Friday, March 1, 2013
Bruins taking it game by game
By James Murphy
WILMINGTON, Mass. -- After grinding out a 2-1 overtime win Thursday night, the Bruins had an optional skate Friday, with all but eight players opting for off-ice workouts. With the team in the midst of a stretch of 33 games in 60 days, coach Claude Julien and his staff will do their best to pace their team through what promises to be a grueling challenge physically.
The good news is the Bruins truly know how to take things "one game at a time."
Tuukka Rask, right, and the Bruins ground out an OT win Thursday, but the going doesn't get any easier.
Former Bruins alternate captain Mark Recchi, who now serves as an advisor to hockey operations for the Dallas Stars, believes that is the approach the Bruins should and will take over the next two months. He also knows that the Bruins have the perfect coach for the job in Julien.
"It's a process. ... Claude is great in that area," Recchi told ESPNBoston.com on Friday afternoon. "Him and his staff are really great at keeping the guys focused in the right area. Being through it a lot really helps a coach, and how he handled it getting to the  Stanley Cup was awesome and it really benefited all of us."
But Julien isn't the only reason the Bruins should be in the thick of the race for the top spots in the Eastern Conference. The core that won the Stanley Cup is still intact, and the players know what needs to be done. They also won't let younger players such as Dougie Hamilton get too high or too low.
The Bruins are on a five-game win streak, but things can change quickly in a condensed schedule like this. If they don't maintain the one-game-at-a-time approach, they could find themselves in a losing streak. Recchi doesn't see that happening.
"That core is ready for this, absolutely," Recchi said. "And the good thing about it is that that core will never let a really long slide happen. They'll find a way to get wins. There's a lot of games in a lot of nights, but they're really smart. They understand the game and how they have to play it. There's nights where you're not going to have your legs and they'll still find ways to stay in the game or win and keep it close until they get their opportunities. That's just a smart team that's been through it."
This weekend, the Bruins have games against Tampa Bay on Saturday and Montreal on Sunday. It would only be natural for some of the players to look ahead to the game against the first-place Canadiens, but when asked if that was the case, veteran Shawn Thornton smiled and warned his younger teammates.
"Not that I know of, but let me know," he said with a smirk.
"Everybody keeps bringing this month up and we probably talk about it a little too much, but I honestly couldn't tell you [who we play] past Sunday," Thornton continued. "We try and really take it one game at a time. I know it sounds cliché, but it's the way you have to approach things. We got Tampa tomorrow and that's my focus, and then after that I'll have an evening to focus on the next one. I probably wouldn't even know who Sunday was if it wasn't Montreal and it hadn't been brought up 400 times already. I think as a whole our team is pretty good at doing that and not really getting ahead of themselves."
The Bruins have matured into the perfect bunch for this plethora of games.
"A lot of it has to do with maturity and our hockey team over the years," Julien said. "I think we all realize now that we are always a better team when we live in the moment. The approach has always been let's go game by game here, and I don't think I need to come up to the team and say right away, 'This week we got this team and that team and that team,' but I just go game by game. This next game is about Tampa and that's all we talked about [Friday]. We haven't talked about Montreal. We know it's there on the schedule, but we don't talk about them until it's time to talk about that team. I think everyone does a good job of buying in."