The bonds formed in Belfast and Prague helped bring a tight-knit team even closer together, and that chemistry and camaraderie was a big part of their success.
The 2010-11 Bruins aren't the only recent NHL club to benefit from a European excursion. Each of the last three Cup winners started their championship seasons in Europe, and this year's Kings can make it four straight.
The Penguins began the trend back in 2008-09 when Pittsburgh split a pair of NHL Premiere games with Ottawa in Stockholm, Sweden to kick off a season that ended with a Cup triumph over Detroit. In 2009-10, Chicago also split its opening two games against Florida in Helsinki, Finland before going on to beat Philadelphia for the Blackhawks' first Cup since 1961. Boston likewise went 1-1 against Phoenix in Prague, Czech Republic in 2010 before ending its 39-year championship drought in Vancouver the following spring.
This year, the Kings have used the European vacation as a springboard for success. They opened the season with a 3-2 win over the Rangers in Stockholm, then lost 4-2 to Buffalo in Berlin. The Rangers came close to guaranteeing another champion that started its season in Europe. New York failed to get a win in Europe, falling to both the Kings and Ducks in a pair of overtime losses in Stockholm, then coming up short in the Eastern Conference Final against New Jersey.
Los Angeles does have a chance to keep the European trend going, but the Kings aren't necessarily buying into the theory that starting the year on an extended road trip on another continent has much to do with being four wins away from the franchise's first Cup eight months later.
"If anything it made us play two more road games," Kings captain Dustin Brown told NHL.com. "A trip like that always does build some bonds, but all the guys would probably say we wouldn't want to do that again. You hang out a lot, but this core group has been together for a while. It's not like we are going to go on a road trip like that and be closer for it.
"While the trip helps make the locker room tighter," Brown added, "it shouldn't be seen as the main reason for teams winning a Cup."
That may be good for next year's hopefuls. With the uncertainty of the start of the 2012-13 season due to the league's CBA expiring in September, the NHL won't be opening the regular season with games in Europe for the first time in six years. So a new start to the path to the Cup will have to be forged when the next campaign does get under way.
Powered by WordPress.com VIP