The Stanley Cup Final hangover is real, and not so spectacular for the Bruins

The Stanley Cup Final hangover is real, and not so spectacular for the Bruins

The term “Stanley Cup hangover” has long been in vogue around the NHL.

The notion is that a team that plays that deeply into the previous season to win the Stanley Cup is pretty automatically placed at a disadvantage the following season based on the exertion extended into June at a playoff intensity. Everybody talks about the Stanley Cup winner suffering a hangover and the Washington Capitals were the poster boys for it last season both literally and figuratively as they battled their flagging energy levels throughout the season.

But nobody really talks about the “Stanley Cup Final hangover” in the same terms. This is the situation that the Bruins find themselves in as they get ready to drop the puck for the season opener tonight in Dallas.

They didn’t win the Cup when it was all over in Game 7 against the St. Louis Blues, but they did play 24 playoff games into the middle of June with the same heavily abbreviated offseason as the Stanley Cup champs.

Most of those Stanley Final teams make it to the postseason that following season, but what do they actually do in the playoffs? Interestingly enough, the Bruins have taken recent past history of Stanley Cup Finalists into account when looking ahead to this season.

“We actually did a study that [Stanley Cup Final] teams in the past four or five years have actually done very well in the regular season…so it’s certainly part of what we looked at," coach Bruce Cassidy said. "When it comes down to it on a little more of a day-to-day, you know your team is going to hit a wall at some point in time based on the mileage from the previous season. We have to find those pockets of the schedule and maybe utilize the break effectively, which didn’t happen in the past and allow them to recharge. We’ve had some open dialogue about it, but history says the team generally gets off to a good start.

“Mentally and physically, these guys are ready to go. It’s just a matter of getting into the grind and if you can stay healthy. Obviously, we proved last year with 37 players in our lineup, you need that [depth]. To be successful, you have to have it, and you run into challenging parts of the schedule, you’re going to go through injuries. You have to have other players come in and be able to step up, and that will be no different for us this year.”

But what did that Bruins study say when it comes to the playoffs. Welp, we helped them with the research there.

Washington and Vegas met in the 2018 Cup Final and both were first-round fodder this past postseason. The year before, Nashville and Pittsburgh met in the Final and they were both done in the second round the following postseason.

In fact, over the past five seasons, the two Cup finalists have a 50-percent chance of not making it out the first round the following season, and a 90-percent chance of not making it to the Stanley Cup Final with the back-to-back Cup seasons for the Penguins as the only obvious exception to the rule.

Pull it back to ten seasons and nearly half of the finalists didn’t make it out of the first round, and 15 of 20 were done by the end of the second round.

So, clearly the numbers don’t favor the Black and Gold going very deep into this postseason or returning to where they were last season, just 60 quality minutes away from hoisting the Cup. It becomes an even more difficult task when one considers the aging core of Zdeno Chara, Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci, Brad Marchand and Tuukka Rask, all on the wrong side of 30 at the start of another season.

The chances of those key players remaining as healthy and productive as they were last season aren’t very good. Even the players themselves are curious to see what kind of extreme highs and lows may await them this season against the well-rested Lightning and Maple Leafs, who are ready to knock them off in the Atlantic Division.

“Every season is different. Every year is different. It’s a clean slate. But I think you really need to focus on short-term goals. I said that early in training camp. We’ve all come down the mountain and we’re all at the same level to start the year. The challenge to start the year is to be motivated to go back up there,” said Bergeron. “You set yourself some short term goals and just be excited to get in the battles with the guys as we go through the ups and downs of the season.”

Still, the Bruins have bucked the odds before and hope to do it again this season. They have the kind of depth that should allow them to provide “load management” rest for Bergeron, Chara, Rask and Krejci and keep them as fresh as possible. The Bruins also have arguably the best goaltending duo in the NHL in Rask and Jaroslav Halak. That elite level of puck-stopping should prevent the B's from dropping into an extended losing streak when they “hit the wall” as even the B’s brass are expecting.

“It’s a tough thing to do. Some of it will be dependent on the roles of the players and we tried to manage our training camp. We started with that and see where it goes from there because things change quickly. It’s about how we manage minutes of our players who have been through a lot of these runs,” said Cassidy. “Secondly, we’ve communicated with the players that have been through these, the Bergerons, the Charas that went through it in 2013 and came back the next year and had a great regular season.

“They didn’t achieve what they wanted in the playoffs; I don’t know if that had anything to do with going to the Cup the year before. Sometimes, it’s just hard to repeat. I think you’ve got to be careful how much you’re reading into that and rely on what the players are telling you and what their bodies are telling [them].”

