It may not have come off exactly like how they hoped it would in the planning stages, but the Boston Bruins are still very much looking forward to take part in the NHL’s marquee outdoor event this weekend in Lake Tahoe.
Instead of playing earlier in the day, the Bruins and Philadelphia Flyers will play in the late Nevada afternoon following a Saturday Vegas/Colorado game that didn’t conclude until after the midnight hour ET. They never were able to practice on the outdoor rink beside the lake on Saturday due to the weather conditions, and they didn’t have a pregame skate on Sunday either with a local late afternoon start time for both clubs.
Both teams will be missing significant players due to both injuries and COVID-19 protocols, so it’s in no way, shape or form what the NHL imagined it would be when they made plans for this outdoor hockey weekend months ago.
But it was still a picturesque environment with the lake, mountains and trees in the background, and a point where the B’s and Flyers may be beneficiaries after the NHL was able to trouble-shoot things during a rough trial-and-error on Saturday that included a nearly 10-hour pause after the game’s first period. Either way, the Bruins will be prepared as an experienced group that’s played outdoors, that’s experienced highs and lows and that’s used to playing through the distractions to obtain the desired result.
“At the end of the day it’s another game and that’s what we’re doing is playing for the two points,” said Brad Marchand. “There’s a lot of things that are out of our control, so you’ve just got to make the most of it, enjoy it and take in a unique experience that we’ll probably never have again. We’ll play through whatever is going on out there and that’s just part of the experience.”
For the Boston Bruins it really comes down to snapping a two-game losing skid where they haven’t played very well, fighting through the stops and starts to this weird COVID-19-impacted regular season and banking two more points against a quality Flyers team.
“When the puck drops, guys are just going to play hockey and play to win. We’ll just ask them to simplify their game and really take care of the puck because of the ice conditions that I suspect will be consistent. And the altitude with the shift length is something that we’ll pay more attention to because we’re higher than we’re used to. There are some of those things we’ll address more. But these are always a better memory when you win those games.
“We did win at Notre Dame and I remember Sean Kuraly scored a big goal for us. It stays with you longer if it’s a success and that will be the message. The guys have been through it before too both at Fenway and Gillette having been on both sides of it. I think they understand as well, or more than I do, and those veteran guys will send that message.”
The key veteran guy delivering that message, Patrice Bergeron, will be playing in his fourth outdoor game after Fenway Park in 2010, Gillette Stadium in 2016, Notre Dame in 2019 and now Lake Tahoe in 2021. The Boston Bruins have won two out of those three games and Bergeron would certainly like to make it 3-of-4 as the ultimate winner.
“It’s my fourth one. It’s been great experiences. It never gets old. It’s always fun to be a part of. This one is different with no fans and a beautiful landscape in the background,” said Bergeron. “They are unique in their own way. It’s been fun obviously o be a part of it, and any game is more fun when you win. It’s a big game for the standings, so that’s how we’re approaching it. You just need to keep things simple, don’t overthink it and just play the game ultimately. We’ve been playing most of us since we were five years old, so it brings back a lot of memories. Just enjoy the event and stay in the moment taking everything in.”
The biggest challenge on the ice? Certainly, there will be challenges with the surface itself as both the Vegas Golden Knights and Colorado Avalanche experienced on Saturday afternoon before hitting the pause button until the sun went down.
Ice causing some issues at Lake Tahoe. Players and refs getting caught in ruts pic.twitter.com/cUkTIpdyLm
— Brady Trettenero (@BradyTrett) February 20, 2021
But there’s also the sun glare and the sightlines, with Tuukka Rask dropping into the proceedings without even the benefit of a practice session ahead of the Sunday afternoon tilt.
As with pretty much everything that involves Rask, though, he faced the problem with a shrug of the shoulders and a willingness to play through any problems.
“I did text [with Avs goalie coach Jussi Parkkila] and he said ‘it’s pretty bad for goalies out there.’ They push the start back so maybe the glare won’t be as bad, but if the sun is still out then it’s going to be pretty bad for goalies,” said Rask. “There’s nothing you can do about it, though. Just try to see the puck as well as you can.
“There are a lot of things we can’t control. Like the sun, there’s nothing I can do about it. The eye black helps a little bit. Wear sunglasses, maybe that’s an option? I’m not really worried about. You just need to go about your business.”
One can be sure that the Boston Bruins are going to go about their business on Sunday afternoon with the outdoors game qualifying as a challenging, if routine, normalcy to this core group of players.