The Stanley Cup Final logo had been traced onto the TD Garden ice, the podiums for Media Day had been readied. The Boston Bruins had switched their normal practice venue from Warrior Ice Arena to TD Garden, where they will play Game 1 against the St. Louis Blues on Monday (8 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, SN, TVAS).
It was all starting to feel real.
The Bruins last played in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Final against the Carolina Hurricanes on May 16. Since then, Boston has spent nine days killing time before the main event begins, time that has been devoted to practicing, to resting, to scrimmaging. It has been devoted to keeping the Bruins fresh but not rusty, ready for the task ahead.
So how do they figure out how to turn it on now, when the time on ice starts to mean something? When it's time, finally, to go all out?
"Playing in the Thursday night [intrasquad scrimmage] was beneficial, to get out there and play in a game situation," Bruins defenseman Charlie McAvoy said. "It's tough. Obviously, from an excitement standpoint, from a readiness level, we are going to be as ready as we'll ever be.
"It's the Stanley Cup Final, Game 1. Just the emotion and the excitement in the city and the feeling in the building is going to be contagious."
But McAvoy acknowledged that it won't exactly be an easy switch to flip, going from the slowness and ease of the days off to the intensity and physicality of the biggest games they may ever play. They will need to be aware of the layoff, to work against it, to position themselves to be ready from the opening puck drop.