TD Garden was nearly empty. The fans were long gone. The Blues had taken the Stanley Cup back to St. Louis.
In the hours after Game 7, a few Bruins were still there. Word of the gathering leaked out. Soon, they came flooding back.
One player carried a case of beer. They had Bud Light and Budweiser to drown their sorrows. The nerves were too raw to mess with anything stronger. “I don’t think there was any liquor,” one player recalled, “or else we’d be going to the hospital.” They ordered burgers.
In the Bruins’ den — the home dressing room, adjacent changing room that functioned as lounge, training, and equipment rooms — they sat in a swirl of somber exhaustion. They shared words of gratitude, a few laughs, a lot of silence. And toasts to the ride that just crash-landed.
“Trying to keep it as light as possible,” Sean Kuraly said Friday, a day before the Blues were in town again to face the Bruins. “I think we were the only guys who understood what we went through. Your families, closest relatives, they could say whatever they wanted, but you knew they didn’t feel what you felt. Being around the guys, we didn’t have to say anything. It was the most at-peace place you could be.”
At least a few Bruins are still hanging out in their clubhouse at TD Garden, licking their wounds and kicking it around.— Matt Porter (@mattyports) June 13, 2019
The closeness of that team is shown in how they dealt with the most crushing defeat of their careers: Blues 4, Bruins 1, on June 12. As retold through interviews with several players, some three-quarters of the team — nearly everyone without family obligations — and the equipment and training staff sat among the locker stalls, at a few tables in the back, both holding on and letting go.
“You don’t really know what to do with yourself,” said Chris Wagner, who estimated the session lasted for three or four hours. “Nobody wanted it to end.”
Matt Grzelcyk caught himself looking around during lulls in conversation, soaking it in.
“Obviously it sucks to be in that position, but it was also kind of cool everyone stuck around,” he said. “It showed how much we cared about each other. It was a huge part of how we got that far.
“We were talking about how great an experience it was and started to get motivated for next year. Promising ourselves we’d work hard again to try to get back.”
Bruce Cassidy, who went home to his wife and visiting family friends, said it was the closest club he’s coached.
“Some teams you play on, you want to go home as soon as your work’s done,” he said. “Other places, you can’t wait to get back to be with your group. They say they’re a family, and they believe that. They have their immediate family, and this is the next closest group.
“When you’re together that long, go through so much, play for one another, that doesn’t surprise me at all. They also knew change was coming. The guys that had been around had good memories there. They won a Cup (in 2011), not in that room, but had some good stuff happen.”
The Bruins (6-1-2) will host the Blues (5-2-3) Saturday, in a late-October game they consider notable because of the available 2 points. Not only the season is new.
The lair they left in the wee hours of June 13 is gone, replaced by a new dressing room down the hall, featuring a more comfortable player lounge. The layout is different, the facade brand-new. Nothing looks the same as it did that night.
“Nice,” Kuraly said. “It’s the best. Never want to go back in that room. Seriously.”
Across the hall, the visitor’s quarters remain the same. They are due for an overhaul next year. The Blues will enjoy seeing them one last time.
Last week, Tampa forward Pat Maroon was in there, looking around after the Lightning’s practice. His ex-Blues teammates were texting him pictures from their White House visit. He was happy to linger.
“Yeah, obviously, yeah,” he said. “Lot of good memories in this room.”
. . .
David Krejci practiced on Friday, splitting reps with Par Lindholm in his usual second-line center spot. Cassidy said he’s “doubtful” for Saturday, but possible for Sunday. The Globe learned that the Bruins reported the date of Krejci’s upper-body injury to the league, meaning he can come off injured reserve seven days retroactive to that date (believed to be Oct. 14). It was previously said here Krejci would not be eligible to return until Tuesday . . . Joakim Nordstrom (upper body) will play Saturday, likely making David Backes a healthy scratch . . . Anders Bjork, back on emergency recall, practiced as the left wing with Charlie Coyle and Danton Heinen.
. . .
Tuukka Rask will start Saturday. Jaroslav Halak will go Sunday in Manhattan, making the 494th appearance of his career
Though structurally they look similar to last year’s team, the Blues have changed a little on their power play. New assistant coach Marc Savard is running the show, and ex-Carolina defenseman Justin Faulk, swapped for Joel Edmundson, is bringing his hammer from the point. The Bruins have also noticed St. Louis running more delayed entries on the power play, a strategy they didn’t employ until Games 6 and 7 of the Final. Savard, the beloved former Bruins center whose career was cut short by concussions shy of the 2011 Stanley Cup run, is in his first year as an NHL assistant.
. . . The Blues were 3 for 4 on the power play in Thursday’s 5-2 win over Los Angeles, even without top sniper Vladimir Tarasenko (left the game with a reported shoulder injury), and rank seventh in efficiency (25.8 percent). Tarasenko is out until next week at least . . . Boston is first on the man advantage (35.7), and is ninth on the penalty kill (84.0). St. Louis has the 11th-ranked penallty kill (83.3).
Follow Matt Porter on Twitter at @mattyports