Time to dust off the practice jerseys. The NHL is back!
Everybody recovered from the Olympic hangover yet? Good. With three of our five Boston Bruin Olympians returning to the States with hardware it’s time for a quick 25 game run to the playoffs where the nail biting hockey can resume.
The Bruins are in a good spot to resume the NHL season. Nobody from the Bruins are coming back from Team USA trying to overcome the disappointment of having been shutout of medals and two consecutive games. Tuukka Rask is the owner of one of those two shutouts. His home team of Finland beat the US for Bronze in fine fashion with the 5-0 win. Patrice Bergeron and Loui Eriksson battled for Gold on Sunday and while Bergeron won the big prize with Canada Eriksson has to be happy to bring home the Silver for Sweden. As David Krejci and his Czech teammates and Zdeno Chara and his Slovakian teammates know, it is hard to even get the chance to play for a medal, let alone starting a game knowing you’ve already won Silver.
With 78 points putting the B’s on top of the Atlantic Division by seven points over Tampa Bay and a second place position over all in the Eastern Conference they have to feel pretty good headed back out in their NHL uniforms. They start off their schedule with some teams who haven’t been playing great thus far into the 2013/14 campaign with Buffalo on Wednesday, then home against Washington, a tough game in New York against the Rangers before coming home to play the bottom dwelling Panthers, Washington again, then down to Florida for a back to back with a possible playoff preview against Tampa and again playing the Panthers. With a 7-1-2 record of their last 10 games going into the break I think that schedule to reopen the NHL season is going to provide the Bruins a good chance to get back on to that same kind of game winning momentum to propel them towards the post season.
All in all, their first seven games of opening week part II consists of only two games against teams who currently occupy a playoff spot. Those teams being the Rangers and Lightning. Washington has a chance if they turn it on in these last 20 or so games so they have a chance to steal some points away from the B’s. But I think if the Bruins come out of the break like they went into the break they should handle the Caps nicely.
Peeling three points out of their final two games going into the break without Chara or Adam McQuaid has to make the boys feel pretty good about getting some wins going forward when both of them are set to return to action. Chara missed the final two games before the break to carry his country’s flag in the opening ceremonies and McQuaid has been out for some time now with a lower body injury. McQuaid has been practicing for consecutive days now since the rest of the Bruins have resumed practice. While there is no return date set yet for McQuaid to return to game action it is only good news to hear he is practicing daily and his return sounds like it will be sooner rather than later. Read Cam Hasbrouck’s article for more details on McQuaid.
The action will be fast with little to no breaks in between. There are 17 games in the month of March alone. No more four day breaks built into the schedule. The longest the guys will have off between now and the playoffs will be two days. Lucky for them, the rest of the NHL is in the same boat. So it will be a battle of attrition. Who can stay healthy, who won’t get tired, those are the teams who will be on top when it comes to April. I think the B’s proved how good they can be while half their roster is out due to injury and sickness and they can only get better if they have a full squad going forward.