There are obviously much greater things at stake right now than the game of hockey. The NHL and other professional leagues’ decision to suspend play was absolutely the right call. Giving the fact that so many people are being affected world-wide by Covid-19, it’s hard to write about about sports in the midst of this global crisis, especially any potential bright-sides to this pandemic.
All that being said, many fans are already deeply missing hockey and hoping that the NHL returns this season to provide at least some play-off hockey. And if any fans should want the NHL to return more than the others, it’s Bruins’ fans. Not only are the Bruins sitting at the top of the league standings, but a break from hockey may help the Bruins more than some of the other squads in the NHL.
A time to heal
For the third year in a row, the Bruins sit in the top half of the league for man-games lost, with just 3 players dressing for all of the Boston’s 70 games this season (David Pastrnak, Brad Marchand and Charlie Coyle).
The immediate concern for the Bruins prior to the stoppage of games was the health of Torey Krug and Brandon Carlo, who are both currently out with upper-body injuries. Both will be undoubtedly instrumental to a Bruins’ playoff push, and this break may give them time to recover. Then there’s also the health of Kevan Miller, who’s still hoping to return to action this year. There’s no short-term timetable for his return, but if playoff games are played in July, it could be possible to see #86 return by then.
Finally, there has also been some question about the health of Ondrej Kase. Kase, who missed a few weeks with ‘flu-like’ symptoms after being elbowed in the head by the Leafs’ Jake Muzzin, has been a bit of a disappointment since of arriving in Boston, which makes you wonder if he’s fully recovered from this injury. A mandatory break from hockey could give Kase and this team the time to lick their wounds and come back stronger when (and if) the league returns to action.
A time to adjust
Speaking of Kase, a break from hockey could also give him and fellow newcomer Nick Ritchie a chance to adjust to their new surroundings and the new expectations the Bruins have for these players. Moving to a new city, is never easy for anyone, especially when there’s so much pressure on you from the get-go. A suspension of play may give the new Bruins a time to acclimatize and feel more at home in Boston. It may also give them more time to gel with teammates off the ice in a non-hockey environment.
There have also been rumors circulating about the fitness of Nick Ritchie and it not being up to Bruin standard. Ritchie may be able to use this break to improve his conditioning, so he can give a more consistent effort on a game-to-game basis.
A time to rest
The current Boston Bruins have played a lot of hockey over the past couple years. A long play-off run last year, meant a very short summer break for the Bruins. Brad Marchand, for example, has played 173 games (not including the pre-season) over the last 17 months and 11 days.
And this was not the first time the Bruins have had a very short summer this past decade either. 2011 and 2013 also saw the Bruins play in hockey in June and then have to quickly return to action in October. Huge credit has to be given to the Bruins’ coaching staff and personnel, as well as the players, for remaining so competitive for the past 10 years, despite playing more hockey than almost every team during this period. A month or two off from hockey could do great things for this team, as it could give them plenty of time to physically and mentally re-charge for a championship push.
Breaks have been mostly friendly for the Boston Bruins
Over the past couple seasons, when the Bruins have had time off (Christmas, bye weeks, summer breaks, etc.) they have been able to come back stronger than before the break.
- Following the 2018-2019 Christmas Break - Boston wins 5 of their next 6 games
- Following the 2018-2019 Bye Week - Boston wins 7 of their next 8 games
- Following the summer break - Boston wins 11 of their first 14 games
- Following the 2019-20 Bye Week - Boston wins 10 of their next 11 games
Sadly, not all breaks have been friendly for the Bruins though. A long break before the Stanley Finals effectively killed the momentum the Bruins were riding after winning their last three against CBJ and then sweeping the Canes in the conference finals last year.
Despite this, you’d expect a team that usually comes back strong from breaks to do so, when (and if) the NHL returns this year.
There are a lot of “ifs”, “maybes” and “coulds” in this article, as it’s all moot if the NHL doesn’t return this season. The NHL’s first priority has to remain the safety of its players, fans and employees. No impatient decisions should be made here. If the NHL does not resume play, for Bruins fans it could be a great loss, but nothing like losing a loved one to illness.
Perhaps if this is the end of the 2019-20 season, we’ll all be left feeling like the 1994’s Montreal Expos; wondering if this could have been the season we won it all?