Bruins up intensity level at practice to prep for Game 1


A lot has been made about the layoff the Boston Bruins have had heading into the Eastern Conference finals with Tampa Bay, which begins Saturday at 8 p.m. But if Thursday’s practice session is any indication, the B’s are raring to go.

A number of reports from both media and fans in attendance boast of a competitive, up-temp, and somewhat nasty practice that saw a lot of hitting, a lot of grinding, and a little blood.

Coach Claude Julien put the team through a short but spirited workout at TD Garden, including a bunch of battle drills, situational drills in the corner and behind the net, some 3-on-3 full-ice drills, and 2-on-2 cross-ice games. The players went at it hard through the entire practice, and reserve center Trent Whitfield had some blood dripping from a fresh eye injury late in the session.

The game-like situations, contact, and intensity of practice can never replicate a true game, but it is the next best thing. And from all indications, the Bruins are ready to go Saturday night.

Bruins are the best thing going right now

Boston has always been a hockey town, dating back to the early years of the NHL right through the 1960s and 70s and into the 1990s. Even with a little dip in the late 1990s into the early 2000s, the Bruins also had one of the most loyal hardcore fan bases.

However, with the success the team is enjoying in this year’s playoffs, combined with the elimination of the Celtics and the poor start to the Red Sox season, the fringe fans are joining the bandwagon.

Bruins gear is flying out of stores, games are selling out in minutes, and bars and restaurants are seeing a huge spike in business on Bruins’ game nights.

For example, during Game 6 of the Boston-Montreal series, held on a Tuesday night, The Luxury Box, an upscale bar/restaurant in Leominster (about 40 miles west of Boston) was filled to capacity. Owner Kenny Ricker said that night that any Boston team doing well brings in a crowd, but that the Bruins seemed to be really popular this year.

“It’s definitely good for business,” Ricker said.

An even bigger indicator of demand for anything Bruin-related are the prices for tickets at ticket agencies. A seat for Game 1 in Section 313, Row 15 (last row) is going for $179, while a single seat in Row 1 of Loge 13 is going for $650.

A call to the Bruins’ pro shop revealed that merchandise is selling quickly, and that women’s and youth sales are huge at the moment – a big indicator that the casual fan has an interest in the team.

TD Garden Pro Shop retail manager Lauma Cerlins noted that Brad Marchand has been particularly popular in the past two weeks, as well as the usual big sellers of Milan Lucic, Patrice Bergeron, Tim Thomas and Zdeno Chara.

“We didn’t even have a Marchand name and number t-shirt for kids, but we are getting it in now for the Tampa series,” she said. “The Bruins always sell well, but it’s been bigger than ever the last two weeks, and we only anticipate it growing.”

Wings fall short

Detroit lost out on its bid to be the second team in two years to rally from a 3-0 deficit, falling 3-2 to San Jose on Thursday night. The Red Wings looked tired in the opening period, and two uncharacteristic defensive miscues led to San Jose goals and a 2-0 lead. The Wings also lost Todd Bertuzzi (unspecified upper body injury) early in the game and Danny Cleary (head injury) in the second period. Despite the lack of numbers, the Wings fought to the end.

The series was well-played and intense, with every game being decided by a goal (first time in NHL history). It makes you wonder if the Sharks will have anything left when they face Vancouver in the Western Conference finals.

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