Bruins’ Next Big Test? Finding Ways To Manage Lengthy Stanley Cup Final Layoff


May 17, 2019

The Boston Bruins have won their last seven games, and 10 of their last 12. They might be the hottest team in all of sports at the moment, and they just clinched a spot in the Stanley Cup Final.

Their reward? A week-plus break that the working man and woman would love to have, but might not be the greatest thing for a team looking to keep its momentum.

The Bruins likely would rather take that PTO in a few weeks (with the Stanley Cup in tow). With Boston playing as well as it is right now, one would imagine the B’s would rather get back on the ice as soon as possible.

But their sweep of the Carolina Hurricanes in the Eastern Conference Final means a long layoff is staring the Bruins in the face. Game 4 of the Western Conference Final is Friday night, and if the St. Louis Blues can bounce back after being robbed in Game 3, the series will be tied and we’ll be looking at a series of at least six games to determine the Bruins’ opponent in the Cup Final.

Even if the San Jose Sharks win the next three games and finish off the Blues in five, it still figures to be at least a week before the Bruins play their next game. The more likely scenario, especially if the West final goes long, will be a Memorial Day weekend start to the Cup Final. In the last three years, Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final has fallen on Memorial Day Monday.

If that’s the case again this year, Game 1 of the Cup Final in Boston will be May 27 — 11 days after the Bruins closed out Carolina. So while the B’s have their work cut out not only in preparing for their eventual opponent, their biggest adversary in the next week and a half might be rust.

“We’ll enjoy this, but yeah we’ve already talked about when we think we might — the scenarios — but it’s going to be time off,” Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy told reporters after his team’s win Thursday night. “I don’t think we can start any earlier than a week from now, so that’s a long stretch for us from typically what we’ve had. So we’ll sit down, probably make a call or two to someone who’s been down this road and see how they handled it.”

Unsurprisingly, the Bruins are in a unique position. Conference finals rarely are decided in just four games. Coincidentally, the last time it happened was 2013 when the Bruins swept the Pittsburgh Penguins before battling the Chicago Blackhawks in the Cup Final. That’s a bit of an outlier, though. That season was abbreviated by the lockout, and there were fewer days off than normal in the playoffs. The Blackhawks also won the West in five games, so the Cup Final began five days after Boston swept away the Pens.

And for what’s it worth: The team that played the longer conference final has won the last three Stanley Cups and five of the last six.

It’s not like the Bruins will spend the next week with their feet up, though. They will take some time to enjoy their win and get some rest, and the break will undoubtedly help banged-up B’s like Zdeno Chara. But they’ll get back to work eventually with Cassidy and his staff already pondering how they’ll keep the club sharp.

“We do have black aces; would we scrimmage one day to keep the edge?” Cassidy said. “But even then, if you scrimmage, are guys really going to be that physical against one another? They’re not. I don’t have a great idea right now, so that’s why we’ll have to sit down internally to see what the best fit is. And we’ll ask the guys in the room. They went through it in ’11. They swept Philadelphia in the second round before they played Tampa, so they might have a good idea of how it affected them and what the best course of action would be.”

No matter what the B’s ultimately decide on, go ahead and file this all under “good problems to have.”

Thumbnail photo via Geoff Burke/USA TODAY Sports Images
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