WILMINGTON, Mass. The Bruins are entering the grind portion of their schedule, so a simple philosophy is going to benefit them greatly: simply put their heads down and start pushing forward.
After a cushy first three months the Bs will play 12 games in 18 days starting Wednesday night in New Jersey against the Devils. Theyll have three back-to-back games in that span, and fatigue is going to become a very real factor while focus is going to wane for some.
The road tilt against the Devils will be followed Thursday night by their one and only meeting of the season against the Calgary Flames on the Garden ice, and that will be a challenge by itself. The Devils are cranking at playoff-level efficiency this season, and the Flames will be desperate to finish off a seven-game road trip strongly after going 2-3-1 through their East Coast swing thus far.
The collective Black and Gold eyes should be trained solely on each of those individual games, but theres one problem. Theres also a flopping, biting, tire-pumping gorilla in the room distracting the Bruins as they strengthen their focus on two midweek games against the Devils and Flames.
The Vancouver Canucks invade Causeway Street on Saturday for a much-anticipated rematch of last years Stanley Cup Finals. The Saturday matinee at TD Garden represents the only time Vancouver and Boston will face each other unless they both make it to the Finals again in June.
Oh, its going to be interesting, admitted Brad Marchand. I know that the fans and everybody else are going to be into it. Itll be good to get it over with. I dont think Ive ever even talked about it once this year, though.
Its just another game in our minds, though. I havent heard any of the guys even talking about it once yet. We both realize nothing is going to change what happened last year. It doesnt matter how they come in and play. Its only one game.
Alex Burrows will get his comeuppance for biting Patrice Bergerons finger, Roberto Luongo will undoubtedly face entire sections of Bs fans furiously waving tire pumps and the Sedin Twins will be entering the same unmerciful no respect zone they found so intimidating in last years seven game series.
It will essentially come down to a 60-minute chance for players on both teams to right whatever wronged them last spring when a retaliation penalty might have been the difference between winning and losing.
The Bruins will have plenty of motivation headed into that game after the bad blood built up over those seven hate-filled games, and the Canucks should be looking for payback. Its not really in their team fabric to cause too much trouble and its really not in their best interest to beat Boston at their own game.
But it will be fun to see how things play out. Theres no love lost for Marchand in the Vancouver dressing room after he used one of the Sedins as a boxing speed bag during the Finals. A whole group of Bruins would clearly love a piece of Burrows after he targeted one of the NHLs classiest players in Patrice Bergeron with his biting antics.
Those are just the obvious ones. Perhaps Mason Raymond still wants a piece of Johnny Boychuk after the hit that knocked him out of the Finals last season, or maybe the entire Bruins roster wants to take their shot at Maxim Lapierre.
Well, actually the last one is a stone-cold definite.
Vancouver really lost some respect in the eyes of the other teams around the NHL with behavior unbecoming of an NHL team during the Finals, and perhaps they see Saturdays game against the Bruins as a chance to win some of that back. It was Vancouver that was rag-dolled around the ice and Mark Recchi labeled the Canucks the most arrogant team hed ever played against following his retirement from hockey after a 20-year Hall of Fame career.
But all of that speaks to just how easily the Bruins could get sucked into the hype leading up to Saturdays game rather than the challenge at hand in New Jersey and Calgary. Their head coach doesnt see potential distraction as an issue at this point with two games coming up in two days.
I havent heard any of the guys talking about. We havent talked about it. Weve become accustomed to focusing on the next game in front of us, and for us its about bouncing back from a game where we didnt like the way we played, said Claude Julien. We need to focus on getting our own game back where it needs to be rather than putting the focus on any of that stuff.
Its vital to get the train back on the tracks after dropping a stink-bomb in Dallas for one of their most uninspiring losses of the season.
That cant happen if their minds are wandering toward jacking up Burrows rather than getting the next available two points.
Weve really matured and had success as of late because were really not looking past the next game, said Marchand. We make sure the focus is where it needs to be on New Jersey tomorrow night, and then after that it will be on Calgary. Well worry about that game when its here.
The Bs have uncovered some newfound maturity this season while defending their Cup championship, and nowhere has been that more evident than taking things one game at a time during an 82-game marathon. Theyve been able to focus game-to-game all season, but a looming battle with the Canucks will put that dedication and patience to the test in the next few days.
It all starts when the Bruins get back to work in New Jersey.