It took Santa an extra 12 days to get it down here, but when you’re talking about the ultimate Christmas present for thousands of hockey fans… sometimes it takes a little longer to pack up the sleigh. Fans the world over woke up Sunday morning to find their hockey socks stuffed to the brink with pucks, tape, and fresh ice. As the Old Man and late Pens’ coach Bob Johnson would say, “it’s a great day for hockey”. While it will take years for some places (cough, cough, sunbelt) to fully recover from the damages done by the lockout, one city is sure to bounce back a little quicker than the rest. With great Stanley Cup comes great responsibility. And a renewed fanbase. In an embarrassment of riches, Boston has a chance to boast both.
The Bruins have one of the biggest advantages of 2013, especially right out of the gate, thanks to Peter Chiarelli’s ability to keep the core of this team together for the better part of 3 years now. In the early weeks of the shortened season, familiarity will rule as teams struggle to shake off the rust and get back to NHL game shape. As players learn new systems and new linemates, the Bruins will return largely to what they already know. While a hot start doesn’t mean a championship, every game will mean that much more on a short schedule.
Another huge plus for the B’s? Nearly half of their roster spent the last 3 months overseas keeping in game shape. Consider it extended training camp. While the European game doesn’t always translate to America, at least they were on the ice against competitive teams, keeping their play as sharp as possible. For younger guys like Tyler Seguin and Tuukka Rask, it may have also given them a unique chance to work on some aspects of their game without being subjected to the pressures of their big league contracts. There’s a chance these guys could come back with a renewed confidence that pays big dividends.
A big concern for teams heading into this season is how injuries will impact their playoff chances. Injuries are always part of the game, but this year in particular, every game is that much more valuable. Speaking on the Hillman Morning Show on WAAF, Bruins color analyst Andy Brickley pointed out that the B’s reliance on their depth, rather than a few players, should be a huge benefit all season. Boston is committed to rolling all four lines and rotating six defensemen every night, meaning a couple injuries shouldn’t be enough to derail any postseason hopes.
Finally, Boston also has allot to be motivated about heading into the season. These guys were the reigning Stanley Cup champions prior to last season, only to be unceremoniously dumped by the hapless Caps in the first round of the playoffs. Nine months is a long time to sit and fester on something. The Bruins are a proud bunch that play for a passionate city and demanding fans. Plan on them hitting the ice hungry to reclaim their Cup. The short schedule will only help to keep that fire stoked all season.