May 21, 2019 | 9:24AM ET
By Shawn Hutcheon, The Fourth Period
BRUINS, RASK REMAIN IN THE ZONE FOR STANLEY CUP FINAL
Tuukka Rask, goalie
BOSTON, MA – Two days after sweeping the Carolina Hurricanes out of the Stanley Cup Playoffs in the Eastern Conference Finals, the Boston Bruins returned to work to begin preparing for the Stanley Cup Final at Boston’s Warrior Arena.
Coach Bruce Cassidy led his squad through a high-paced, spirited 40-minute work-out before discussing how he, his players and the organization will guard against any type of complacency from setting in while the Bruins wait 10 days between the two series.
“They’re a group (of players) that likes to work,” Cassidy said. “We have a plan on how we’re going to go through the week. Balancing practice with days off. We are going to meet with the veteran guys who have been through it (Stanley Cup Final). We’ve talked about scrimmaging, whether we’ll do it at night or do it in the morning. We’ll talk to some people outside of the organization, see how they handle it, at least the mental side of things.
“In our practices, I don’t know if they’re completely relevant to how a baseball or football team practices, but we’ll gather information and go from there. I think it’s inevitable, you’re going to have some rust, but the rest is the positive part of it. I think we’ll get after it quick, when we do get after it.
“At the end of the day, my biggest resource will be the players that have been through it. How do they see it going forward.”
Cassidy observed that Boston’s Stanley Cup Final opponent will also have a longer than normal rest between the series.
“It sounds like it could be St. Louis and they’d be sitting around for six days,” Cassidy commented. “Is there a big difference between six and ten (days)? Both teams are going to be rusty (in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final) I suppose if it (Western Conference Finals) goes six (games). If it goes seven (games), then they might have that competitive edge.
“In terms of our preparation, we’re looking at two teams. We’ve already started cutting it up so fifty-percent is going to be wasted but we’re going to be really good next year against either St. Louis or San Jose. We’re used to doing pre-scouts so for me, it’s just business as usual, we’re just looking at two different teams. ”
Brad Marchand, who will be playing in the third Stanley Cup Final (2011, 2013, 2019) of his career, thinks the rest will be for the physical well-being of the players but also knows the collective foot cannot come off the metal.
“It’s good for bumps and bruises, but the biggest thing is when you come to work, you come to compete and do the job when you’re here (at the rink),” said Marchand, who is second in NHL playoff scoring. “With the amount of time we have off, when we get on the ice we’re just going to have to work really hard and keep our conditioning up and work hard off the ice but you know, it’s a time to enjoy it too. We’re one of, what will be, two teams left in a few days and we’ve got to be excited about that but (we) can’t be satisfied so it’s time to enjoy ourselves a little bit around the rink, around the excitement but you just gotta work when you’re here at the rink.”
Keeping Rask in the Zone
Goaltender Tuukka Rask has been the talk of the postseason and is considered by many to be the leading candidate for the Conn Smythe Trophy, which is awarded to the most valuable player of the playoffs.
After three series, he leads all postseason netminders in wins (12), goals against average (1.84), save percentage (.942), playoff shutouts (2), and saves (517).
With the No.1 concern in Boston being how to keep the Bruins on their game, concern 1A is how to keep Rask focused during the layoff between series.
Cassidy believes that experience will lead Rask to be ready when Game 1 rolls around.
“He (Rask) knows what’s in front of him,” the coach said. “He’s been around. He’s a good pro. He’ll have to figure out for himself how to get dialed in each day so that, come next Monday, he feels he’s one-hundred percent dialed in. I don’t know if he’ll have an easy answer for that either because it is what it is.”
Rask’s responded to the question that has been on everyone’s mind saying that he will prepare for the Final the same as his teammates.
“It’s only as big of a challenge as you make it for yourself,” Rask said. “We practice when we practice and then take time off when they (coaches) say to, but I don’t think about hockey every day, all day. I don’t think that’s going to do any good so just stay sharp on the ice, do the work you need to do, and play when the puck drops. That’s about it.
“It’s a very special time of year but on the other hand, you’ve got to realize the job’s not done. I think for me, like I said, just work hard when it’s practice-time then take time off when they say to take time off. That’s the only thing you can do.”
Bruins captain Zdeno Chara was forced out of Game 4 versus Carolina with what has been classified as a “nagging injury.” It is believed to be related to the shot he blocked early in the Eastern Conference Finals. He returned to the ice two days after Game 4 skating with fellow, injured defenseman Steven Kampfer and Boston’s skills coach Kim Brandvold. The following day, he skated with the team in a limited capacity.
“I’m feeling good,” Chara said after his second day on the ice. “I’m taking it one day at a time.”
Steven Kampfer also rejoined the team for Monday’s practice.
Forward Chris Wagner, who was injured blocking a shot with his arm, and defenseman Kevin Miller remain out of action. At this point, neither are expected to play in the Stanley Cup Final.