BOSTON -– For the Bruins, daylight savings time starts now.
After playing just eight matinees in their first 52 games, the Bruins will play nine in their final 30 games of the regular season. That includes Saturday afternoon showdowns in six of the final nine weeks of the year, with five of them at the Garden.
That's a lot of early workdays coming for the club, but the Bruins don't mind.
"I feel really good going into afternoon games," Bruins forward Shawn Thornton said after Friday's practice at the Garden as the Bruins prepared for a Saturday matinee clash with the Predators. "The only difference is you don't have to skate in the morning. I like them. Get 'em going. I wish we could play them all at 1 in the afternoon. But that's me. Other guys might have differing opinions, but I actually really like the afternoon games."
Actually, there's pretty much consensus support for the early starts in the Bruins locker room.
"I don't mind them at all," forward Milan Lucic said. "It's good to kind of get the day going and just get out there and start playing. You don't have to spend the whole day thinking about the game coming up that night. I know the fans enjoy it and it's great being able to play in front of the families and the kids and all that stuff. So I enjoy it and think it's a pretty cool thing. It seems like after the Super Bowl, almost every other Saturday we're playing an afternoon game here. I've gotten used to it and come to enjoy it."
Not having to dwell on the game all day long waiting for an evening faceoff may be a good thing for the Bruins, who are just 5-6-1 in their last 12 games and are coming off a season-worst 6-0 loss in Buffalo on Wednesday.
Gregory Campbell didn't get to play many matinees in his first five pro seasons in Florida. But after arriving in Boston last year, he's come to appreciate the afternoon tilts, in part because they spare the players the anxiety of waiting for a night game.
"I like them," Campbell said. "It was a new thing for me coming to Boston. In Florida we rarely ever played them, one a year maybe. In Boston last year in the second half there was a flurry of them and I’ve come to like them.
"You come to the rink and sometimes those night games you can sit around and think about things all day, whereas the afternoon games you come to the rink prepared and fresh in the morning and get right after it," Campbell continued. "You have no time to let your mind work in sometimes negative ways. It's something we’ve become accustomed to on this team. We're all excited to play, so the sooner the game comes the better."
The early start does require some adjustments. Regular routines have to be altered, and even simple things like when to eat before the game have to be factored in.
"It kind of takes you out of your routine," Lucic said. "But we play them so much, you kind of build a routine separately for the afternoon games. Obviously you eat different and all that kind of stuff. You try to get as much food in you as quickly as possible instead of that whole day having time to get it in you. That's the different preparation, and obviously the night before plays a big role in preparing for an afternoon game."
For some, it's less about the calorie intake and more about the caffeine.
"I wake up, have some breakfast, drink some coffee and come to the rink," Thornton said. "No different than any other day. As many [cups of coffee] as I can get in me before the game starts."
Thornton doesn't have to worry about burning off that energy early, as there are also no pregame skates before the matinees. That can be a relief at this time of the year, even for the coaches.
"I tell you, over the years I think everybody is starting to like it even more," Bruins coach Claude Julien said. "Players and even coaches, we often say those morning skates, what do you get out of them? At the beginning of the year they have some significance, but as the year goes on and now the schedule is going to get heavy, there will be a lot of optional [skates].
"So when you have those afternoon games, you come to the rink once," Julien added. "You come in, you're ready and you play the game. You're done early. So if you're the road team you're not getting in at 2 in the morning. I think there's a lot of good that comes out of those afternoon games."
The good has been mixed for the Bruins this season, who are just 3-3-2 in matinees so far. That will have to improve as they battle for playoff seeding down the stretch with so many afternoon games ahead, but the Bruins are confident they can take advantage of those chances, especially with a loud Garden crowd backing them in most of the remaining matinees.
"The afternoon games always seem to be higher pitched because there’s a lot of kids screaming," Lucic said. "So you want to get them cheering."
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