For starters, the Black and Gold were one of the best-represented NHL teams in Europe, with 12 members of the team opting to wait out parts of the lockout by playing in Europe. While no one will mistake European action for the NHL, there’s no denying the advantages of staying in game shape while the lockout dragged on. The Bruins have to hope that pays off in a short sprint toward the playoffs.
The B’s also have someone in their organization who knows all about playing a shortened season. Bruins president Cam Neely was still playing in 1995 when another lockout cost the league half a season. Neely scored 27 goals and added 14 asssists in the 48-game season for Boston during that shortened season.
Neely knows that there will be added significance to regular season games, with two points meaning even more than usual night in and night out.
“As a player you usually think, ‘We’ve got 82 games and you’re bound to have some ups and downs and mental lapses,’” he explained to the Boston Herald. “But you just couldn’t afford any of those when you were looking at 48 games.
“It was like a sprint to the playoffs. You couldn’t afford to go through a bad stretch. Every game mattered.”
The Bruins are a veteran team that should know that to begin with, but it’s unlikely Neely will let them forget that. Remembering that, along with a large core of the roster whose games were sharpened overseas could have the Bruins poised for success.
“I don’t want to come out and say we’re set up better, but it is beneficial for us that a number of our players have been playing in Europe and actually playing very well,” Neely told the Herald. “We had both goaltenders playing over there at some point, which is a big plus. So, yeah, from that perspective of having such a large number of guys who’ve been playing in games, it is certainly helpful.”
Some of the Bruins’ most important players stayed sharp in Europe with forwards Patrice Bergeron and Tyler Seguin, defensemen Zdeno Chara and Andrew Ference and goalie Tuukka Rask all spending some time — and enjoying success — while playing overseas.
And perhaps most importantly, all of those players return to Boston for the season fully healthy.