BOSTON – The Boston Bruins are well rested and had more players overseas than anyone else in the NHL. So they’re well positioned for what should be a sprint of a season following the NHL’s 119-day lockout.
When the lockout finally ended Saturday, the league announced a busy 48-game schedule beginning Saturday January 19. The Bruins and most other teams opened their shortened training camps Sunday.
“Now we’ve had enough rest, so we’re no longer fatigued from a Stanley Cup win. So I think it’s just more it speaks to motivation,” Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli said before his team took the ice at TD Garden. “These guys are, ‘it’s a short season, anything can happen, it’s a sprint, so let’s get going.’ It’s more that the longer they’ve been out now the more motivated they are.”
The Bruins return mostly the same team from last season, a roster that included most of the players from the Stanley Cup triumph in 2011. That should give them a leg up on teams that need to build chemistry in just one week.
The Bruins struggled out of the gate last season as defending champions. One year later, the league’s labour dispute made what was already going to be a long off-season for the Bruins, after their first-round loss to Washington in the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs, even longer.
Among those players who played during the lockout were goaltenders Tuukka Rask and Anton Khudobin. Their ability to replace Tim Thomas will be a key for the Bruins’ success this season. Thomas, through his agent, recently reiterated to Chiarelli his desire to sit out this season and play again this year. Thomas will be on the Bruins’ roster as a suspended player this season, according to Chiarelli.
But having 10 skaters in good condition has got to be a plus, too.
“I think it’s certainly beneficial,” Bruins president Cam Neely said. “Any time you can play hockey games and be in as close to game shape as possible, it’s advantage if you’re not playing. So it’s pretty simple. Now having said that, that doesn’t mean that other teams won’t get ramped up quick. But I think it’s certainly beneficial to us to have so many guys as we did playing hockey.”
Chara doesn’t want his team to bank on the European experience giving them a leg up.
“It’s only an advantage if it works,” the Bruins’ captain said. “But I think it’s a good thing that we had more players than less playing in organized hockey. It just showed the willingness of the guys to stay in shape and going to sacrifice being with family and friends and be there to stay in shape and be there when the season started.”