Bonding on the Road Should Help Struggling Bruins to Jell

Bonding on the Road Should Help Struggling Bruins to Jell There's no reason to hit the panic button just yet. Actually, there won't be a reason to hit it for quite some time.

Boston sports fans are in a state of depression this week, and the Bruins' recent loss to Colorado on Monday afternoon — coupled with their 2-3 start on the season — has many Black and Gold fans wondering what is wrong with this year's team.
The boobirds were in full effect at the Garden during the B's five-game homestand. I know. I was there, and I heard them loud and clear. It's not pretty when the power-play unit allows a shorthanded goal (flashback to a shorty from Colorado's David Jones that sealed the win for the Avs). So when the Bruins take off for Dallas on Thursday afternoon for their upcoming two-game road trip, they'll leave the boobirds, the critics (well, most of them) and the distractions at home.

Mark my words: This will be a good thing for the B's.

After Monday afternoon's loss, Milan Lucic joined Mike Milbury and me for Bruins Overtime Live.

"It's gonna be nice to get on the road," Lucic said. "Obviously there's less pressure on the road, so it'll be nice to get out and have a few team meals. On the road, you have nothing else going on except the team, and you focus on the game."

Milbury, too, recalled a couple of road trips from his playing days. As a former player, coach and general manager, Milbury has had his fair share of trips and has seen the road from all different perspectives.

"A road trip can go either way. I've come back 0-6 from these trips and I've come home 6-0 from the road. It just depends. There's a fine line and you can really flirt with disaster if you don't do it right." 

Milbury remembered his playing days when the circus would come to Boston, and the team would head out West to play L.A. He remembers going out with the team to see the The Johnny Carson Show and heading out on the town afterward.

But nowadays, he mentioned, teams are more structured. The Philadelphia Flyers got a jump-start on their road trip to play the Florida Panthers this Friday night in the Sunshine State. The Flyers held a team-bonding excursion on Biscayne Bay in Florida, which included a regatta race on Tuesday and a week full of other activities. Not bad for a road trip, eh?

On the road, players have nowhere else to go, no one else to hang out with but each other. This weekend, for over 48 hours, the B's will not have family obligations, they won't have media hounding them every second and they won't go home after their practices and games. Instead, they'll be with one another the entire time, building chemistry and talking about guy stuff (I don't pretend to have any idea what that is).

Mark Recchi, a veteran of 21 seasons in the league, acknowledged the importance of getting on the road. He also stated the obvious. The Bruins are no longer the underdog. They are at the top of everyone's hit list.

"Let's not kid ourselves, teams are ready for us," Recchi said. "They come in hungry and determined not to be embarrassed. And right now, we are not up to that challenge."

The Bruins will be up to the challenge this weekend. If you recall, the glorious and unsuspecting Boston Bruins of last season began October with a 5-3-3 record. This year's team will have to pick up the pace to hit that mark, but it's well within reach.

"It shouldn't matter whether it's at home or on the road. We should be ready to do our job regardless," said Tim Thomas after Wednesday's practice. "That being said, going on the road does give us a chance to spend some time together and hopefully click."
Teams build character on the road. And when the character and team unity start to click, then look out. It translates directly onto the ice as players start standing up for one another — their brothers. They don't have to deal with the pressure of being down a goal and hearing the boos.

"It always helps getting on the road, getting to hang out more and have team dinners," Bruins center Marc Savard said. "Our biggest commitment here is to winning and getting wins on the road."

Hitting the road is not the complete solution to what's ailing the B's. It's just a small piece of the puzzle in trying to help fix the problem areas. The bottom line is that you must have most of your success in a season on home ice. You'll never win if you don't.

And the Bruins can't use excuses for their downward 2-3 play to begin the season. But look at the road ahead as an opportunity to try and change the tide, so that those boobirds are a little quieter when you return.

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