. The B’s players got together for a team-bonding lunch along Ft Lauderdale beach on Friday afternoon on a deck overlooking the ocean in the kind of moment that’s been altogether rare in the condensed 48-game NHL schedule this year thanks to the lockout.

“A lot of the guys got together and it was a good day had by all,” said Milan Lucic. “We get that one day to relax before we get hit with a lot of games.”

The Bruins also managed an hour plus practice on Saturday at the BB&T Center home of the Panthers on Saturday afternoon where they skated, worked on their battle along the boards and stretched their legs in one of the few full practices they’ll have for the rest of the season. That’s because they still have 34 games to play with little more than two months remaining in the season, and will have only one more two-day stretch (March 28-29) without a game for the rest of the season.

“We’re all aware of it,” said Patrice Bergeron. “It’s going to be a tough two months, but if you look at it that way it’s definitely going to be tough. You need to look at it one day at a time. It’s when you look too far ahead that you can get a little lost.”

Everybody loves the clichéd “one day at a time” approach, of course. But the heavy second half portion of the B’s schedule also wasn’t helped when the makeup game for the cancelled home date against Tampa Bay was tacked on to the end.

But it’s somewhat of a balancing act: the Bruins know there will be attrition and challenges inherent in playing so many games over a two-month span, but many of the playing are also hopping at the chance to dive into the regular routine of their hockey lives.  

“Andrew Ference reference [this Florida trip] yesterday as the calm before the storm,” said Gregory Campbell. “We had these days now and it’s obviously nice to have a day off in Florida. Our schedule has been extremely light.

“But I personally am looking forward to get back into the swing of things. We’ve been successful so far. It will be nice to get on a roll and keep that momentum going. We’ve had enough time off this year with the lockout and it will be good to get our minds focused totally on hockey.”

The Bruins have played only 14 games this season – by far the lowest number of games played around the NHL more than a month into the shortened campaign – and now they’ll need plenty of points amid the business. So the most logical approach for the B’s organization is to take something akin to a playoff mentality as the next two months will be similar to the “every other day” grind of the Stanley Cup postseason.

“We’re 15 games in now after tomorrow, so what does that give us? Thirty three games left. That’s not a lot of time for building. There’s a lot less time than what we’re used to, but we need to do everything in our power to get our game where it needs to be,” said Lucic. “We need to make sure we get plenty of rest and eat the right kind of foods because there are going to be days when we don’t get much rest.

“We need to do everything in our power to stay on the same page as far as our team game, and the coaches and players need to work together to stay successful. You kind of have to [be in a playoff mindset] especially with every game being so meaningful. You’re playing almost every other night and it will have that feel once it comes around.”

That extends to a the B’s coaching staff deciding when the team should go through a full practice between games, or simply get their work in at morning skates as they would during the playoffs. Claude Julien will have his work cut out gauging the needs of the team, but that’s one of the instinctual skills bred in good hockey coaches.

It will also help the Bruins that they have Aaron Johnson, Jay Pandolfo and Lane MacDermid – as well as others at the AHL level – ready to step in when the inevitable injuries occur during a slew of hockey games over the next two months.  

“I don’t know what’s going to happen two weeks from now when there’s a game every second night. I can’t plan that far ahead. We’ve signed Pandolfo and anticipated that there’s going to be some rough stretches along the way,” said Julien. “For a coach how do you manage the practices? [You have to decide] when to skate and when not to skate.

“Every second day [with a game] is like a playoff series you didn’t practice between days and then worked on things during the [morning] skate…or vice versa. You’re probably going to see some of that stuff coming up.”

One other thing you’ll see? Hockey games, and plenty of them for the Black and Gold.

The Bruins need to play 34 games in the next 63 days and that’s about as fast and furious as the hockey will ever get at the NHL level without a playoff tag attached to it.