The regular season is still four days from starting, but at least the rigors of training camp and the exhibition schedule are finally in the past. The Boston Bruins, for the most part, have established what they're team is going to look like when the Washington Capitals visit TD Garden on Thursday for the regular season opener.
The front office, coaches and players aren't the only ones who learn about their club during the preseason. Here is a six pack of things I learned during the Bruins' training camp:
1. The Bruins are as deep as they claim.
Every year the Bruins come to camp relying on at least a couple of their inexperienced prospects being ready to contribute. And in the tradition of Milan Lucic, Blake Wheeler and Matt Hunwick from the last couple years, forwards Zach Hamill and Brad Marchand proved that even though they're going to start the year in Providence, they'll be reliable call-ups during the season. Plus, Tuukka Rask won the No. 2 goaltender position. The Bruins' organization deserves credit for not just drafting well but grooming its picks well.
Marc Savard had five points in five preseason games.
2. Phil Kessel is going to miss Marc Savard more than Savard is going to miss Kessel.
The Bruins superstar center played in five preseason games and posted five points. No matter what combination of Lucic, Wheeler, Marco Sturm and Michael Ryder winds up skating on Savard's wings, the All-Star is going to get his points. That bodes well for Boston not having an offensive drop-off without Kessel in the lineup. Meanwhile in Toronto, there's no telling who's going to give Kessel the puck once he gets healthy.
3. Sturm might be a little more fragile than the Bruins had hoped.
Part of Boston's plan to replace Kessel revolved around Sturm returning to form after last season's knee surgery. But his road pack has been hindered by a groin problem. While he's expected to play in the opener, Boston might have to be extra cautious with Sturm -- a move that could hurt their offense until he's 100 percent healthy.
4. Mark Recchi, Patrice Bergeron and Chuck Kobasew go together well.
The thought of 82 games of the Bruins' best two-way line wreaking havoc on opposing puck-carriers with an intense forecheck and zipping passes around the offensive zone faster is exciting. This troika was put together by head coach Claude Julien not long after Recchi was acquired in March and they looked in midseason form in the last two preseason games. Only injury or a massive need for Julien to shake things up will break this threesome up. There will be many nights that Boston will take its cue from this line of veterans.
5. Matt Hunwick and Andrew Ference might be a little rusty.
The Bruins were hoping that the addition of Derek Morris and the return of Hunwick and Ference from injury would make them an even better puck-moving club. While the preseason didn't allow Ference or Hunwick a lot of time to get comfortable with a partner, both looked rusty as the exhibition schedule wound down. A few days of practice playing with only varsity players should help get both ready for game action. However, they might need to have their minutes limited a bit when the games start to count.
6. The Bruins are learning fast how to be the hunted rather than the hunters.
After two years of thriving as an underdog, Boston is now the club everyone wants to knock down off its perch. We saw it time and again in the preseason -- especially against teams from the Northeast Division -- as teams, even without their full lineups, were playing at a high pace and physically challenging the Bruins are every turn. The Bruins showed they could counter that by not panicking when the level of play rose and by answering the bell when pushed over the edge in the physical game. Complacency has killed many a team in the Bruins' position, but so far Boston has proven it's up to the task.
Matt Kalman covers the Bruins for ESPNBoston.com. He has been on the Bruins beat since the lockout for numerous publications and has been covering the Boston sports scene for a decade. Send any questions for Matt to his mailbag and he might answer them in his Bruins mailbag.