For the first time since the early weeks of March, the full Bruins roster will be back at Warrior Ice Arena — shaking off the rust and gearing up for what is assured to be the most frantic end to an NHL campaign in … well, ever.
With the Bruins granted less than two weeks of on-ice work in Brighton before heading up to Toronto to start their pursuit of Lord Stanley’s Cup, Bruce Cassidy and the rest of Boston’s coaching staff are up against the clock when it comes to putting the best lineup together for the NHL’s revamped postseason tournament.
Here are the eight things I’m watching as Phase 3 — Boston’s full-squad training camp — gets underway.
1. How long will it take players to shake rust off?
Even though a majority of the Bruins roster has been back on the ice at Warrior for voluntary workouts during Phase 2 (with some starting on-ice work back in mid-June), Cassidy and his staff don't entirely have a lot of room to work with when it comes to getting the B's in the best possible shape from this postseason push.
Once camp officially opens on Monday morning, Boston will have less than two weeks of on-ice work together at Warrior before heading up to Toronto on July 26. Aside from a scheduled exhibition game between July 28-30, the Bruins don't have much leeway to continue to steel themselves before their round-robin opener against the Flyers on August 2nd.
As such, Cassidy and his staff have the difficult task of charting out a camp regimen that succeeds in both shaking off the rust formed from four months of inactivity — while also not incorporating too much added nuance beyond what this roster is used to working on during practices.
"I think Bruce and his staff do a really good job of turning the dials as we go forward," Don Sweeney said. "We have a defined period of time that we know we have to get up to full speed. It doesn't have to be tomorrow. But we do have to get to Toronto with the mindset that we're playing in an exhibition game and then the games from there really mean something — as opposed to the normal course of training camp where you may be able to approach it better.
"Players have to understand it's a very short window to, again, get back up to full speed. But you gotta be be ready. As I said, we're not going to hit the ice for three hours on Monday. We're going to go back into our normal routines and incrementally move the pace of practice and physicality of practice accordingly, and making sure we're in full consult with our players as to how they're feeling. We have the benefit of a strong leadership group that can hopefully lead us in some of those areas.
While Boston could opt to juggle a few lineup combinations during various intrasquad scrimmages, don't expect the B's to really put their roster in a blender once we get to the end of July.
"I think we’re going to have to pin it down right away, get back to going over who we feel is the best with who and again, I think our team strong no matter how we end up moving the wingers around," Cassidy said back in April. "We got some new bodies, we use Richie and Kase as examples — we were trying to see where they best fit. At the end of the day, I do believe come playoff time that our guys will all be committed. All playing the same way — team first. So no matter what lines are out, I still think that we’ll be okay in that regard.”
2 - Will the protocols put in place avoid a COVID-19 outbreak?
As strict and stringent as the the safety protocols are once the Bruins head to Toronto's "Phase 4 Secure Zone" at the end of the month, the plans put in place to stymie the risk of COVID-19 during Phase 3 are no joke, either.