After two-year absence, Bruins veterans appreciative of postseason
Since their last postseason game on May 14, 2014, the Bruins have seen their fair share of changes. Gone are the likes of Milan Lucic, Johnny Boychuk, Dougie Hamilton, Chris Kelly, Claude Julien, Loui Eriksson, Shawn Thornton, Daniel Paille, Gregory Campbell, Carl Soderberg and Peter Chiarelli, just to name a few.
Exactly 1085 days later, the Bruins are back in the postseason. Replacing the aforementioned names are names like David Pastrnak, Charlie McAvoy, Frank Vatrano, Ryan Spooner, Riley Nash, Colin Miller and Tim Schaller – all of whom will be playing their first playoff game in Ottawa this evening. Other names replacing veterans with prior postseason experience include David Backes, Matt Beleskey, Drew Stafford, John-Michael Liles and Dominic Moore.
Not to forget, a new coach and GM at the helm with interim bench boss Bruce Cassidy and Don Sweeney, who was promoted to Chiarelli’s position 23 months ago.
A handful of Bruins, like Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci, Zdeno Chara, Tuukka Rask Adam McQuaid, have been through the playoff grinds in 2011, 2013 and 2014. Torey Krug and Kevan Miller made their playoff debuts in 2013 and 2014, respectively.
Given how the 2016-17 regular season could have gone south real quickly – especially after the Julien firing and during their four-game skid in late March – one can say it’s pretty remarkable the Bruins are one of the 16 teams hoping to taste Lord’s Stanley Cup in June. That, along with the bitter taste left in their mouths after two straight late regular season collapses, is why many of those veterans aren’t taking their current position for granted.
Of course, the Bruins, like the 15 other teams, have one goal in mind as the puck drops on playoff hockey in a matter of hours. But they also appreciate just getting through the 82-game grind and returning to the postseason.
“I think in the past, especially in the years past where you kind of take it for granted a bit, it’s definitely something that you have to appreciate,” Bergeron said after the Bruins’ playoff-clinching win over the Lightning eight days ago. “It’s been two years and it’s been a long time coming for us, and there’s a lot of guys in this room that haven’t had a taste of it yet. So everyone should be excited just to be in it, and now be in position where we can improve our rankings, but at the same time you work hard all year for just to get in and have a shot.”
As the outside temperatures and practice intensity heated up over the last two days, the Bruins carried Bergeron’s sentiment into Warrior Ice Arena during their preparations for their first round series with the Senators.
The Bruins lost all four meetings with the Sens and will have to find a way to break through Guy Boucher’s 1-3-1 system. But the repetitive cliche that anything can happen in the playoffs holds true with the Bruins, the Sens and the rest of the teams playing playoff hockey.
“It’s very difficult now to make the postseason,” said Rask, who went 4-0-1 and only allowed four goals in his last five starts of the regular season. “You have to have great seasons, you know, the teams who didn’t make it had a lot of points too. We had the same amount of points last year and we’re in [this year]. You have to appreciate that you’re in [the playoffs] and you get to play hockey at this time of the year and we just have to try to make the most of it.”
“We had a really good run where we were in the playoffs for awhile,” said Marchand, who returns in time for Game 1 following his two-game suspension for spearing Lightning defenseman Jake Dotchin. “But when you miss it, it makes you appreciate how hard it is to get there and you can’t take it for granted. So, it’s great to be back again, and we’re really looking forward to it.”
Getting to the playoffs is a hard task. Winning even one series, let alone capturing the Stanley Cup, is even harder.
After the last two years, the Bruins veterans prefer the difficult challenge that awaits.