Bruins second half season preview: 3 things to watch for
With the glow from the Sochi Olympics slowly wearing off, here are three things to pay attention to when it comes to the Bruins for the rest of the regular season and what they hope is another long postseason run.
1. How will their Olympians play?
The biggest thing to watch coming out of the break is how their five Olympians (Tuukka Rask, Zdeno Chara, David Krejci, Loui Eriksson and Patrice Bergeron) recover from the travel and games. All five played in at least four games while in Sochi and one could make the case that this five is the B’s top five. It’s hard to predict how the jet lag, time difference, mental and physical fatigue will play a role in Boston’s season the rest of the way. A side benefit might be the fact that head coach Claude Julien was an assistant for Canada. He obviously didn’t play in any of the contests but more than someone who was in the States over break, he should have a better idea how his players are feeling.
2. Getting enough rest for Rask and Chara
Even if this wasn’t an Olympic year, we’d still be talking about this major topic. Finding a balance for Rask and Chara is central to Boston’s success this spring. With Chad Johnson’s emergence in net, Julien won’t be losing much sleep when he considers benching his franchise goaltender from time-to-time. Rask isn’t the biggest player, so he tends to get worn down when he makes too many starts in a short period of time. Julien hates to ease back on Chara’s superhuman workload but this time, he might finally change his tune. The Bruins don’t have a replacement for Chara (who does?) but giving him a game off here or there could really help the captain by the time the playoffs roll around in mid-April.
3. Don’t be afraid to be road warriors
Boston is 14-10-2 on the road so far this season, which is fine, but it’ll need to improve on that mark in its last 25 games since 15 of them are on the road. The Bruins will have to get used to life on the road with three game road trip in early March and a four-game road swing at the end of March and into April. The B’s will likely be a top seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs, so technically they won’t need to win too many road games in the postseason to advance. Still, a road win sprinkled in makes life much easier and takes the pressure out of winning every game at TD Garden.
Games to Watch
Wed., Feb. 26: Bruins at Sabres. First game in 2.5 weeks, how will Boston look?
Wed., March 12: Bruins at Canadiens. Boston is 0-2 vs. Montreal this season.
Thurs., March 27: Bruins vs. Blackhawks. B’s lost 3-2 in a shootout in Chicago Jan. 19
Sun., April 13: Bruins at Devils. Boston closes out the regular season in New Jersey.
Follow Metro Boston Bruins beat writer Richard Slate on Twitter: @RichSlate