Chicago Blackhawks players slowly walked to their respective seats at the podiums, the look of fatigue, not surprisingly, still somewhat evident. It’s the byproduct of an extended game the previous night and, in some cases, an unexpectedly brief night’s sleep.
“To tell you the truth, I fell asleep around 3 (a.m.) and woke up early. I think my neighbor decided he was going to drill in the morning. That was unpleasant,” Marian Hossa said to laughs. “You know, hopefully he’s going to get his message for next time and he won't drill.”
All early-morning home projects aside, Wednesday’s Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final, a three-overtime affair, was a reminder of how entertaining, how scintillating and how long postseason hockey can be. And Thursday was a reminder of how much recovery days are appreciated following such games. The Blackhawks and Boston Bruins get two days between Game 1 and Saturday’s Game 2, a schedule they might have thought little of when first announced but are probably thrilled with now.
With so much expended in Game 1 and so much at stake in Game 2, the rest will certainly benefit both squads.
“When you play two games in one night, it's probably a blessing in disguise that we have two days between because, No. 1, it's going to make for a better Game 2,” Boston coach Claude Julien said. “I think if anybody who is a hockey fan watched last night's game, they have to be happy with the showing. It was a hard-fought game (that) could have gone either way. That's what the Stanley Cup Final should be all about.”
Indeed, the extra day was welcomed. Neither squad skated on Thursday, and neither will probably practice very long on Friday. It’s about staying as fresh as possible, just getting the legs loose tomorrow and then going full board again on Saturday night.
Players do what they have to do during a game like this. Brent Seabrook was asked what happens as games get longer, from getting hydration or food to getting out of wet equipment and staying prepared.
“I think you just said all the stuff that the guys were doing,” Seabrook said. “It's a long game. You know, I think guys were really focused on getting drinks in their system. Guys were eating stuff. Guys were changing out of wet equipment and all that. We've got a great equipment staff, great trainers that give us every opportunity to get good things in our body, taking care of drying equipment out, drying skates and stuff like that. It was a big job by them last night, and it was good to help us get on the ice and play the way we could.”
Coach Joel Quenneville left the Blackhawks alone for the better part of all the intermissions last night, much like he always does. But he had a good gauge on them when he did see them.
“I usually go see them before we go out, but they seemed to be fresh when we went out there for the next one and the next one and the next one,” Quenneville said of the overtimes. “You could see sometimes there might have been a little fatigue. But the guys are fine. On the playing days, you have to make sure you prepare yourself, drink lots of fluids, maybe don't try to extend your shifts, because that can really ruin you for the next couple.”
And Thursday and Friday, it’s recovering from all that extended time. Players said you go through the usual rituals: rest, good food, a lot of liquids, as well as anything that personally works for you.
“You just kind of know how your body feels at this point, what you need to do to make yourself feel better and recover,” Nick Leddy said. “I think you just try to stick to those things.”
Game 1 was the epitome of classic postseason hockey. It was also a massive test of endurance and a reminder of how much players appreciate and make use of off days. The Blackhawks and Bruins will take advantage of those two days and get the rest and recuperation they need. After all, you never know when the next epic overtime game will be.