Bruce Cassidy needed to think outside of the box as the Bruins embarked on an 11-day layoff following their sweep of the Carolina Hurricanes a week ago Thursday.
He talked to Bill Belichick, Brad Stevens and Alex Cora — his fellow coaching peers in Boston — to get an idea on how to handle a lengthy wait between playoff series. But even then, Cassidy needed to keep his team sharp somehow as they await the St. Louis Blues for Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final on Monday.
With that in mind, Cassidy thought of something a little different. The third-year Bruins bench boss scheduled an intrasquad scrimmage in front of a supportive TD Garden crowd on Thursday night.
There’s nothing like a real game, though. The Bruins will find that out first hand on Monday when they face a Blues squad that will enter Game 1 with a six-day layoff. But the Black and White scrimmage provided plenty of talking points.
With that in mind, here is what we learned from Thursday’s scrimmage.
Brad Marchand escaped an injury scare.
The Bruins held their collective breath when Brad Marchand collided with Conor Clifton during the first half of the intrasquad scrimmage. But Marchand returned the very next shift as the Bruins went into the power play portion of the on-ice session.
Marchand, back on the top power play unit, assisted on David Pastrnak’s ensuing tally. Even better, Boston’s leading postseason scorer didn’t lend credence to a potential injury for the remainder of the scrimmage.
“Listen, injury risk was our biggest concern,” Cassidy said. “It will be Saturday when we practice at our normal time, and Sunday obviously. You keep your fingers crossed, but he’s fine. He just bumped into Clifton in front of the net and jammed his…I don’t know what he jammed his hand or something. So, he kept playing, and he was fine. There was no issue there.”
The Bruins didn’t have everyone healthy Thursday night, though. David Krejci didn’t make his way to TD Garden as he stayed home with the flu. Cassidy said that the second line center should be back with the team for Saturday’s practice.
It was a productive night from top to bottom.
A night like this makes things difficult to break down from an X’s and O’s standpoint. But Cassidy and company completed everything they needed to on the to-do list.
This wasn’t the normal run of the mill hour-long practice session. A few Bruins even admitted to huffing and puffing following Thursday’s unique scrimmage.
The elite talents like Pastrnak, Marchand and Patrice Bergeron earned some needed reps. Zdeno Chara had his legs going after missing Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Finals with an undisclosed injury. Tuukka Rask put in a healthy 25 minutes of work before giving way to Zane McIntyre for the second half of the night. And the Black Aces, headlined by top prospect Jack Studnicka and 2016 first rounder, Trent Frederic earned a taste of the game day experience.
More importantly, the Bruins returned to a routine with an optional skate in the morning and the night time scrimmage.
“It was great to be back in front of our hometown. I thought the guys fed off that a little bit, and I guess it’s nice to be appreciated like that,” Cassidy said.
“But we were trying to get our work done. That was our message. We can’t get out there and have it like a summer hockey league game. You’re going to make some plays but try to stay detailed as best you can. Sometimes in these environments, you want to do a little more, so we got a little bit of both, but we got our work done.”
Boston is an electric hockey town.
They weren’t treated to a Game 7 or a potential clinching scenario. But the loyal Bruins supporters showed up to witness their local hockey team in action.
Over 16,000 fans showed up in attendance drowning TD Garden with chants of “Let’s Go Bruins” and “We want the Cup” throughout. Every Bruin fed off the energy from their loyal supporters as the Causeway Street facility saw its first puck action since Boston’s Game 2 victory over the Hurricanes on May 12.
“Definitely something special,” Pastrnak said. “It was awesome and we enjoyed it. Hopefully, they had some fun and it was a good preview [for Game 1] for them.”
The fans got their $20 worth on Thursday with all proceeds going to the Boston Bruins Foundation. The loyal Bruins supporters, who stuck with the team through thick and thin, would love nothing more than to have another duck boat parade in a few weeks.