BOSTON — The wait isn’t over, but at least the Bruins now know how long that wait will be.
The schedule for the Eastern Conference final was released on Tuesday, with the Bruins and Tampa Bay Lightning opening their third-round series at the Garden on Saturday. That’s eight days after the Bruins wrapped up their semifinal sweep of Philadelphia and nine days after the Lightning dispatched Washington in four games.
“Well, at least it gives you some clarity with what you want to do here with the team for the rest of the week,” Bruins coach Claude Julien said. “Sitting there waiting to see what was going to happen wasn’t easy for anybody. I think everybody was anxious to find out what’s going on, so it’s nice to have it confirmed.”
The teams will get even more rest with an extra day between Game 1 and Game 2, which will be at the Garden on Tuesday, May 17. After that, the rest of the series will be played every other day, with the Lightning working out a conflict with a Disney on Ice Show to hold Games 3 and 4 on Thursday and Saturday. Games 5-7, if needed, will be the following Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
The extended break between rounds has both its benefits and detriments. The extra time to rest will allow some banged up players time to heal, helping Adam McQuaid (sprained neck) to likely be ready to return in Game 1 and perhaps limiting the number of games Patrice Bergeron will miss as he recovers from a concussion. But the extra time also makes it tough to maintain the level of play the clubs have reached in the first two rounds.
“It’s good for us to get rested,” Bruins defenseman Dennis Seidenberg said. “But on the other hand, it’s also tough to stay sharp and get ready for the next game. But I don’t think it’s too much rest. The coaches know how to challenge us to stay sharp and try to simulate some of the game situations that we are going to face.”
Julien knows the biggest challenge facing him this week is how to strike the proper balance between giving his players the rest they need without allowing any rust to set in on their game.
“The one thing you have to understand as a coach is that with all the intensity and everything that is going on [in the playoffs], guys do need their rest,” Julien said. “What has to happen though through all of that is they can’t lose their focus. You have to be able to balance that and as a coach you have to put a lot of trust in the players not to lose that. At the same time, it’s important for us to make sure that the practices are good practices, that the guys are kept sharp and the intensity is kept up. You have to get that message across and make sure you’re pushing those guys to push hard and make sure they keep that edge that they’ve had since the start of the playoffs.”