Camp Renaissance drew to a close late Saturday morning in Brighton, with Torey Krug leading the Bruins through their final post-practice stretching session at Warrior Ice Arena’s center ice.
Hoping to make a repeat run to the Stanley Cup Final — one with a different ending to the final game — the Bruins will practice for the first time in Toronto on Monday, Step No. 1 on a postseason odyssey that could take up to 10 weeks to complete.
They leave Sunday on a 5:30 p.m. charter, flight plan in place, final destination unknown.
“I’m excited — I think we are all excited now,” third-line center Charlie Coyle said. “We’ve put in the work. We know we’re playing. We know we’re going to it, so we’re just kind of itching to get there.”
Once again, the Bruins practiced Saturday without David Pastrnak and Ondrej Kase, which meant they went the full two-week return-to-play camp without their top two right wingers participating in a team workout.
Post-practice, coach Bruce Cassidy said he expects Pastrnak — in quarantine the past 10 days, per his agent — to be cleared for the flight to Toronto. He was not as optimistic about Kase, the 24-year-old who was acquired from Anaheim at the trade deadline.
“Kase, I’m not sure,” Cassidy said. “I guess we’ll get a confirmation on that [Sunday].”
It is presumed that Kase also has been absent because of quarantine, although the club has adhered strictly to league policy and not made public any player’s health condition.
Pastrnak and Kase skated with a collection of local amateurs and minor pros in Malden during the days leading up to the start of the NHL’s Phase 3 camp on July 13. It’s likely they both have been in quarantine in part because of those sessions — be it because they tested positive after the workouts, or perhaps because of an abundance of caution by Bruins management, fearing that one of the two Czech forwards could drag the highly infectious pandemic bug into the Boston dressing room.
The Bruins had 33 players on their camp roster, a contingent that included four netminders: starter Tuukka Rask, backup Jaroslav Halak, and minor leaguers Dan Vladar and Max Lagace. Cassidy said all four tenders will be in the Toronto camp.
“I think we are two players over,” said Cassidy, noting that GM Don Sweeney later in the day would trim the roster. “We’ll see what the best fit is for us. We do plan on taking four goaltenders. All 10 defensemen are here, but we do have some decisions to make [among the forwards].”
Big question for ‘Z'
Since signing his first pro contract in the summer of 1997, team captain Zdeno Chara has never been without a deal in hand this late in the summer.
Now age 43, and with no contract for play beyond the postseason, Chara’s career timeline could be at an end. If so, the Trencin Tower of Power wasn’t tipping his hand Saturday about any of his future plans.
No surprise, of course, because Big Z has been tight-lipped the last few years whenever media members have raised the prospect of retirement.
Where is his head on the subject as he boards the flight to Toronto?
“I honestly just try to stay where my feet are,” he said. “I am focusing on how I am going to be playing and performing. I am open minded. We will see what is going to happen, but as of right now I am really only focusing on my performances.”
Chara, who has played 1,023 of his 1,553 regular-season games in a Boston sweater, also is not sure where he wants his career path to lead once his playing days are finished.
“Again, it’s something I’ll probably have enough time to think about it once I make that decision,” he said.
Teammate Brad Marchand doesn’t envision Big Z hanging up the skates quite yet.
“I really don’t,” he said. “He just seems like that guy who’s going to play forever. I think you can kinda get a sense when a guy is going to wrap it up — he doesn’t have that attitude. He’s still doing more than anybody, still wants to win more than anyone, and his drive internally.”
When the subject has come up in the past, kidded Marchand, Chara has talked about playing until he’s 70 years old.
“Which I think is two years away, so …” Marchand said. “I think he is going to play longer. He has a lot more to give and is still one of the best defensemen in the league so I can’t see him walking away from the game yet.”
Keeping their distance
The Bruins will be in Toronto with some 340 other NHLers from the 11 other clubs in the Eastern Conference.
Unlike any other Cup run in league history, the players this year truly are in a community. The Bruins, for example, will be headquartered in a hotel that also will be housing three or four other teams.
Marchand, for one, doesn’t like the potential coziness of the situation.
“Not at all,” said the L’ll Ball o’ Hate. “I think once we get into that, teams are really going to stay away from one another, especially during the playoffs. During the regular season, guys don’t want to be around one another at the hotels. Maybe the odd guy that you know, but if you see a group of guys, you kinda walk the other way — especially during playoff time, if you’re matched up with a team and they’re in the hotel, I mean, you are going to build up a hate for that team pretty quickly. That’s the way playoffs go, and you’re not going to want to be anywhere near them in the hotel.”
Teams are up there to win, “do what it takes,” Marchand said.
“You have to learn to hate pretty quick,” he added. “That’s what the playoffs are all about.”
What, then, if he is in the lobby, waiting for an elevator, and it means loading in there alongside a member of a rival team?
“Well, uh,” Marchand said, “I think there might be a six-feet rule. I think that’s a little closer than six feet, so I’ll take the next one.”
Toronto schedule set
Cassidy said he received a schedule of all practices for the first two weeks in Toronto, which would entail the workouts the Bruins will have through the entirety of the round robin series that begins Aug. 3 against Philadelphia (3 p.m). His squad won’t work out after arriving on Sunday, and will be on the ice at 2:30 p.m. Monday. Before leaving Boston on Sunday, the entire squad will undergo testing for COVID-19 … Chara on the prospect of perhaps rewriting the finish of last season’s Cup Final, in which the Bruins lost Game 7 vs. St. Louis: “I think it’s a long road, you are talking last year, last game, but we need to prepare ourselves to play those first three [round-robin] games and just taking it from there. It is a long process, a long road, and I think our focus has to be on the beginning of that road and not looking too much ahead.”