The most difficult thing to do in pro sports is obviously winning a championship, but pretty damn close is overcoming a loss in a championship round and returning to that round the very next year.
The Bruins were just one win away from hoisting their seventh Stanley Cup in franchise history only three-and-a-half months ago, but now they are faced with starting from scratch. They now have a six month journey staring them in the face again, just to get back to the playoffs.
The last time a losing Stanley Cup Finalist rebounded the following year and returned to the promised land was 2009, when the Penguins avenged their 2008 loss to the Red Wings by besting Detroit 12 months later with a 4-3 series victory.
The Bruins have dealt with the Cup Final hangover effect a couple times this decade. After winning it all in 2011, the next year they had another strong regular season (49-29-4, 102 points) but wound up getting bounced in the first round by the Capitals in seven games.
When the B’s lost the 2013 Cup Final to the Blackhawks, they followed that up with a phenomenal regular season – going 54-19-9 with 117 points. They were, however, knocked out of the 2014 Cup playoffs in the second round by the Canadiens.
The national hockey media is not really buying the B’s as a true Cup contender this season. No one from Sports Illustrated, The Sporting News or NBC Sports likes the Bruins to once again be playing into June – as the Lightning, Avalanche and Golden Knights are the consensus chic picks.
The Bruins return their playoff tested core with Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci, Brad Marchand, Zdeno Chara and Tuukka Rask raring to go.
All eyes will be on David Pastrnak, who registered a team-high 38 goals in the regular season last season – but was inconsistent during the postseason run. The B’s will need Pastrnak to jump up another level as he enters his sixth season in the league.
In terms of fresh faces, the Bruins picked up forwards Brett Ritchie (6 points in 54 games last year with Dallas) and Par Lindholm (13 points in 65 games with Winnipeg and Toronto last season) in free agency.
Outside of an increase in production from someone like winger Karson Kuhlman, though, another deep playoff run will be largely on the shoulders of the players who got them there last season.
Charlie McAvoy, Brandon Carlo and Torey Krug return as defensive anchors.
The road ahead
The B’s open their regular season on a relatively long road trip as they’ll play at Dallas Thursday (8:30 p.m., NESN), followed by at Arizona Saturday night, at Vegas Tuesday and at Colorado next Thursday. The home opener is a week from Saturday, when they’ll face the Devils at the Garden.