BOSTON – The wound is still fresh for the Bruins after dropping Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final against the St. Louis Blues almost two months ago.
But the Black and Gold are moving on to next season with little more than a month until training camp begins in Boston, and beginning to game plan for the concerns facing the team this upcoming season. There is still an open question about any top-6 forward upgrades that the Bruins might be looking for going dry offensively in the postseason at times last spring, and key RFA defensemen Charlie McAvoy and Brandon Carlo still remain unsigned.
But perhaps the most pressing issue facing the Bruins is a possible slow start to the season based on their run to the Stanley Cup Final a few months ago.
The Bruins played an additional 24 games after the grueling regular season, including pushing to seven games in both the first round and the Cup Final against the Blues. The season ended on June 12 and that’s going to be a difficult turnaround for players on the wrong side of 30 years old like Patrice Bergeron (34), Zdeno Chara (42), David Krejci (33), Tuukka Rask (32) and Brad Marchand (31) as they try to get ready for training camp in September.
That’s a big concern for the Bruins in the midst of summer break while game-planning for training camp, the regular season and what they hope will be another lengthy run in the Stanley Cup playoffs beyond that.
“I feel like this summer is a little bit of ‘How are we going to be prepared for next season?’ That’s a little bit of a concern after going that late [into the year] and then losing,” said Bruins President Cam Neely, in an exclusive interview with NBC Sports Boston. “Guys are feeling a little bit behind because they’ve got to take a few weeks to get healthy before they can start ramping it up again [in offseason training]. I think they feel like they’re a few weeks behind on the conditioning front because you’ve got to take some time to rest and recover.
“We have such great leadership and character that they’ll be ready to go. But it’s just different playing October games than late June games.”
The bad news for the Bruins?
There is truth to the Stanley Cup hangover myth over the last 15 years with a high percentage of teams unable to make it out of the first couple of rounds the year after pushing all the way to a Stanley Cup Final appearance. The Bruins serve as an example themselves as they were a first-round casualty in 2012 after winning the Stanley Cup in 2011, and then got dunked in the second round by the Habs in 2014 after their Cup Final loss vs. the Blackhawks in 2013.
So what can the Bruins do about it this coming season?
Well, it already sounds like they are going to go very slow with older players like Chara, Bergeron, Krejci and Rask when it comes to training camp. The Bruins are also already managing workloads for players like Chara and Bergeron given the heavy burden they carry during the regular season, and they brought in Jaroslav Halak to make certain that Rask doesn’t get overworked during the year.
Expect all of that to continue with perhaps even guys like Chara, Bergeron and Krejci to get the occasional game off, or at the very least extra time to heal any bumps and bruises that crop up during the regular season.
All that being said, the Bruins already expect there will be fatigue issues next season that they’ll need to keep a close eye on after playing almost 100 hockey games during the 2018-19 NHL season.
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