At some point, all 32 NHL teams will face some odd time frames in their 82-game schedule. This year, in particular, provides a nearly three-week hiatus in February when the league heads to Beijing for the Winter Olympics.
Few, if any, encountered a quirky early-season slate like the Boston Bruins.
The Bruins’ 2021-22 campaign began with a 10-day layover between the preseason finale and the season opener. The quirky schedule continued with another three days between their season-opening 3-1 win over the Stars and their first road tilt of the year in Philadelphia.
Bruce Cassidy’s squad endured a six-day layover following their 5-2 win over the Montreal Canadiens last Sunday. On Friday, they made their final preparations for their second contest of the season with the Philadelphia Flyers.
The Broad St. Bullies come into Saturday’s tilt with a 5-3-2 mark in their last 10. They began their three-game homestand on Tuesday with a 2-1 overtime win over the Calgary Flames — Boston’s opponent for Sunday — and dropped an extra session decision to the two-time defending champion Lightning, 4-3, on Thursday.
Indeed, the Bruins will have their hands full against a sharp Flyers squad coming off points against a pair of upper-echelon teams in the early going. But Cassidy doesn’t envision a complete dropoff from his core after earning wins in three of four during last week’s busy slate.
“Will there be a little bit of rust early? I doubt it,” Cassidy said following Friday’s training session at Warrior Ice Arena.
The five days between games wasn’t all that bad. It allowed the players to bond further with their new teammates and spend some downtime with their families.
The layover provided Craig Smith extended time to heal from a nagging injury after missing last weekend’s slate. Still looking for his first point of the season, the former Nashville Predator will move to a third-line role with Jake DeBrusk and Erik Haula.
It also allowed Linus Ullmark to recollect his thoughts following his toughest start of his young-Bruins tenure last Thursday night against Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl and the Oilers. He’ll get his first start since Boston’s third period collapse eight days ago. The Bruins started Jeremy Swayman in their pair of 5-2 wins over New Jersey and Montreal before the de facto bye week.
Yet, the Bruins remain eager to finally step on the ice for their 14th game of the year. And they’ll finally endure a fluid schedule with a healthy six-game slate to close out November.
“To be honest, it hasn’t been great. I think we’ve all looked at the schedule each day and have seen that we’re at 13 games and other teams are close to 20,” defenseman Brandon Carlo said. “It’s been really weird. But you know, it’s the ebbs and flows of the season — you’ve got to adjust. I think we can find our groove in these next couple of games, and from there, we should be pretty well set because things will get a little more consistent.”
The upcoming slate provides the Bruins a chance to establish consistency. Come Saturday; they hope to extend their winning streak to three games for the first time this season.
Amid their concerns — from defensive depth to secondary scoring — the Bruins hope to string together marquee wins before their busiest slate of the season. Come April, they’ll embark on a 15-game-in-28 day stretch with a trio of three games in four day stretches included.
The Bruins will embrace that challenge for final playoff positioning when the time comes. For now, Cassidy’s confident bunch can finally look forward to a busier slate.
“I think our guys felt pretty good about our game last week with the exception of one period. So we’re building off some positives,” Cassidy said. “You can’t control the schedule. We had two days off this week [from practice], and sometimes a day like [Thursday] it’s good to get away from the rink when it’s 68 degrees, and it puts you in a good frame of mind. I thought we were good in practice today — crisp and ready to go — and the mood was good. So I assume we’ll be ready to go, and we’ll keep on getting points. That’s just my feeling with the group.”
Tim Rosenthal serves as the Managing Editor of Bruins Daily. He started contributing videos to the site in 2010 before fully coming on board during the Bruins' Stanley Cup run in 2011. His bylines over the last decade have been featured on Boston.com, FoxSports.com, College Hockey News, Patch and Inside Hockey. You can follow Tim on Twitter @_TimRosenthal.
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