WILMINGTON, Mass. – Don’t expect Bruins center Joe Colborne to play down the significance of getting to play at TD Garden Wednesday and Thursday in Boston’s two rookie games against similarly experienced players from the New York Islanders’ organization.
“I’ve been dreaming of this for 20 years, I guess,” said Colborne Tuesday after the rookies practiced at Ristuccia Arena. “I’ve wanted to do this all my life and this is the first time I get to put on the B’s logo and go out and play someone else rather than just scrimmaging with the guys. I know it’s just a rookie game that it’s an exhibition that doesn’t mean anything for the regular season or anything like that, but it’s going to be a huge honor for me and I know I’ll have chills when I first pull that jersey on.”
Once he shakes off those chills, Colborne will be one of more than a handful of Bruins prospects that’ll take the ice they hope to someday call their home as NHL regulars. Of course, most of those in the lineup won’t ever return. But it’s highly likely Boston will be seeing plenty of Colborne, Tyler Seguin, Jordan Caron, Max Sauve and Steve Kampfer, among others, in the years ahead.
With ticket sales brisk – the Bruins reportedly had more than 7,000 sold as of earlier this week (on top of the giveaway to season ticket holders) – plenty of people will get their first firsthand look at the Bruins’ future. That’s exactly what Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli wanted.
“I just thought the interest was enough that it’d be a good way to introduce our fans to the players,” said Chiarelli about the decision to shift the two games from a small rink in Connecticut to the Garden. “We also feel that it’s the deepest bunch of players we’ve had in a while. It’s a good glimpse of the future, and for some guys the present.”
The Bruins rookies practiced for three days, including today, as a unit. Today they went over defensive-zone coverage, neutral zone trapping and power play and penalty kill work on the ice, in addition to watching some film with Providence coaches Rob Murray and Bruce Cassidy. The P-Bruins coaches will run the bench for the games with the Isles, with 18 skaters and two goaltenders dressed for the contests.
“It’s not going to be done to perfection, but there is a certain amount of knowledge given to the players now of what we’re expecting from them,” said Murray.
Years ago these rookie games could be extra-physical affairs, with some guys fighting and clawing their way into the spotlight. While things have gotten tamer in recent seasons, everyone should be on high alert – including Seguin. The 2010 No. 2 overall pick knows that someone might try to knock him off his perch, and he said he’ll be ready.
Some of Boston’s players that do better work with their bodies and fists than with their sticks might get to show their stuff a little more as well.
“Sometimes practices don’t show the little nuances of your game that you’re better off showing in a game situation,” Murray said. “A guy like [forward Lane MacDermid], I’m sure he’s ready to go and bang some bodies out there. … For the most part, within your own practice with your own teammates, there’s a little bit of body contact but not what you’re looking for in the game.”
Some of the Bruins prospects have played at big-time junior or college programs, and in important playoff situations, which might have prepared them for taking the Garden ice. But none have really played in front of an NHL crowd, in an NHL building, with more than 10,000 Boston rooters desperate for someone to save them from a near-40-year Stanley Cup drought to come along.
“When I had my introductory meeting with them, I mentioned that there will probably be 8 or 9,000 people there,” Chiarelli said, “and the guys were kind of looking at each other. They’ll probably be a little more nervous.”
Someday, a few of the guys that are nervous or get chills or score a goal or get into a fight in one of these rookie games might look back at this week’s contests as the starting point for their lengthy career in black and gold. That’s what the Bruins are hoping, anyway.