By Ty Anderson, 985TheSportsHub.com
BOSTON — It’s been six years since Cup decals lined North Station, but Thursday was a friendly reminder that you can sell almost anything during a Stanley Cup run. And that you can make it a whole lotta fun, too.
Still half a week away from the start of the 2019 Stanley Cup Final between the Bruins and Blues, but with almost two weeks between game action, the Bruins decided to treat a sellout (a sellout!) crowd to a Thursday night scrimmage at TD Garden. And there really wasn’t much to complain about when it came to the event.
You had people getting in the building for $20. You had pregame and postgame addresses from Cam Neely, Zdeno Chara, and Patrice Bergeron. I heard kids got free popcorn. And even us press box fools got to pick our own seats. The Boston Globe’s Kevin Paul Dupont, by the way, has a spectacular view. With a scope like that, it’s no wonder Dupes had an Orr-like glide to the Hockey Hall of Fame.
More important than the score (I honestly couldn’t even begin to guess what the final of this contest was) or the development of The Wave as A Thing crowds like to do at hockey events, though, was the fact that the Bruins got through the 50-minute on-ice session without any dumb stuff. And by dumb stuff, I’m of course talking about an injury to a Boston skater expected to help lead this team to their first Stanley Cup since 2011.
“Listen, injury risk was our biggest concern,” Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy admitted after the scrimmage. “It will be Saturday when we practice at our normal time, and Sunday obviously.”
But the Bruins did have a scare of sorts, as Marchand appeared to injure his hand in the first half of the scrimmage. Shaking his hand and appearing to be in some discomfort following the play, Marchand was right back out there for his next shift, and Cassidy downplayed any potential injury to the B’s leading scorer through three rounds.
“[Marchand]’s fine,” Cassidy assured the assembled media. “He just bumped into [Connor] Clifton in front of the net and jammed his hand or something. So, he kept playing, and he was fine. There was no issue there.”
And though he did not speak with reporters following the scrimmage, Marchand was seen in the locker room after the event and did not appear to have any sort of noticeable issues with his fingers/hand. David Pastrnak joked that he was playing up his ‘injury’ for the crowd, which would be an incredible troll move on the part of Marchand, and truly giving these people their money’s worth. Just not in the way they expected or would have liked.
The Bruins did skate without one of their most important forwards, though, as David Krejci was absent from the affair, and actually wasn’t even in the building.
“Krejci was ill. Showed up tonight, had a bit of a fever, so we sent him home,” Cassidy said. “Precautionary, not be around the guys. We’re off tomorrow, so we figured he would be fine by Saturday.”
While a fun event, the truth is that there’s not a whole lot to take away from this scrimmage. I’m not sure that Tuukka Rask will be helped or harmed by what happened on Thursday night, and it’s not as if we learned anything new about this team.
The one thing I did like about this event: It was at night, and could allow the players to get back in rhythm from a body-clock standpoint. This is one of those things that sneaky important, and has been stressed in recent years, from NHL players to Olympic athletes. An 11-day layoff is just as much physical as it mental. And talking to some players after this scrimmage, they did stress the importance of this feeling like a ‘gameday’ in terms of how they prepared, whether it was taking part in the optional skate this morning, eating a pregame meal, or even taking what would normally be considered their pregame nap.
Also: The turnout for this thing was kinda incredible, really. This was a glorified practice. They didn’t really do much to dress this up to make it more than that (the decision for the players to wear number-less jerseys must’ve been a nightmare for those in the balcony), but it had the feel of a game. We live in this absurd age of sports dominance, and it’s easy to take it all for granted, but there’s seriously nothing like The Cup in Boston. The energy, excitement, and buzz is felt everywhere.
The Bruins will return to the TD Garden for an 11 a.m. practice on Saturday, hold their Stanley Cup Media Day on Sunday, and begin this series on Monday night with an 8 p.m. puck drop.