It really remains to be seen exactly how this hockey postseason is all going to play out.
Some players like Brad Marchand have their own ideas about it all and think that teams with older legs, like the Boston Bruins as the fourth-oldest team in the NHL for example, are “going to struggle” in bouncing back into midseason form after a nearly three-month absence from the ice.
Maybe the Bruins agitator is simply setting up a scenario where the Bruins can play themselves off as underdogs, or maybe that’s a genuine look at what lies in front of the Black and Gold.
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Others like Hall of Famer Mark Recchi think it’s going to be the mental strength and character component that will carry the eventual Stanley Cup champion amidst so many trials of adversity coming in the next few months.
Nobody really knows for sure what strengths or weaknesses will best serve the 24 NHL teams invited to take part in an NHL postseason that isn’t going to get going until early August. But Bruins President Cam Neely has his own ideas about what will serve a hockey club best once the Stanley Cup Playoffs are underway in earnest.
Not so coincidentally, it’s the exact kind of intangibles the B’s have in large amounts along with enough talent that made them the only 100-point NHL team when the regular season went on pause.
“Everybody is in the same boat. I’d like to think that because of the experience that we have some of that is going to help them in this situation as opposed to players that are newer and younger into the league,” said Neely, during a mid-week Zoom call with Bruins reporters. “But at the end of the day it’s how well you’re going to be prepared and how well you’re going to execute. Our players have a lot of experience in that regard and it’s just a matter of how it’s all going to fall into place.
"I know our guys are going to be well-prepared. I’d expect the same from other teams, but I know what our group does and how they do it, and how well the players respond to it. I’m expecting everybody to be ready to go once training camp is hopefully ready to begin."
All that being said there are plenty of variables that will play into a very unpredictable set of games when hockey does return.
Will a goalie like Carey Price or Henrik Lundqvist stand on his head in a short play-in series and shine brilliantly just long enough to upend a higher-seeded team? Will teams with young legs like the Toronto Maple Leafs have an inherent advantage given that youngsters like Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner and William Nylander aren’t going to need a great amount of time to rev up to full speed once again?
Will the ultimate advantage be with quality teams like the Tampa Bay Lightning, Carolina Hurricanes and Pittsburgh Penguins that will be getting healthy returns from impact players like Steve Stamkos, Dougie Hamilton and Jake Guentzel who wouldn’t have been able to participate back in April?
These are all questions with answers that will be borne out once the games get played, but the hope is that the A-Z experience of players like 43-year-old Zdeno Chara, Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci, Brad Marchand and Tuukka Rask will come to the forefront with so many other things way outside the norm.
Clearly there's also the elite talent of the Perfection Line with perennial 30-goal scorers in Bergeron, Marchand and Pastrnak among others, and a rested Rask when he's at his very best stopping the puck.
They will, in some ways, be able to lean on their experience from the 2012-13 lockout when they all needed to ramp up quickly for a shortened 48-game season that began in January.
As we all remember, the Bruins did it well enough to get all the way to the Stanley Cup Final against the Chicago Blackhawks.
“I’m hoping that leadership plays a big role. Once everybody is together and knowing Bergeron, Chara, Tuukka, Torey and Brad, those guys are going to get the others [going],” said Neely. “The others know what to expect from that leadership group, they know what to expect from themselves and they know what to expect from the coaching staff. So my hope is that they will recognize that we are going from a training camp in essence right to the playoffs.
That’s unusual as we all know, and I’m hoping that the experience of having it ramp up that quickly that the guys can lean on the older players for a little bit of comfort. They don’t necessarily have the experience [of this exact situation], but more being able to get yourselves ready to go in a short period of time.
But even in the 2013 lockout, the NHL players were skating in groups pretty regularly while the NHL and NHLPA were hammering out a new CBA, and they weren’t nearly as rusty as they will be this time around.
That’s a huge difference with the 2020 Stanley Cup playoffs looming a couple of months from now as NHL players prepare to start skating in small groups next month, and look forward to a possible training camp that will now start no sooner than July 10.
It’s all so strange and new for an NHL group that’s always found comfort and success in sticking to the routine. It’s going to be fascinating to see just how much Boston’s leadership, character and experience will benefit them when all NHL players will need to go from 0 to 100 immediately once the games start getting played.