What does it all mean?

Certainly, the “Stanley Cup Final hangover” is a very real thing facing the Bruins. They should be a playoff team, and they might even still finish ahead of Tampa Bay and Toronto in what’s become an annual three-team slugfest at the top of the Atlantic Division. But B's fans would be wise to temper expectations when it comes to playoff time, and hold off on any redemption tour talk when it comes to the B’s righting the wrong and winning the Cup this season.

The odds, father time and improved competition in the East are all working against them this time around, and it will prove to be much more difficult for them to return to the exact same Stanley Cup Final spot they were at just a few months ago.


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Joe Haggerty's Talking Points from the B's 4-1 loss to the Avalanche

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Joe Haggerty's Talking Points from the B's 4-1 loss to the Avalanche

Here are my talking points from the Bruins’ first regulation loss at home in 2019-20:

GOLD STAR: It isn’t going to happen very often, but Ian Cole turned out to be the single biggest contributor in a team-wide win for the Avalanche. It was Cole that smoked a slap shot past the glove hand of Jaroslav Halak to give Colorado a 2-1 lead in the second period, and he made certain his first goal of the season was an important one. Cole also blocked five shots in 17:17 of ice time and was part of a gritty, determined effort to protect the lead once the Avs got up 3-1 in the third. He mixed in a couple of hits and a couple of takeaways as well, and made some big plays in what was pretty much a perfect game overall for Colorado.

HIGHLIGHTS: Bruins take first home regulation loss vs. Avs, 4-1

BLACK EYE: There’s more than a few, but how about Danton Heinen just not making the plays that he needs to make when he’s in the lineup? Forget about the zero shots on net in 16:45 of ice time, with a number of them either getting blocked or missing the net. That’s nothing new when it comes to a player that’s barely averaging a shot on net for game. But he also turned the puck over behind the Boston net in a sequence that led to Cole’s game-winner as the Bruins began to run around in the defensive zone. It was that particular play that led Bruce Cassidy to lament that the attention to details was lacking for his players at this point in the season. If Heinen isn’t making the little plays, is a minus player and isn’t bringing any offense, then he isn’t worth having in the lineup.

TURNING POINT: The Bruins went into the first intermission tied at 1-1 after only putting four shots on net, and should have had the kind of wakeup call that they needed to turn the intensity up a little bit. Instead they went through a second period where they again only put up four shots on net while falling behind by two goals headed into the final 20 minutes. The Avalanche only leveled five shots on net as well, but they scored on a pair of them and pounced all over Boston’s mistakes while playing a surprisingly disciplined, two-way game despite their explosive offensive players. This time around, the Bruins didn’t have any way to come back in the third period against a quality Colorado team that wasn’t going to fold for them.

#HaggBag: Any worries about the B's? Let's hear 'em

HONORABLE MENTION: One of the few players to put up an honest-to-goodness effort in the loss was the hard-hitting fourth liner, Chris Wagner. It was Wagner that redirected a John Moore point shot in the first period for his third goal of the season that gave the Bruins an initial lead in the game. Wagner led the Bruins with five registered hits, scored on the only shot on net he had in the game and won 5-of-10 face-offs that he took in his 12:39 of ice time. The shame was that there weren’t enough other players that rose to the level of urgency and compete that Wagner was showing throughout the game for the Black and Gold.

BY THE NUMBERS: 17 – The home point streak (12-0-5) is over for the Bruins as the Avs handed them their first regulation loss on home ice this year, and their first since Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final against the St. Louis Blues almost six months ago.

QUOTE TO NOTE: “There’s just a lot of details that are working us against us now. We’ve just got to wake up and start playing to our abilities in those situations. And live with the result. It doesn’t mean we’re going to win, but I think we’re leaving plays on the table because our lack of urgency or understanding that teams are coming after us.” –Bruce Cassidy, lamenting the lack of urgency in the B’s game as they dropped a 4-1 decision to the Avalanche.

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Highlights: Bruins can't seize momentum, fall 4-1 to Avs

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Highlights: Bruins can't seize momentum, fall 4-1 to Avs

FINAL SCORE: Avalanche 4, Bruins 1

IN BRIEF: The Bruins tied it early with a Chris Wagner tip-in off a John Moore shot from the point, but from there the Avs dictated play to hand Boston its first home loss in regulation at TD Garden in the 2019-20 season. It was a Pyrrhic victory for the Avs, though, who lost Calder Trophy favorite and former UMass star Cale Makar to injury.


BRUINS RECORD: 20-4-6 (46 points, 1st in Atlantic Division)





At Ottawa, Monday, 7:30 p.m., NESN

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