By Matt Kalman, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — For the first time in their 90-plus years as an NHL franchise the Bruins will end a road trip in a place that’s affectionately known as “Sin City.”
The Bruins’ upcoming road trip begins in Colorado on Wednesday, continues to Arizona on Saturday and concludes in Las Vegas on Sunday for the first ever Bruins-Golden Knights showdown.
The late afternoon game (locally) against Vegas will be followed by a night off in the land of Wayne Newton before the Bruins return to Boston on Monday.
Looks like the Bruins have a pretty good incentive to play their best three games on their first road trip of the season.
Coach Bruce Cassidy, however, hasn’t scheduled that night off for any motivational reasons.
“We actually talked about that, but I don’t know, for me that stuff, these guys are men. We should want to go out and win,” Cassidy told CBS Boston on Tuesday after practice at Warrior Ice Arena. “The carrot is there, that’s great. To me I look at it, ‘Well if things go well, you get to have a little more fun.’ That’s the way I look at it. I hope that they’re thinking the same way.”
The days of coaches punishing players by canceling their scheduled free time are probably long over, as well they should be. Regardless of the results on the scoreboard, the Bruins will deserve the night to relax and bond. They’ll also have a day off in Arizona on Thursday to get to know one another better.
This past training camp was a rare one that didn’t end with some sort of extended team-bonding event beyond the team barbeque. The Bruins could probably now use some more time to get to know one another with five rookies in the lineup. A few of those rookies didn’t even dress in the same locker room as the veterans during training camp.
Now the kids and veterans alike can learn more about their teammates than their sweater numbers, which way they shoot and where they like to receive the puck.
“It’s good for everyone,” Bruins forward Brad Marchand said. “It’s their first road trip to get away and enjoy that, and again we don’t spend a ton of time together away from the rink. So it’ll be fun for everyone to get to know each other a little bit more and bond a bit.”
The Vegas portion of the trip, though, is unique in that the Bruins will spend two nights in a city known for trouble and its “what happens here stays here” motto. But the schedule makers may have done the Bruins a favor by scheduling the Bruins to be in Vegas on the second half of a back-to-back. After arriving from Phoenix on Saturday night, it’s doubtful many of the Bruins will have the energy to venture too far from their bedrooms.
And then Sunday the Bruins will have just completed the second half of the back-to-back and will know that the flight out is the next morning.
“Guys will be pretty tired, it’ll be pretty easy to shut it down after that,” defenseman Kevan Miller said.
The NHL has sent word around to the teams about what’s expected of the players while in Vegas. The Bruins might not have to reiterate that message, but it’ll probably come up. The Bruins have two players (Jake DeBrusk, Charlie McAvoy) who are under 21. The neon lights of Vegas will be tempting from the minute the Bruins’ plane hits the tarmac but any major fun will have to wait until the offseason or when the schedule makers are kinder to the Bruins in the seasons ahead.
Marchand compared the Vegas trip to making a trip somewhere as common as New York, where “you’re there 4:30 in the morning and you hear people outside screaming and stuff.”
So the Bruins will have the best of both worlds: a little time to enjoy Vegas but not enough time (or enough) to get carried away.
“They know it’s back-to-back, they’ve got to look out for themselves. Sunday night, we’re leaving Monday, I would assume they’ll walk around, do whatever they do,” Cassidy said. “Hopefully not lose a lot of money.”
Matt Kalman covers the Bruins for CBSBoston.com and also contributes to NHL.com and several other media outlets. Follow him on Twitter@MattKalman.