Bruins facing significant 'back-to-back' problem this month

Bruins facing significant 'back-to-back' problem this month

BRIGHTON, Mass – The Bruins are readying for another weekend of back-to-back afternoon games amid a month that has been uniquely demanding for them.

The good news for the B’s was that they got an extended 10-day break in January over NHL All-Star weekend and a bye week. It clearly re-energized them as they ripped off a six-game winning streak sandwiched around that idle time. 

Still, the Bruins are paying the price now with a crazy schedule that includes five pairs of back-to-back games in February, and just last weekend had the B's playing two games in about 22 hours with a 12:30 pm start in Detroit after a 3 p.m. home afternoon date the day prior.

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This weekend it will be a 1 p.m. matinee at home against the Detroit Red Wings followed by a 3:30 p.m. Sunday matinee against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden that will at least give the B’s a couple of extra hours of recovery time. 

But nobody on the Bruins could remember any other instance in recent history when they had so many back-to-back games in such a short period of time and it will be interesting to see how that impacts them both short- and long-term.

They didn’t look as focused mentally and locked in energy-wise in the loss in Detroit on Sunday as a result of playing four games in six days with trips to Chicago and Detroit sandwiched in there and it was plain to see the reasons behind it.

“We’re fortunate in that we’ve got good goaltending, so either one we’ve got a chance right away. It is a lot. It seems like a lot and it seems that we’ve had a lot [of back-to-back games] this year in general for whatever reason,” said Bruce Cassidy. “I don’t know. You just play them. We’ve got a lot of depth, so we can move guys in and out of the lineup. We’re well-conditioned. I don’t think it’s a big problem for us in general.

“But last week the Sunday game [in Detroit] I think it showed up a little bit. When you’ve got four games in the same week with the quick turnaround in travel and Chicago was a late start. So, you’re losing a bit of sleep. I think Sunday it showed up mentally with us a little bit, not physically. We had our legs and we competed hard, but we didn’t execute like we usually do. So I think it caught up to us a little bit.”

The one thing that the Bruins understand, though, is that the bye weeks are impacting all 31 teams from a compacted schedule standpoint and they aren’t the only ones going through it. It will affect teams in different ways. Injuries are hitting a Tampa Bay Lightning team chasing the Bruins in the standings, even if it hasn’t affected the results on the ice with the Bolts riding a nine-game winning streak that has them just one point behind Boston.

These schedule challenges are just another little piece of adversity the Bruins will have to overcome. Some of the younger guys on the B’s roster don’t even mind playing many games in a short period of time, but it’s a bit tougher for older players, such as their 42-year-old captain, when it comes to bouncing back.

“It’s just the way it is. I think every team is going through it,” said Zdeno Chara. “I was looking at the other teams and the schedules they have, and it was no different for them either. It’s a little bit challenging especially when you play the first game a little later than the second game, but we have to do our best to do our postgame recoveries and that you expend the energy in the right places at the right time.”

Give it another five or 10 years for the 22-year-old Charlie McAvoy, and he might not be such a fan of playing back-to-back games that clearly don’t faze him right now.

“It does [present a challenge]. It was kind of wild when we got back from the bye week and saw [our schedule]. You take that into consideration, but I think back-to-backs are good. We’ve been good in them and that’s encouraging,” said McAvoy. “I think the schedule has been fine. Usually, on the back end [of the back-to-back], we’ll get an off-day and a practice day. It’s been good that we’ve been able to mix in rest with playing. It’s been fine.”

As it is, the Bruins are a solid 6-1-1 in the first night of back-to-backs, but they drop to 3-4-1 in the second game for an overall back-to-back record of 9-5-2. The Bruins have two more sets of back-to-back games this month and two more in March and early April, so they will have ample opportunities to bump up those numbers. 

Bruins legend Bobby Orr has kind words for Mass General employees battling COVID-19

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Bruins legend Bobby Orr has kind words for Mass General employees battling COVID-19

Count Bobby Orr among the athletes that are offering their thanks to those battling the coronavirus.

Orr wrote a letter to Massachusetts General Hospital thanking the people involved in the battle against COVID-19. Here's a look at some of what the legendary Boston Bruins defenseman had to say in his letter, per Mass General's official website.

Undoubtedly, the days and weeks ahead will test us all in many ways. But none will be tested more than those of you who continue to manage, treat and research the virus day after day after day. Given your efforts and expertise, I have great confidence in the eventual outcome of this pandemic, in no small measure because of the excellence I have personally witnessed at Mass General.

To all of you, please ... keep on fighting the good fight, and thank you so much for all you do.

That is certainly a kind gesture by Orr and one that echoes how thankful a lot of people are for the dedication of these hospital staffers during these incredibly difficult times.

Bruce Cassidy 'thinks it all comes back quickly' for Bruins if NHL returns

Bruce Cassidy 'thinks it all comes back quickly' for Bruins if NHL returns

The Boston Bruins last played competitive hockey on Tuesday, March 10, a 2-0 win over the Philadelphia Flyers. Shortly after that, the NHL suspended operations amid the global coronavirus pandemic. And at this point in time, it's unclear when -- or if -- the league will resume the 2020 season.

But Bruce Cassidy isn't letting that bother him too much. The Bruins head coach knows that the decision is out of his control, but the team's potential is what's keeping him motivated as the suspension drags on.

"We’re not done. We have a lot left in us. A good team, a good chance to win a Stanley Cup and that’s what motivates me," Cassidy said, per The Athletic's Joe McDonald. "The powers that be will decide that down the road and hopefully we get our opportunity."

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And if the Bruins do get that chance, Cassidy doesn't expect it to take long for the team to get back in the swing of things.

"Once we get together I think it all comes back quickly," Cassidy said. "We’ve all been through this for a long time, so for us getting back into work mode will be an easy transition."

The B's are a veteran-laden team, so the time off may benefit them more as they get fully healthy and recover from a long NHL season. Still, it's worth wondering how long it may take for them to get their legs underneath them if the season does start up again.

But given their torrid start to the season, in which they scored points in 13 of 14 games after playing into the summer in the battle for a Stanley Cup, they should have a good chance to come out well-rested and ready to go as Cassidy expects.

That said, there's no timetable on a potential return for the NHL. And until then, the B's will have to wait and mentally prepare for what will hopefully another long summer of hockey.