It hasn’t taken you long to get sucked back in, am I right?
The anger, disappointment and frustration that came four months ago after a stunning Game 7 home loss has, for the most part, pretty much dissipated. The Boston Bruins took to the road to begin the 2019-20 season over the last week and, with four games in seven days, came back home with six of a possible eight points.
That’s not a bad start at all, especially for a team eager to keep erasing the vestiges of last June’s agonizing end to the season.
Consider that Bruce Cassidy’s squad played three teams that could legitimately emerge as Western Conference champions in Dallas, Vegas and Colorado and came away with a pair of one-goal wins, plus a two-goal setback in the trip’s finale in Denver Thursday night. That’s a great way to start a year season off.
Brad Marchand (3 goals), David Pastrnak (2) and Patrice Bergeron have already combined for 13 points, doing what’s expected of one of arguably the league’s best trios. Charlie Coyle might have but one assist thus far, but he’s looked like the three-zone beast we saw during last year’s extended playoff run. Thirteen players earned points on the trip, with one of the few newcomers, Brett Ritchie, scoring the first goal of the season (against his former team in Dallas).
Karson Kuhlman, with his speed and propensity for being in the right place at the right time, looks like he could be a long-term fit as the second line right wing alongside Jake DeBrusk and David Krejci. Although they’ve been snakebitten as a line on the scoresheet thus far, there is evident chemistry.
Connor Clifton also has shown that his play during the spring postseason run wasn’t a fluke; he’s slotted in nicely on the third defense pairing and chewing up nearly 16 minutes a night. And the goaltending rotation (at this early juncture, anyway) of Tuukka Rask and Jaroslav Halak has looked sharp; the former brings a 2.00 goals against average and .937 save percentage back to Boston with him and won both of his starts; the latter has 1.53 and .957 numbers, respectively, and a shutout in Arizona.
So this brings us to Saturday night’s home opener at TD Garden against Cory Schneider of Marblehead, Miles Wood of Manchester-by-the-Sea and the rest of the New Jersey Devils.
There will undoubtedly be some special touches befitting a conference champion acknowledged prior to the first puck drop: a video montage celebrating the team’s 2019 playoff highlights (of which there were many), prolonged ovations for the likes of Bergeron, Marchand, Rask, Zdeno Chara, Charlie McAvoy, Pastrnak and Cassidy, among others, and general fanfare and good feeling about what transpired in the recent past.
But it’s also an acknowledgment that time soldiers on, and so does the NHL season. What happened a year ago, while ultimately unsatisfactory, was largely euphoric. It will live on forever in memory, but must be cast aside as the sole focus is about winning games in 2019-20.
Let’s remember: there will be no banner raising on this occasion. The ultimate job was not finished; no seventh Stanley Cup proclamation will be joining those from 1929, 1939, 1941, 1970, 1972 and 2011 in the Garden rafters.
Those jammed into their (smaller) seats tonight will salute the Black-and-Gold, then go about the business of cheering, scrutinizing and dissecting what goes on against the Devils, the first of 41 such home contests. They -- and the Bruins themselves -- hope there will be many more dates on Causeway Street once the regular season ends and the playoff machine springs to life again.
But first things first, which is continuing to play well out of the gates. Test No. 5, and the first this season before their forever faithful, takes place at a little after 7 p.m. Saturday.
Phil Stacey, the Executive Sports Editor of The Salem News, covers the Boston Bruins for CNHI Sports Boston. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @PhilStacey_SN