BOSTON (CBS) — Bruins fans have definitely learned forgiveness.
That’s the only way to explain the lack of dissension in the ranks when it comes to the Black and Gold now that we’re nearly two months removed from the 17-second turnaround that ended the Bruins’ season and allowed the Chicago Blackhawks to leave TD Garden with the Stanley Cup.
There’s been plenty of debate about the contract extensions granted to Patrice Bergeron and Tuukka Rask, the signing of Jarome Iginla and, of course, the blockbuster trade that imported Louis Eriksson to replace would-be wunderkind Tyler Seguin. But for the most part Boston’s rooters have kept the pitchforks and torches in their cellars and accepted that the Bruins made an impressive run (complete with a miracle comeback in a game that will never be forgotten) and came up just shy against the team that truly proved it was the best from start to finish. You usually don’t have to look too far on Twitter to find acrimony and disgust. Instead, I recently found enlightened commentary and positivity from many followers, who believe the best is yet to come from the Bruins’ current core.
The timing couldn’t be better for the Bruins and their supporters, because at the start of the 2013-14 season, and during it, people watching the Bruins are going to have to subscribe to the same regimen of patience and understanding that has accompanied the disappointment of how the 2013 Stanley Cup Final ended.
We all remember how things went for the Bruins after they won the Cup in June 2011. The “Stanley Cup hangover” proved to be real. A 3-7-0 start was followed by a historic November, which featured the Bruins going 12-0-1 before mediocrity reigned for five months and culminated in a first-round exit against the Washington Capitals in the playoffs.
Well, despite the Bruins’ inability to force a seventh game in Chicago, never mind win the Cup for the second time in three years, the 2013 run ended nine days later than the 2011 Cup chase. If there’s such a thing as “runner-up hangover,” the Bruins definitely have a right to claim it as a cause of any troubles they’re going to go through come October and beyond. You have to realize too that in the last 30 years, just twice (the Edmonton Oilers in 1984 and the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2009) has a runner-up reached the Cup finals the following year.
In addition to the rigors of returning after a long postseason run, there will be other factors that could slow the Bruins down. We know that coach Claude Julien is going to Sochi to work for Team Canada at the Olympics. Well, he could have Bergeron, Brad Marchand and Milan Lucic along for the ride. David Krejci, Rask, Zdeno Chara and Eriksson could be representing their countries as well. With the addition of Eriksson and Iginla as right wings, there’s sure to be some searching for chemistry early in the year, and the Bruins will have to move to make up for the loss of Andrew Ference on defense. That means Dougie Hamilton, Torey Krug and Matt Bartkowksi will have to avoid the sophomore slump.
Recent history, the Blackhawks of 2013 aside, proves that a team doesn’t have to own the regular season to enjoy playoff success. The Bruins would be wise to pace themselves in 2013-14. Fans have the right to expect 82-0, or even a 50- or 45-win season. However, expectations for the Bruins should be lowered at the outset and the bar shouldn’t be raised until the tournament for the Cup opens next spring.
Matt Kalman covers the Bruins for CBSBoston.com and also contributes to NHL.com and several other media outlets. Follow him on Twitter @TheBruinsBlog.