It’s the eve of playoffs!
The Boston Bruins had another hard, fast-paced practice today at Warrior Ice Arena in preparation to start their first-round series of the 2023 Stanley Cup playoffs against the Florida Panthers tomorrow.
Patrice Bergeron missed the second consecutive day of practice, which seems concerning and – although Bruins’ management doesn’t seem too worried for now.
Bruins GM Don Sweeney said there’s been a mix of a little illness and little injury at play with Bergeron. He added Bergeron doesn’t need extra days of practice and they’ll know more tomorrow of his status.
While Bergeron for Game 1 remains up in the air, the rest of the team is geared up and excited for playoffs to finally start.
I caught up with Pavel Zacha, A.J. Greer and Dmitry Orlov after practice to get their thoughts on the excitement surrounding playoffs and what it means to have this much depth and health heading into the postseason.
Zacha said he’s ready to begin this next chapter in an already successful season.
Zacha has only been on a team that’s made the postseason once – that was back in the 2017-18 season. He has five playoff games under his belt.
He’s excited for this opportunity.
“I missed a couple years in playoffs,” Zacha said. “For me, it’s what you play hockey for and I’m really excited it’s already here. It’s going to be fun day tomorrow.”
The forward said the postseason is always the goal and what players look forward to all year.
“You always want to play on a team that makes the playoffs,” Zacha said. “I was unfortunate enough the last couple of years.”
“Now, with the whole season here, you get comfortable and you try to reach this goal,” Zacha said. “We are going to play one game at a time, but you’re excited to get it started. It’s been a long season and it’s the fun time of hockey so it should be great.”
Zacha has been solid offensively for the Bruins, especially in the season’s second half. Whether he’s on the wing with David Krejci and David Pastrnak or centering Pastrnak and Tyler Bertuzzi, he’s brought a consistency and a plethora of scoring chances for his line.
The second line has become a dominant line for the Bruins and Zacha is hoping things continue to trend in that direction for playoffs. Zacha ended the regular season with 57 points.
But he says there is room for improvement.
“I want to play a two-way game and get a little bit better with scoring and helping the team in other ways too,” Zacha said. “I’m getting the opportunity to play those minutes and on those lines the whole season.”
“I just have to get to keeping the same thing in the playoffs,” Zacha added. “It’s a different game. You play the same team as many times you need to win in the series and that’s something that I’m not used to as much. It’s going to be exciting for me and a challenge.”
For Greer, the playoffs will be a new experience as he’s never played in a playoff game.
“It means a lot and it’s something I dreamed about for sure,” Greer said.
At some point during the postseason, the team will have a full roster with guys returning from injury.
Nick Foligno and Derek Forbort will be back shortly (no official announcement that they are cleared for Game 1 yet) as they’ve been full participants at practice and looked ready to go today.
Krejci is also good for Game 1. With all the depth, Greer understands his role and said he’ll be ready when he plays and there for the team when he’s scratched.
“I’ll help the team any way I can, on and off the ice, whether I’m playing or not,” Greer said. “It doesn’t matter to me. I just want the results to come back for us. I’ll do everything I can to make sure I contribute in any way possible.”
Regardless, Greer said this is a special team and can’t wait for Game 1’s puck drop – and only Game 1 right now.
“I can’t wait to start this journey with this group,” Greer said. “It’s something we’ve been looking forward to all year, but we are taking it one day at a time and keeping it even-keeled, making sure we do our jobs every period. We’re not really thinking ahead.”
Zacha, Orlov and Greer echoed the sentiment that they’re happy to see players return from injury in time for the playoffs. There presence on the ice has been missed, as Zacha said those guys are integral pieces to the locker room.
“You miss those guys,” Zacha said. “We have really good depth so we’ve been able to have a really good season even if someone is missing some time. But getting them back, they are important players for us.”
“Taylor Hall coming back and Foligno back for the playoffs – they are guys that have great character in the locker room,” Zacha said. “They are great players and they are the leaders of our team. It’s something that gives you energy heading into the playoffs.”
Orlov said to face good teams in the playoffs have depth. He sees it as being a huge advantage for the Bruins.
“We are a good team, a deep team so it’s important in the post season that guys are healthy right now starting playoffs,” Orlov said. “We are ready to go.”
“These guys have been working hard to get back to game shape and make sure they are ready for playoffs,” Greer said. “The training staff did a great job and it’s very rewarding to know that our depth is very deep and we’re ready to go with a full lineup.”
“It’s going to be a great addition to what we’ve been doing and continue to grow from there,” Greer said. “We finished the year on a very strong note so those guys are going to keep going with us.”
Tomorrow starts a fresh slate.
The Bruins finished the regular season with 65 wins and a number of NHL records and personal milestones. Now, they are back looking to pick up their first win – for the postseason. The team’s confident that how they concluded the season and the momentum they built will carry over to start the first round.
“You have to come in with confidence in the series obviously to believe in yourself with what we’ve done this season and just try to play the same way,” Zacha said. “Starting at home too, we have a great opportunity to have a great start at home and see what happens after.”
“It’s an exciting time,” Orlov said. “It’s been a long season, but good season for the team. I think everybody can’t wait to start and hope we are going to start in the right way.”
Greer can’t wait to see the energy the Bruins fans will bring to the TD Garden tomorrow and knows it will help carry the team.
“I don’t know what to expect, but I can’t wait to see it,” Greer said. “It’s going to be electric and it’s going to be something that’s very rewarding for everyone. I can’t wait to play in front of our fans and see the energy in the building.”
We’ll see you tomorrow at 7:30 p.m. for puck drop!