WILMINGTON The Bruins plan to combat their Stanley Cup hangover has been taking shape all season, but the past couple of days have revealed some helpful nuggets earmarked for this years Bruins team.
The Bs opted against on-ice practice on Tuesday morning at the behest of Claude Julien when he determined a mental health day away from the ice would do the players much more help than harm.
There may not be many chances to take an extra day off away from the ice for a team that never really got much of a break following their Stanley Cup victory, so Julien exercised one of those day off options on Tuesday before holding a near two-hour practice at Ristuccia Arena on Wednesday.
The practice began with Nathan Horton dropped to another new line, skating with David Krejci and Benoit Pouliot, and the formerly electric line of Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand and Rich Peverley was again reformed and ready for action against the Canadiens.
It was a plan right from the start of the season that we have to catch up on getting our rest, said Julien. A lot of it is more mental than physical. Our guys arent going to get out of shape in one day, but theyre certainly going to gain a lot more by staying away from the rink for another day.
When you look at the second half of the year its a really heavy schedule. So we wont get the luxury of days off come that time. If we just want to gauge on the results and that we have to punish more than we have to be smart about it, were going to get the right results at the end. We have to be smart and make good decisions about days off and the types of practices we have going forward. Were an optimistic group in there that thinks we can come back and play the way we can. Right now its less talk and more show, and its about starting to play the way we can.
Theres really no other way for the Bruins to go when theyve play 13 of their first 17 games at home, so there will be a price to be paid on the road.
But Julien seemed to be pining away for a long road trip for his hockey club, and it sounds like theres still some team bonding that needs to take place for the Black and Gold.
Its not easy when you have that schedule where youre home a lot. You want to take advantage of it, but once the guys are on the road together it gives them a good opportunity to bond, said Julien. We dont have that right now. So weve got to find other solutions to get us going and find ways to be a team that works together and plays together. Thats the big challenge right now. The excuses are there right now, but wed rather go out and find solutions to those problems right now instead.
Julien also had said the road-heavy second half schedule for the Bruins which stands as the single biggest impetus behind taking an extra day or two away from the ice in the first half plays into the ultimate goaltending rotation strategy for Tuukka Rask and Tim Thomas as well.
Thomas has played six out of eight games thus far, and the division of labor looks incredibly similar to that of last year when Thomas really just took over the position.
General manager Peter Chiarelli casually mentioned in a Tuesday State of the Bruins type conference call that hed expected Rask would have another start or two at this point in the season.
But interestingly enough Julien had to answer that charge through the media by pointing toward a busy second half thats going to require much more regular work from Rask between the pipes. The trick: keeping Rask sharp for those second half games when the Finnish goalie freely acknowledges hes never going to get used to the sporadic playing time for a backup goalie.
I didnt read or hear how it was said by Chiarelli, said Julien. All I know is that there was a plan to use Tuukka more this year. Its certainly not a judgment that needs to be made one month into the season. At the end of the year lets look at how many games Tuukka has played and well see if weve followed the plan or not.
Weve talked about the schedule in the second half getting heavier, and thats where Tuukka is really going to have to step up and help us out. Hes going to see some game time, but I dont think I would read into how were using one month into the season with this kind of schedule.
The plans are certainly in place to give the Bs a little extra rest and address that always tricky goaltending rotation between Rask and Thomas, but the best laid plans of a hockey organization arent going to matter much if they dont start consistently putting some Ws together.