“What a blur!” forward Michael Ryder said after Boston’s final preseason game on Saturday night, a 4-2 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets that left the Bruins with a 5-2-1 exhibition record. “That was just so fast. We played so many games, and it didn’t really feel like a training camp. But I’m ready for the real ones.”
That was pretty much the sentiment across the board in the Bruins’ dressing room as the team wrapped up one of the most condensed training camps in NHL history due to the Olympics this season. Now the Bruins are ready for three strong practice days and then the season opener at TD Garden against Alexander Ovechkin and the Capitals on Thursday night.
“It’s been a real tough camp, and that’s all I can tell you right now,” said head coach Claude Julien. “When you have six games in eight nights, you don’t have much practice time. We just finished three in three [three games in three nights], and obviously the second half of this game [Saturday] was horrendous.
“It goes with the territory of what’s gone on, but we’ve had some good looks from all those games. We had our young players play more than they would normally, so somewhere down the road, those things benefit you. I think the biggest key right now is we as a group — the coaches and players — have to understand we need three quality practices this week before we open up on Thursday.”
Captain Zdeno Chara shared the same observations and is looking forward to the real thing.
“It’s been a pretty tough preseason as far as the schedule, and I thought we did a pretty good job,” Chara said. “Of course, we are excited to start the real thing. We have a few days to regroup, get the energy again, and it’s exciting again.”
The Bruins iced a similar roster to what they most likely will use against the Caps on Thursday, but due to the split squads and condensed games throughout camp, the regulars really haven’t seen much of each other or gotten reacquainted on the ice.
“Well, I think it was our first time as a group, and we’ve got a good three or four days here of practices, and we need to be sharp, ready to go, for the first couple days of the season,” said forward Chuck Kobasew, who was with his usual linemates Mark Recchi and Patrice Bergeron. “Guys have been practicing with different combinations, so the next three or four days are going to be really big. We have to sharpen up in some areas, and now it’s for real. First game there on Thursday, and you’re playing for two points.
“It’s nice to have that behind us. It was a long haul there, eight games. We had six games in eight days, or something like that, and you need those to start finding your game and find timing and all that kind of stuff. Now it’s nice to be getting into the real stuff.”