Bruins’ toughest tests to come in jam-packed last leg
The 2017-18 Bruins have played 55 games. That’s the second-fewest of any NHL team, and David Krejci knows it.
Of course, the 11-year veteran also knows what’s ahead: a schedule jam-packed with a Canadian road trip, then at least a game every other day until the regular season ends.
His approach won’t change.
“It comes back to staying in the moment,” Krejci said after Thursday’s practice. “If you look at it game-by-game, I feel like you can win every single game…Our team’s been pretty good taking care of one game at a time.”
The upcoming trip starts in Vancouver Saturday then takes the B’s to Calgary, Edmonton, Toronto, and Buffalo. With only five road losses on the season, they boast the NHL’s best away record (16-5-4) — obviously something easier to do when they aren’t playing many games. Maintaining the record is just the first of many tests to come.
No one’s about to catch the Vegas flu in Northern Canada, but Bruce Cassidy anticipates team bonding nonetheless. If he had it his way, that would peak with a team-wide curling tournament. Seriously.
“My parents curled, I love watching the sport year-round,” a wistful Cassidy began. “My last go-around in Washington, I tried to organize a curling tournament [for road bonding] I set it all up…and had to cancel it because we lost, so we had to practice. I would like to plan it next year, I really would…this would’ve been a good time.”
Krejci hinted at some “fun with the guys,” but what will fun entail now that curling is — quite tragically — ruled out? Probably a few team dinners, a rookie party, and simply being together.
Though the team’s road trips have been few and far between, Cassidy credits November’s West Coast trip as the season’s turning point.
“In itself, it’s team-building that you’re on the road for 10 days together and we haven’t been for a while since we’ve been out west,” Cassidy said. “That trip was the beginning of us — I don’t want to use the term rock bottom because I don’t think we were there — but gutting out some wins in typically tough buildings. Dobi was in net and some different guys contributed to get us going.”
Although consistency didn’t come immediately, wins at Los Angeles and San Jose proved winning was possible via a variety of tactics, a backup goalie, depth players, and without help from the Garden faithful.
The win against the Kings Nov. 16 absolved the Bruins of their losing record, the win over San Jose pushed it over .500 at 8-7-4, and a team that dropped two-in-a-row to a struggling Colorado back in October has been over .500 ever since.
Beyond the record, though, hard-fought road wins spark a confidence now characteristic of the Bruins right down to their rookies:
Hey, maybe this season won’t be as brutal as anticipated.
Follow up wins against Pittsburgh and Tampa Bay, and a 7-2 routing of Columbus was next:
Hey, this team can win against Cup contenders.
Then came the 18-game point streak:
Hey, this team IS a Cup contender.
If the realization snuck up on you, you’re not alone. Your company includes a certain coach with an affinity for curling.
“Well, I’m an optimist…” Cassidy paused. “No, I didn’t think we’d be here right now. Did I want to be? Absolutely. Yes, I believed in the guys if they stayed healthy — but I didn’t think we’d be here. No. That’s as plain as I can make it.”