BOSTON — The summer of 2010 was a particularly brutal one for guys like Zdeno Chara, Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci.
Coming off of a historic playoff collapse that May, in which they led the Philadelphia Flyers by three games but proceeded to drop four straight — including Game 7 at home after taking a 3-0 lead in the first period — that trio and the rest of the Boston Bruins had almost four months off to simmer, then refocus, then get back to business. The following June, they took turns skating around Rogers Arena in Vancouver with the Stanley Cup held high above their heads.
The three Black-and-Gold veterans are again coming off of a similar — if not even more painful — scenario as the 2019-2020 NHL regular season is set to begin. So after suffering a crushing Game 7 loss at home in the Stanley Cup Final to the St. Louis Blues, can the Bruins put that disheartening setback behind them and focus anew on winning hockey’s Holy Grail again?
And the team’s depth is the reason why.
The Bruins possess elite talent at the NHL level, with one of the best first lines in the sport, secondary scoring, a defense that is equal parts mobile, offensive minded and steady in their own end, and employ of the league’s best tandems between the pipes. They also have plenty of players chomping at the bit to get their chance on Causeway Street, guys who are ready to prove they deserve to have a full-time varsity sweater on their backs.
Now, veterans are still a huge part of this team’s recipe for success: Bergeron skating in the middle of the first line with running mate Brad Marchand on his left; David Krejci back as the second line pivot after a terrific age-32 season last winter; Chara, the team’s second-longest tenured captain who still gets the job done at 42 years old; and goaltender Tuukka Rask, the best keeper on the planet from late April into June.
But general manager Don Sweeney and team president Cam Neely have done an outstanding job not only signing those lynchpins to team-friendly contracts, but surrounding them with youngsters with plenty of aptitude, savvy and skill of their own.
You know about the bright stars in this group: right winger David Pastrnak, for whom a 50-goal season is calling; Torey Krug, the 28-year-old offensively proficient blue liner in the final year of his contract; and fellow rearguard Charlie McAvoy, the precocious 21-year-old who is already emerging as the team’s No. 1 workhorse.
But it goes so far beyond that.
Two years of steady play at left wing have soon-to-be 23-year-old Jake DeBrusk ready to crank his play up even further. Karson Kuhlman, 24, appears like he could be a good fit alongside DeBrusk and Krejci as the second line right wing. The deal with Minnesota for 27-year-old center/wing Charlie Coyle, made last February when the B’s sent Ted Donato to the Twin Cities, looks like a steal after the Weymouth native had a terrific playoff run.
Danton Heinen, 24, has developed into a reliable, two-way player on the third line. Brandon Carlo, at 22, is morphing into Chara’s heir apparent as the back line muscle, and fellow D-man Matt Grzelcyk, at 25, is ready for more minutes and more responsibility. The man responsible for ‘Cliffy Hockey’, 24-year-old Connor Clifton, has similar aspirations.
When injuries inevitably hit, the Bruins should have plenty of reserves left in the tank.
Look at the treasure trove of talent the Bruins can turn to: 24-year-old left wing Peter Cehlarik; 23-year-old portsider Anders Bjork (who probably should have made the team out of training camp but got caught in a numbers game with big bodied winger Brett Ritchie); right winger Zach Senyshyn and defensemen Jeremy Lauzon and Jakub Zboril, all of whom are 22; Trent Frederic, a 21-year-old center who saw 15 games in Boston last season; and future standout Jack Studnicka, a 20-year-old pivot who can also skate the wing.
Even Alex Petrovic, a 26-year-old defenseman who played with both Edmonton and Florida last season, showed enough during his tryout with the Bruins in September that he was signed to a two-year deal. There’s a good chance they’ll need his 6-foot-4, 216-pound frame protecting the Bruins’ net at some point during the 82-game campaign.
This is all a roundabout way of saying the Bruins aren’t going anywhere. They may not have the firepower, all-around defensive excellence and undisputed No. 1 goalie that their Atlantic Division rivals in Tampa Bay possess, and they’ll no doubt be hounded in the standings by their little brothers north of the border, the top-heavy but depth-deficient Toronto Maple Leafs, in what figures to be another three-team dogfight for playoff seeding.
But Boston is a team built for the long run, one that can sustain a few pratfalls and still be ready to go when The Second Season starts up in mid-April.
Expect the Bruins to be near the front of the pack in the chase for Lord Stanley’s chalice once again.
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.